This mom believes kids should have a say in their room's design. Here's her advice for how other parents can let their children do that.

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An illustration of mom and her daughter making plans to design the daughter's room.
Credit: Kailey Whitman.

When I became a single parent and bought a house on my own, I realized that the space didn't just belong to me. My 4-year-old daughter uses each room as much as I do, and yet I had initially only designed it for myself. I set off on a mission to change that.

I wanted every room to also reflect my daughter, not just her bedroom. This approach isn't for everyone. But through this experience, I can tell you that it's exciting to see what your kid will dream up!

Empowering children to design their own spaces can make them feel more confident and more creative. It can also help them feel safe and that they belong in the home, too. Kids want to see themselves reflected in their spaces. They want to be able to walk into their bedroom and see their favorite colors, stuffed animals, books, and other meaningful objects.

As an interior designer, here's my advice on how to put your child at the center of the design process when it comes to decorating their bedroom.

Talk Through Ideas Together

Kids usually have an idea of what they want their bedrooms to look like. However, while some of their ideas are concrete, others tend to be more abstract. Children may want their playroom to look like "unicorn colors" or may ask to have their bedroom look like an "enchanted garden." The fun part of my job as a kid-centered designer is taking those big, dreamy ideas and turning them into something tangible.

Help your kids articulate their ideas by creating visual aids for them to refer to. Your child's creative point of view will likely be different from yours, so having a visual aid on hand can prevent anything from getting lost in translation. You can do that by asking your child for some initial ideas and putting together a Pinterest board for them. Doing so will help them see their ideas in action.

When I visit my child clients, I bring my giant fan of paint colors. This allows kids to point to the exact shade and hue they want for their room. In my experience, kids will tell me they want a teal wall, but their idea of teal is completely different from mine!

Marita White's daughter room
Credit: Courtesy of Marita White

Emphasize Certain Interests Over Others

Kids' likes and dislikes can change fairly frequently. Therefore, I suggest catering to your child's short-term interests with inexpensive items that can be easily swapped out, such as pillows and blankets. My daughter's likes may change frequently from Paw Patrol to Pokémon, but I knew that if I made her a Paw Patrol room, she would hate it in a month. So, we compromised with Paw Patrol stuffies and a Pokémon calendar. This way, if she grows out of Pokémon and Paw Patrol, I can just recycle the calendar and donate the stuffies.

Spice up the walls with art that reflects your child's bigger interests, things they have liked for years. For example, my daughter loves animals, specifically cats. I found the artist, Allegra Parlavecchio, who sells her art through Fy, and got six pieces that include cats. The art elements allow my daughter's room to feel a bit more grown-up, while also integrating the kitty theme into her room too.

Compromise on Big Changes

What if your child wants a paint color—like a bright pink shade—and you don't love it? You can go to your local paint store and pick out all the swatches of pink that you are comfortable with. Then show the swatches to your child and let them pick their favorite; that way, you can both be happy with the color choice. Your child is still directing the design of their room, but you have predetermined what colors they can choose from.

Even though my daughter and I work together on all aspects of our home's interior design, I still help direct a lot of the bigger changes and purchases. As soon as we moved in, for example, my daughter admired the front room's original pink paint color. She was really inspired by this hue. Sometimes she would tell me something offhand, like "I want a pink couch," and I would go searching for one that fit our budget and style. That way, I had more control over the design of the living room, even if the initial design was completely her idea.

Involve Kids at Every Stage of Design

Make your child feel like they are a part of the design process at every phase of the project. When brainstorming together, physically get down on their level. I sit with them in their tiny chairs, or kneel down, and give them my full attention. I repeat their ideas back to them by saying something like, "You want a rainbow, but only in pink colors?" That validates their ideas and helps me get all the details correct.

After hearing their ideas, involve kids in the next steps too. You can find smaller tasks for them to do that can help the renovation in big ways. For example, if they aren't old enough to paint, let them wipe down the walls first. That way, they feel like they are doing something meaningful for their room.

Marita White lives in Seattle with her daughter and created Inner Child Interiors. You can follow the design of her house @the_rainboww_house, where she posts about her latest design projects as well as gives updates on the animals she rescues and fosters. Through her colorful designs, she hopes to create community and add color and joy to the world.