6 creative ways to plan a gender inclusive nursery
Let your kid’s style shine!
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The days of offhandedly enforcing decades-old stereotypes are over, with more parents opting to raise their children with a gender-neutral mindset . Parents want to let their children grow up however they want, play with whatever toys they want, wear whatever they want, so they can grow up feeling comfortable in their bodies.
If you’re interested in creating a space for your baby that fosters their personality and allows their creativity to shine through (instead of embracing gender norms), we’ve interviewed several interior designers for tips on how to design the perfect gender neutral nursery for your young one.
Whether you’ve got a giant space or a tiny little room for your newborn, these tips will help you create the perfect gender neutral nursery.
1. Play around with non-traditional colors—and don’t be afraid to go bold!
You find out you’re having a baby and the doctor usually will tell you, “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” And depending on that answer, your nursery will wind up pink or blue. But that’s so 20th century—it’s 2021 now and we want our kids to grow up with color and confidence.
Interior designer Meredith Rodday offers, “I like to focus on non-traditional colors—our latest nursery design didn’t have an ounce of pink or blue. Think green, teal, and neutrals like tan and gray.”
Also don’t forget a nice, soft yellow—the classic gender-neutral color. Interior designer Sashya Thind says, “I believe in not overwhelming the room with color to allow the kids to relax and experience a calm environment.” With this mindset, you can go for grays, whites, pastels, etc. Remember that, “toys tend to infuse a lot of color by default, so keeping a base color in a rug [or wall] is easy.”
On the flip side, interior designer and star of HGTV’s Bargain Mansions Tamara Day, says, “When you're thinking about a gender-neutral nursery, you don't have to stay away from the blues and pinks. My boys wear pink, and my daughter wears blue all the time. Navy, in particular, is super gender-neutral, and it pairs so nicely with all the colors.”
2. Don’t rely too heavily on themes
Just because your gynecologist says you’re having a baby girl doesn’t mean you need to have your entire nursery covered head-to-toe in ballerinas and princesses. These types of specific themes can get overwhelming really quickly.
Day says. “It can easily overtake a space, like a dog-themed room with a dog stool, dog wallpaper, and a dog lamp. But, having accents in these themes is really lovely. I'm always trying to think about how I can make a space grow with the kids. As a mom of four, I know a thing or two about how fast kids grow out of or get tired of a look. I always suggest going for a ‘less is more’ approach in permanent fixtures in a room. It will make the longevity of the room go way past being just a nursery and take it into the toddler and elementary years.”
If you really want a theme for your nursery, go for something outside of the box—think animals, the ocean, botanicals, etc. Day “love[s] the idea of an alphabet-themed, completely gender-neutral room. It's a learning environment right out of the gate and can be done in a way that makes it feel elegant and beautiful but still super neutral.”
But be warned, when your child turns 7, they may not want the ABCs plastered all over their walls—so you’ll have to grab the paintbrush and start from scratch. Remember, nursery themes don’t have to fit into gender stereotypes, and gender neutral themes don’t have to be boring!
3. Don’t be afraid to use wallpaper or wall art
Think about the room as if you were designing it for someone whose gender you didn’t know—because you don’t know your child’s gender when they’re born. They may be assigned one at birth, but down the road they may come to realize they don’t fit into that mold.
Adding bold, graphic wallpaper is a great way to add color to your baby’s room without reinforcing gender stereotypes from the get-go. Plus, with the invention of removable wallpaper, it’s super easy to peel off and replace as your child grows and their interests change. It’s a little bit of work to get it applied but it’s a one-and-done way to decorate your nursery.
Aside from wallpaper, wall art and art on shelving helps to bring your room to life. Thind recommends, “Family photos including grandparents, extended family are great options for art while keeping connected.”
Day offers, “Beautiful artwork depicting an ocean scene or a field of flowers is completely neutral and calming, which everyone wants in a nursery.”
Rodday recommends, “I also like to add a lot of texture in the form of woven materials and leather to keep the room visually interesting.” A nice mixed-media piece of art can add depth to your room. Check out local boutiques or Etsy for some unique pieces. Play around with it, make it personal, and have fun.
4. Embrace playtime with toys from any and every interest
One way to design a gender neutral nursery is to focus on fostering your child’s personality. You want your child to be able to grow into their own person and express themselves freely. But with a nursery that has everything neat and orderly, it can be hard to do that.
Give them a space to play—maybe a comfortable rug that’s machine-washable for any spills or accidents that’ll probably happen—and let their imagination run wild!
Supply their room with art supplies galore, stuffed animals and action figures, monster trucks and dolls, etc. This will give them options as they grow, so you can see whether they gravitate more towards LEGOss or Squishmallows.
Make sure shelving is placed low so as your child grows up, they can pick out the stuff they want to play with themselves (but make sure to keep potentially dangerous things that can be swallowed out of reach until they’re old enough).
5. Get a reading chair—it fosters a place for open conversation
A reading chair is a great place to doze off while rocking your baby to sleep. Thind says, “[Sitting together is] a great habit to instill early. Something that works for a baby and a parent to engage in comfortably.”
Not only is a reading chair a great place to read to your children and spend quality time together, but it’s a place that fosters open conversation and trust between parent and child. These are essential as your baby grows into their own person and develops a sense of self-awareness.
Make sure you also have a clever way to store the books you’ll read to your little one. Day says, “Every nursery needs to have a unique and neat way of displaying books, preferably so that the kids can get their hands on them. There are so many beautiful children's books that using them on open shelving as a display counts as artwork. Having a low bookshelf with all of the favorites makes reading at bedtime a must.”
When stocking these bookshelves, don’t just go for stereotypical girl and boy books—check out Amazon or your local bookstore for recommendations on books for instilling solid values in your kid from a young age. Read them books on equality, books that have two moms or two dads, books that talk about powerful women from history, show them that’s there’s more to the world than just the “nuclear family” so many nursery books have to offer.
6. Leave room for transition
As your child grows and comes into their own, you want the nursery to be able to seamlessly transition into their childhood room, and then their teenage bedroom, and more. If you go too deep into renovations or design choices, you’ll either have to do it all over again in a few years when you realize your child hates the color green or wants to turn their room into an art studio for all their drawings, or force your child to live in a space that isn’t reflective of their personality (which could lead to repressing their true feelings and years of therapy down the road).
As interior designer Shannon Tate-Giordano simply puts it, “Keep your selections focused on inspiring and fostering imagination within your child, rather than on what a girl or a boy may like. Because, who knows, right? We’re all individuals.”
That’s just what your little one is, an individual. It may not seem like it right now as they’re wordless and can’t eat or poop without anyone’s help, but with the right kind of parenting, your baby will grow up into a fantastic human being that you’ll be proud to call your own.
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