“I want to paint my room like Minecraft!” My 10-year-old son said to me one morning before I even had a sip of coffee.
I did a quick calculation in my head of the time and money it would take, the skill I would need to paint a bunch of squares, and said, “Sure, we can probably do that,” knowing that as soon as I told him that we’d have to take everything out of his room in order to begin, he’d think it was too hard of a task and drop the idea completely. Well, I was right, he did drop the idea. But then he picked up another one: Wings of Fire.
“Wait, can’t we go back to just painting squares?” I suddenly pleaded when I found out that I was now faced with the possibility of having to paint each wall of his room like a different land from Wings of Fire, which, if you don’t know, is an amazing series of books about dragons. And, in case you aren’t paying attention, dragons are harder to paint than squares.
I should have seen this coming. He had been obsessed with this book series and dragons in general for a solid year at that point (we had just created the “entire realm” of Pyrrhia in our backyard for his birthday). Add to that the quarantine and staring at the same walls every day that we’ve all been doing, not to mention his turning 10 and outgrowing his décor, and his imagination went wild with the idea. An idea that I would have to somehow find a way to execute. I found myself going from just overwhelmed to suddenly becoming Overwhelmed!
If you are like us, you will find yourself and your kids facing choices about repainting their bedrooms every few years. I’m here to help you so let me start from the beginning and tell you how my wife and I handled these decorating moments.
Painting baby rooms
When our son was in utero, we had kept his gender a secret to ourselves until he was born so we didn’t know he was a boy and so we didn’t really know what to paint on the walls in his soon-to-be room. We went through webpages upon webpages of research for child-safe paint, what the best child’s room wall design would be, and just a slew of kid’s bedroom paint ideas.
We were stunned into indecision at the possibilities for color alone. Would the color yellow give him or her insomnia? Would red walls make them feel unsafe and insecure? Would a chevron pattern make them wonder about the sanity of their parents?
Eventually, my wife was forced to make the choice for us (a pattern that emerged early on in our relationship, due to my lack of ability to even be able to choose what to have for lunch on any given day) and we painted his room a nice even, neutral, light green color. “Sagebrush” was the name of the paint, I think. It was lovely. I believe it was supposed to give our babbling little bundle of blubber a sense of empowerment. Or something. Anyway, he never complained.
Painting dinosaurs (sort of)
When we moved to our current house, he was around 4 years old and had fully entered into his dinosaur phase, so, this time, it seemed like a no-brainer: a cool kid’s room, with cool dinosaurs on the walls, right? Except I am not an artist and so I inherently knew that my rendition of dinosaurs would not be up to our son’s standards. So I painted some sky and a nice hillside on each wall of his new room and then my wife, being the genius that she is, went online and bought some amazing dinosaur wall stickers.
These decals stayed on his wall for 6 glorious years, years in which I didn’t have to worry about primers, paint rollers, or drop cloths. I highly recommend this route when possible. It’ll save you some time for sure. But then, of course, that all changed recently with his desire to cause me a great deal of stress…er, I mean change the walls of his room in a massive way, a way in which decals just weren’t going to cut it.
Let me first say that any idea your child has for their own room should be embraced. This is an early expression of their own individuality and you should let them run wild. Some things are going to be easier to execute than others, of course. My son’s desire for a “Wings of Fire” themed room would fall on the more difficult end of that spectrum. But, knowing that it was important to him, I took a deep breath and panicked anyway. Deep breathing can only do so much.
But here’s the great thing that happened for me: I’ve been a stay-at-home dad and actually started working during the quarantine, and oddly my wife was suddenly not working and at home. This was a game-changer on so many levels for me. My wife is a planner and I’m not, for one. Number 2, she needed a project. So, she hit the ground running with his idea and started strategizing. This was going to be an epic family painting project and best of all, I didn’t have to figure out how to do it. I was beyond relieved.
The first conundrum was the basic look of each kingdom. In Wings of Fire there are different kinds of dragons that live in different climates and terrain. There are SeaWings, SkyWings, SandWings, you get the idea. So first, my son had to choose the 4 realms that he most desired, and then my wife had to take those and see what could be done about getting some paint.
A genius idea to get free paint
She began where we should all begin: Pilfering our friends. We didn’t want to break the bank, so we reached out to people in our urban tribe, on the hunt for old, but still usable paint that they might have lying around.
As it turns out, every single person you know is harboring a treasure trove of paints that they never got rid of because:
- It’s too much trouble to find out where to even bring them to be disposed of without killing the planet.
- All of us, deep down, have that, “Well, there’s still a lot leftover and I might need to use it again someday so I may as well put it in the garage” mentality.
After a simple mass email, we suddenly became overrun with a rainbow of viable paint colors without spending a dime and also, somehow, we were also being touted as recycling saviors, getting thanked profusely for taking these old paints off of people’s hands. We were poaching from our friends and they were applauding us. It was a win-win situation.
So, my son chose the sea, desert, rainforest, and mountains. Easy right? Personally, this gave me mild cases of both the I-don’t-wannas and the do-I-haftas, but my wife just ran with it. She started by going to the greatest website ever made for any crafty DIY projects: Pinterest. It turns out that there actually are relatively easy ways to create each of these landscapes by using just one color of paint and then grading it into different shades. To show you what I mean, here are a couple of examples that she found, sea and mountains:
You see how you can do a lot with just one color that you can either darken or lighten as you go? Here are our versions of those pins:
Not too bad for a bunch of non-professionals if I say so myself. Notice the dragon in the 1st photo. Neither my wife nor I painted that. Because we made our son do it. That was the genius part of this idea. We designed the landscapes so huge and impressive that all he had to do was paint his dragons with as little detail as he needed to be able to live with them on his walls for the foreseeable future.
My son’s actually a pretty good artist by his own merits, but this idea of painting smaller dragons actually took the pressure off of all of us to be perfect. And really, that’s how it should be. There should be no need for perfection. There should be no pressure. This should be fun. And it doesn’t need to be rushed. Let everyone do their part and it’ll take as long as it’ll take. Just know that your kid will most likely be sleeping in your room during the process, so that circumstance alone will probably dictate the speed at which you want to get it done.
Let your kids paint whatever they want
Painting a room is a great project for kids to do at home. Give your child the reins and see what they come up with. This is just our story. I wanted to show you that no matter what your child wants his or her room to look like, there are different ways to do it. There are so many possibilities out there for cool boys and girls and gender-neutral room painting ideas. If your kid thinks it up, more than likely, someone else in the world has already figured out a way to do it and God bless them, they have probably already taken to the web to show you how. The web isn’t just for cat lawyer videos and hamster memes. It’s full of videos of DIY painting ideas for kids and tutorials on how to unleash you and your child’s inner artist. My advice is, don’t limit your kid’s imagination. There is a way to do any idea. Don’t let your anxiety get the better of you and quash an idea before you look and see how achievable it can be.
And then, most importantly, tell your kid that after all of this work goes into changing their room around to whatever their current interest might be, they are not allowed to change their mind about it for exactly 4 years.