Think Small

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Is it time to move your toddler out of the crib and into his BIG BOY room? Well, then it is time to start to plan the new room. If you want to make the room practical and enjoyable then start out by thinking SMALL! You want the room to cater to his needs and be a place that he feels comfortable. So, when you start the decorating plans you will want to pretend that you are a toddler. Get on your knees so you see the room from his perspective. This will help...really! Then ask, "What would I want the room to be like if I were 3?" You will want to have your child's input too. He will feel important and excited to have decided what color the room should be painted and where things should go in the room.

Okay, let's get started! The first step is to pick a theme for the room. Think about what your child likes. If he loves being outside then a garden theme may work, if he likes animals then a jungle theme would be fun. Be creative. You can get creative inspiration from your child's favorite books. Once you pick a theme the rest of the room will quickly fall into place because you can buy things that will coordinate with each other. You can carry the theme into the bedding and a border or you can go wild and paint murals and furniture to match!

Before you decide what furniture you want in the room make a list of the things that your child likes to do e.g. dressing-up, coloring, building, reading. You should design play "stations" around the room to accommodate these activities. A mirror hung on the wall at your CHILD'S LEVEL (think small...get it?) will make a perfect dress-up corner. A place for an easel, a small table and chairs or a chalkboard hung on the wall will make coloring easy. A big basket to hold blocks will keep them handy and easy to clean-up. Once you figure out the activities then your furniture needs are easy. I decided that a large dresser was not as useful as a book shelf to hold books, toys and display special dolls. So, I found a small dresser with small drawers to hold the essentials(underwear, socks, pajamas) and put a drawer unit in the closet for the rest of the clothes.

Think about the wall space too. You will want to plan for hanging pictures, artwork, coats, stuffed animals. It is endless all the stuff one child accumulates. If you plan the room properly, you can make space for everything and keep the room organized. A large (4'x6') bulletin board works wonderfully as a place to hang prized artwork, pictures, etc. You can decorate the bulletin board so that it fits attractively into the room and is not an eye-sore. I painted mine the color of the room walls and then put ribbon on it in a crisscross pattern.

Write all of your ideas down on a piece of paper. Then draw a sketch of your child's room as close to scale as possible. Graph paper works great for this part. Make 1 block = 6" and then draw the room. Start trying different room configurations until you hit upon one that works. Then go into the room and look at the room and see if it will still work. You will want to consider the placement of heating ducts, windows, closets, outlets etc. Once you feel like your plan will work, now it is time to shop. Let the fun begin....well, at least enough fun that will fit your budget. Figure out how much you want to spend and then prioritize the list. If you cannot afford to complete the room at one time then break-up the room into projects. Most importantly, plan the room so that it will be done. Don't complicate your ideas so that the room is constantly "almost" done. Plan a realistic room based upon your time, money and abilities.

I wouldn't purchase too many "toddler" furnishings that your child will outgrow in a short time. You can choose items with a chameleon personality. A what??? The items can change as your child's tastes change. For example, your child's Mickey Mouse comforter can be replaced with a Star Trek comforter, but the bed frame will stay the same. The dolls and blocks decorating a plain book shelf can be put away and trophies and computer games can be added.

There are wonderful storage bins available now that will organize your child's books and toys. Look through catalogs and go to stores that carry furnishings e.g. Ikea. Plastic crates work well too. If you are handy or know someone who is, you can easily build a simple shelf to hold colorful crates, each one with a storage "purpose." I like to have a spot for the "stuff" so that the room can be easily cleaned up by my toddler. She also loves being able to act like a BIG girl by cleaning up all by herself.

The closet is another spot that deserves planning. Put your child's clothes at a level that he can reach. This will encourage him to dress himself and to put his own clothes away. If your closet is big enough, install a book shelf or drawer unit for additional storage. Shelves can hold books and toys. You can put out of season clothes on the higher shelves and clothes bar. Mount hooks at your CHILD'S level so that they can hang-up their own coat, bathrobe, bags, necklaces, etc.

When the room is ready for the BIG boy, don't forget to videotape him as he enjoys his room for the first time. Your child will enjoy this "space of his own." You will enjoy having some quiet time during the day while he plays in his special room. Plus, by planning the room properly you will discover that the room is actually used. It is not just space to sleep. So, put on your creative hat and your hard hat and let the plans for the BIG room begin. Don't forget to THINK SMALL!

Credits: Pamela Caywood

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