A baby's room is more than just a bedroom with scaled-down furniture - it's your child's first welcome into the outside world. It should stimulate and comfort your precious little one, but it should also be something that your soon-to-be toddler will enjoy. This article focuses on some important issues to think about as you welcome your baby into your home - keep in mind, however, that it does not thoroughly canvass all the design and safety issues related to a nursery.
Where to Start - Safety First!
Before deciding whether the nursery's theme will feature bunnies or bears, your first consideration should be safety. Getting down on your hands and knees and taking a look around will help you focus on safety issues. You might not be too surprised that a sea of furniture legs surround you, but probably will be surprised to see some of the following:
* Electrical outlets are now at eye-level
* Sharp corners and edges on furniture
* Cords that can be pulled or that can get wrapped around necks
* Rocking chair legs that can easily roll over misplaced little hands
Obviously, electrical outlets that are not in use can simply be covered - but keep in mind that small fingers can be strong and nimble enough to pry things off, so be sure that the plug covers are too big to swallow. There are special outlet covers to secure plugs that are in use. Cords of all sorts (including those attached to lamps and other appliances, on blinds, and ties used to affix things to the side of the crib) should be gathered up securely and put well out of reach, or put into a cord corral.
Windows should have screens to keep out bugs. Also, if you live in a high-rise, window guards are a must. (Most building codes now require windows that are designed to prevent toddlers from falling out, but older buildings might not have been designed with this in mind.)
Regardless of what furniture you decide to use in the baby's room, it should meet all the latest safety standards. The slats on cribs, for example, should be spaced no more than 6-7 centimeters apart (to prevent the baby's head from getting stuck between them), and the mattress should fit snugly into the frame (with no more than about 5 centimeters width between the edge and the crib). Bassinets should have a wide base for stability.
Be sure to pay attention to how the furniture is arranged, ensuring that it does not provide a climbing toddler with opportunities to investigate new heights. Be especially careful that there is nothing under a window that a child could climb up on!
And finally, before turning your attention to decorating the walls, consider what's on them already. If the walls are painted, consider whether there might be lead paint. In very old homes and apartment buildings, there is a very real possibility that lead paint was used. An infant who eats even a minute flake of lead-based paint can suffer lead poisoning, which can lead to a myriad of health problems, including permanent brain damage. Simply painting over the problem does not make it go away, as it will probably start flaking again over time. It's best to hire a professional to remove the lead paint and to start fresh.
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Creating a soothing atmosphere in the baby's room is not difficult. Soft, unbleached towels and flannel receiving blankets, while not quite as warm as amniotic fluid, will provide warmth and comfort to your newborn. Soft toys, cushioned crib bumpers and musical pillows help create soothing surroundings for baby. And don't worry about making sure the baby's room is the quietest in the house - after all the womb wasn't that quiet. In fact, some babies feel safer if they hear human voices not too far off.
Lighting your baby's room can be tricky because different activities will require different lighting. For example, you'll probably want a low, soft light to soothe the baby into sleep. But, you'll also need enough light to read bedtime stories. And, changing diapers (and checking for diaper rash) requires a fairly bright light. For ceiling fixtures, installing a dimmer switch is a viable solution. Three way bulbs are a good alternative for lamps. And don't forget nightlights - they are especially helpful when you want to take a quick peak at the crib in the middle of the night.
Studies have shown that a child's surroundings influence how many brain cells the body keeps and connects. How best to visually stimulate a baby depends on the baby's age. In the first couple of months babies cannot focus on things too far away, nor can they distinguish details and colours. They can, however distinguish between different sizes and high-contrast designs. As a result, black and white patterns are often favoured by the very young. By about two months, a baby's vision changes and they can distinguish patterns of increasing complexity, such as curved lines, shapes, faces and targets. By about four months your baby can see full colours and has a sense of depth perception. Of course, remember that too visually stimulating a room can have quite a negative effect, bombarding the child and providing sensory overload.
A wallpaper border can provide an easy (and relatively inexpensive) means of both decorating a room and providing visual stimulation. Positioning the border partway down the wall allows the infant to enjoy it, since it will be within the baby's range of vision. A border can also be created by using wall decorations and characters that can be easily removed and repositioned, fostering a different story line and nurturing imagination.
Encouraging Change in the Environment
As children develop, their interests and tastes will change. They might want purple dinosaurs today, but next week they may want kites or cars. Instead of giving over the whole room to a particular theme, consider dedicating one wall in the room as the focal point for her current interests. By allowing them to change that wall, you're encouraging them to change and adapt to the environment as they explore new interests.
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