Must-Haves For Your Baby Nursery
For parents with a baby on the way, decorating a new nursery is a necessary part of the preparation process. It can also be a very daunting project, one that may require all nine months to complete. Babies have a multitude of needs, from brain development tools to diapers, and a well-designed nursery is the first step to meeting those needs in a proactive and deliberate way. It doesn’t matter if this is your first child or the third. Experts in child development will tell you a well-designed nursery is the best first step to set your baby on the right path.
And that is why the process can be so daunting. If you’re in the process of designing a nursery, you might be asking yourself, does my baby really need this? Or how do I know if I’m making the right decisions? There are so many options and so many different tools to choose from, it’s sometimes laughable to think a person so small would need so much.
But everything you decide to add to your nursery will aid your baby’s development for the future, and that’s not something to fear or avoid. There really is no exact “right” way to decorate a nursery, just like there is no “right” toy to have over another. What is more important is you are motivated and want to learn how to meet your baby’s needs in a proactive manner.
With a little preparation and know how, everything you choose for your nursery can be a tool for development, learning and positive growth. It’s just a matter of getting started. Below we will discuss your newborn baby’s needs, take a look at your basic nursery needs, examine what design options you should consider, and go into how to make the best of your nursery for years to come.
The Newborn Brain
Understanding your baby’s needs might also help you understand what to add to your nursery and how your baby will interact with its many components. From the moment they are born, babies are little sponges who are constantly learning, absorbing and discovering new things. To a newborn, everything is new, including sounds, smells and textures. Newborn babies are also learning fine motor skills and developing sight in the very first few months. They are discovering not only how their own bodies, hands, feet and voices work, but also how to control them.
At no other point in life do human beings learn so much in such a short amount of time than in early childhood, and the science behind it shows why: by the first birthday, a child’s brain grows to twice the size from the date of birth, and is about 60% the size of an adult brain. It is no surprise, then, your child’s developmental needs are most intense in this time frame.
Building a nursery that is fun, colorful and stimulating will encourage your baby’s development during this critical stage. Forget the pastel baby decorations of the past. We are talking about adding contrasting colors, different textures, embroidered baby blankets and functional foundation furniture that will aid in your baby’s development and encourage your child’s growth well into adulthood. So keep in mind every piece of furniture you pick, every educational toy or personalized nursery blanket, can both be functional and educational.
Design for Development
One great way to help your baby’s brain development is to use certain basic elements of design to your advantage. Because your baby will be spending a large chunk of time inside the nursery, it’s imperative this environment be stimulating, safe and developmentally friendly.
Babies are also learning how they fit in the spaces they occupy and who they are within those spaces. For example, children will eventually learn some behaviors are okay at home but not in school. While at home they can play on the living room floor, this might not be okay at a friend’s house or when visiting family. A nursery provides a safe, personal space in which babies can eventually roam, experiment and learn with little social consequence. Consider these elements of design when decorating your baby’s space:
A great way to create separation and contrast, lines of separation are a great way to stimulate sight development and create designated areas. Play with lines when it comes to wall color to stimulate sight development or to create certain moods. Creating natural lines with carpeting or hardwood floors is a great way to separate or designate space. Or just add lines that are interesting to look at, such as accent rugs or custom baby blankets with intricate designs to add interest and draw the eye.
It’s never too soon to start learning basic shapes, so consider incorporating different shapes naturally into your nursery. By doing so, your baby will be able to develop a familiarity with different shapes and be able to recognize them earlier. Add shapes with wall decorations, toys, crib designs or furniture. Toys are also a great way to encourage shape recognition, so do not hesitate. The options are endless.
Color is a great way to invoke moods, create different sight lines, and help sight and brain development. You can add interesting colors in every aspect of your nursery design. Consider accent colors that pop to add interest and draw the eye, contrasting colors for sight development, or calming colors for accent walls to help create a mood. Adding a great color is also a great way to tie a neutral room together. If you want to opt for muted furniture but still want to add some interest in your nursery, color is the quickest way to do so.
Although we tend to think about space as something to maximize, creating separate spaces for specific functions can be beneficial for both you and your baby. This includes purposely leaving blank spaces in the nursery for multiple purposes or designating specific play-only or quiet-only areas.
Adding different textures to your nursery can help your baby develop fine motor skills. This can be done by adding textured carpeting or throw rugs, soft embroidered baby blankets, or differently textured educational toys for your baby. Different textures, even if not for touching, can also help your baby develop visual understanding. Over time, a child will be able to tell the difference between sand and a custom baby blanket without having to touch them.
Think of the harmony between the items inside the nursery, as well as the harmony between the nursery and the rest of your home. Your nursery should feel like an addition to your home and an extension of your family. If it looks out of place, you might find yourself disliking the space or avoiding it all together. Try these tips
- Consider harmony in the way your furniture and space work off each other.
- Maybe paint your door frames the same color as your furniture.
- Make sure your furniture has a common theme.
- A fun way to create harmony is to have different personalized nursery blankets in the nursery and decorating the rest of your home.
Do you want your baby’s crib to be the focus of the room? Or would you rather leave the center of the room open? How about what your baby can see from the crib? What do you want the focus to be from that vantage point? Designing around focus points can help you control what your baby focuses on and what accents to highlight.
Although not exactly an element of design, smell is a very important sense to consider for development. Babies do create myriad smells, some more pleasant than others, and in this stage it is critical you introduce your baby to different, contrasting smells.
Smell is also a great way to invoke emotion and create nostalgia. Smells can be calming or exciting, and can add different textures as well. You could add dried lavender and eucalyptus to your nursery for smell and texture. Other options include cinnamon sticks, jasmine, lemongrass, rose, ginger or citrus.
Designing around a specific theme is a great way to keep focus and harmony in your nursery design. Themes don’t have to be concrete or specifically about any one thing. While we often think about themes when it comes to movies, books or holidays, themes can be anything. They can be as simple as birds, summer, teddy bears or a color you love. Just remember to make the theme work for your needs, not the other way around.
Functional Pieces For Your Nursery
With any decorating project, your functional and foundation pieces are the most important component to think about at first. In a nursery, your foundation pieces are furniture. Baby furniture is an essential part of the nursery and can easily go overlooked. Many new parents on tight budgets may be tempted to “make-do” with older furniture they have or use hand me down furniture instead of buying new baby furniture.
When it comes to baby furniture, however, we strongly recommend you invest in new pieces. Although hand-me-downs may have sentimental value, many older versions of baby furniture do not meet the safety requirements for baby furniture today and can be downright dangerous.
Instead, design your baby’s nursery with furniture that will grow with them. These include:
- A crib
- A chair
- A dresser
- A changing table
There are many different variations of these pieces of furniture, and you might need more than one of each. Baby furniture is an investment that will pay off in the long term. For example, convertible cribs can be turned into toddler beds or larger beds as your needs change. A baby dresser or changing table can be converted for storage in the long term. And no one has ever complained of having too many rocking chairs.
Depending on your needs, you might want to consider how many rooms you have and whether you might need another set of furniture when it comes to visiting grandparents or other family members. For different rooms, you might consider having an additional mini crib or bassinet that can be moved from room to room with little fuss. If your space is limited, a combination crib that provides storage and a flat surface for changing might be just what you need.
Baby furniture is the foundation of the room and should be chosen first so you can decorate around it. There are several reasons for this. If you pick colorful or elaborately designed furniture, you might want decorations that provide a bit of simple yet interesting contrast. If you pick neutral furniture, your best bet is to pick decorations that are exciting and pop to make the room interesting. If you plan to have more children, picking neutral furniture first and then changing the color or decorating differently for each child is the best way to get the most mileage from your money without risking individuality.
If you have your heart set on adding something of sentimental value to your nursery, consider instead investing in custom baby blankets with designs that have value to you. These designs can be anything from embroidered initials to family images to completely new designs made especially for your baby. So you do have some options for adding pieces that have sentimental value, just don’t sacrifice sentiment for safety.
After deciding on your foundation pieces, you might have an idea of how you want the space to look. To add a bit of flair that is both pretty to look at and encourages development, add decorative pieces that stimulate sight, recognition and brain development. These include:
- Family photos
- Embroidered baby blankets
- Decorative lamps
- Throw rugs
- Throw pillows
- A canopy
- Mural designs
- Hanging baby mobiles
Or try anything that can add interest to the space. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is a sample of the creative ways you can add texture, interest and design to your nursery. While many consider nurseries to be calm spaces to encourage rest, keep in mind your baby will spend a lot more time in the nursery than you. Make it a space your baby will enjoy spending time in, and eventually your baby will be happy being there alone.
Adding Comfort to Your Nursery
While there is no wrong or right way to decorate a nursery aside from safety, the best way to successfully design a nursery is to make sure everything you add is comfortable and inviting. Don’t create a museum where everything has to be perfect all the time.
Instead, focus on creating a space that is inviting, comfortable and encourages play and exploration. Your baby should feel at home in the nursery. It should be their favorite place to be, so think about the things that made you feel comfortable in your bedroom growing up.
A quick way to add comfort is to add pieces that have sentimental value, such as old plush toys, new toys your baby can bond with, or personalized nursery blankets that have a personal connection between you and your baby. Adding these little comforting elements will help create a welcoming and encouraging environment your baby will appreciate. To start, browse the embroidered baby blanket design options at Towels and Home, and pick a theme for your nursery today.