Colours for Children’s Rooms

Decorating our children’s rooms is a great opportunity to experiment with themes, ideas and colour schemes that you wouldn’t normally try elsewhere.

However it’s important to remember that kids spend a lot of time in their rooms and although bright vivid colours may work well during the day to stimulate their imaginations – at night-time, when they need to wind down, an over use of colour can be counter productive.

We all know that the choice of colour in a room can have a big impact on how the room looks and feels  and how different colours can  influence our mood and stimulate our imaginations. However, it is easy to forget that children do not always see colours the way we do and the influences that colours have on them  can be different.

Our Sense of Colour

Even though we do not always realise it, we have an in-built  sense of   how colours go together – largely influenced by the natural world around us.

Not all of us have a talent for choosing colour schemes but most people know a good mix of colours when they see it, for instance we all know that bright colours can clash and opposing colours often compliment each other (think bright red and blue versus black and white).

A well designed colour scheme will have a natural ease and feel; just as a badly designed scheme will be jarring and uncomfortable to the senses.

Therefore if you are not confident with colour then it makes sense to play safe and buy sample pots to try first. You can also do your research on the internet and in magazines to gain inspiration from examples and illustrations.

Seeing Colours

Studies have shown that new-born children do not see colour at all until they are at least 3 months old and perception of colour thereafter is gradual.

Research by The Surrey Baby Lab suggests that babies do develop favourite colours soon after this point and currently there is also a suggestion that we are all born with specific preferences for colour – for example the colour blue is generally preferred while dark yellow shades are commonly disliked.

Historically we have been taught that boys will prefer the colour blue and that girls will prefer pink but there is very little evidence to suggest this is true.

However, a study on this subject was carried out by Doctors Anya Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling of Newcastle University who looked at the colour preferences of males and females and found that although both sexes had a natural preference for the colour blue – the males tended to prefer a pure blue whereas the girls favoured reddish shades like lilac or mauve.

They surmised that all humans have a natural inclination to the colour blue as it indicates good weather and is also a sign of a good water source. The preference for the reddish shades has been explained with the hunter/gatherer theory in that females were the gatherers and developed an ability to distinguish between ripe and non-ripe fruit (mainly berries) and that reddish tones were a good indicator of ripeness.

Of course the theory has not been entirely proven and was subject to a fair degree of cynicism at the time.

Another study by Nottingham Toddler Lab found as kids get older they learn to group objects together in colours but tend to have difficulty learning the names of colours.

In theory then,  it is probably not a good idea to try and pre-judge what colours your child will like or to enforce your own preferences.

Exposing young children to a broad variety of colours as they develop and observing how they interact is probably the most reliable way of compiling a selection of colours that will be successful.

Your child’s tastes and preferences will change over time so try to reflect this when choosing a colour scheme and resist the temptation to be too imaginative.

Pastels & Neutrals

At a young age  children are still exploring and learning about the world of colour and it can be a while before they show any clear preference.

With this in mind it’s probably a good idea to avoid bold colours and maybe start off with neutral shades. Pastel shades of pink and blue will always be popular but don’t rule out other shades too.

Pale yellows, for example, can be especially pleasing and are easy to co-ordinate with white furniture and woodwork.

Soft whites such as cream and ivory can also be very effective and provide the perfect blank canvas for colourful accessories and wall art later on.


It is thought that orange is one the first colours that children recognise and because it naturally fosters a sense of warmth and well-being is a good colour to consider.

Although young children have a preference for bright colours you can experiment with shades of peach or apricot for a more subtle colour scheme?

Or perhaps  you could use one wall as your artistic canvas whilst keeping the other walls fairly neutral?

Initially it is probably safest to use plain colours in the background and to use accents of strong colours. Accents can include soft furnishings, light shades, wall art; pictures, wall stickers or even soft toys used as display pieces.

Don’t forget also that colours on the floor space can be used most  effectively – with rugs, coloured carpets or even painted floorboards where appropriate.

Ambient Lighting

As with all decorating schemes the amount of natural light within the room will have the biggest impact on the result. Well lit south facing rooms can often benefit from the use of cooler colours such as blue and green.

Less well illuminated rooms facing away from the sun will benefit   from the use of warmer colours like orange, red and bright yellows.

Small rooms will look larger painted with soft, neutral tones that allow reflection from the light whilst bigger rooms will be able to handle brighter colours much more effectively.

See Also
Painted beach huts
Confidence with Colour
Child playing with paint
Child Safe Paints