How Room Colors Affect Infants

Some colors can really set an infant off

Photograph by Getty Images

Room colors can affect infants’ moods and reactions, and there are plenty of authorities—from scientists to decorators to savvy moms—ready to show you how and why your little angel can be heavily influenced by the colors around him. Does that mean you have to compromise your personal aesthetic and choose a color that doesn’t interest you? Not so much. There’s a happy medium between the colors you love and room colors proven to affect your child—some, in very positive ways and others that could keep you up all night.

Soothing as The Deep Blue Sea

Give in to your passion for blue by choosing shades that range from periwinkle for a little girl’s nursery to a patriotic naval theme for your little sailor. According to U.K. website Baby World, blue is so calming, it’s been shown to soothe babies; scientific evidence suggests blue even helps bodies fight disease. Add touches of yellow or white to break up the blue to add the contrast your child needs to fine tune her senses and define the world around her. But, keep it simple. You can provoke baby’s crabby side by adding too many boldly-colored touches.

Here Comes the Sun

People living near the Arctic must adjust to sunshine 24/7 during part of the year. Paint your nursery bright yellow and you replicate this environment: Bold yellow rooms are too stimulating for anyone, much less infants. Yellow triggers metabolism spikes that provoke crying and unexplained fussiness. You’re not immune either, Mom. Spend too much time in a bright yellow nursery and you could develop eye fatigue. Mellow that yellow. Mute it with white to turn the room into a calming chamber. Decorator June McLeod says pastel yellow keeps baby so happy you can add bold accents to pique her curiosity without fearing a mood shift. By the way, babies stare at the ceiling more than any other place. Paint your room’s ceiling soft yellow to create a world of peace and tranquility.

It’s Black and It’s White

Imagine telling everyone you'll decorate baby’s room in black and white decades ago. You could have been dumped from Mommy and Me play date rosters. These days, a black and white room can earn you both decorating diva points and a tranquil baby because the palette is a familiar and comfortable mix for infants. From birth to 4 months, infants see only black, white and gray. This spectrum is thus reassuring and comfortable with enough contrast to pique his interest when he’s not snoozing. Design maven Karly Hand’s understanding of how positively babies view black and white lead her to pick her own baby’s room decor: zebras. Think the palette is limiting? Check out Houzz.com (see resources).

MORE: Some Baby Milestones the Books Don't Mention

Mother Nature’s Favorite

Emphasize green in baby’s room to encourage learning, say decorators at Little Crown Interiors writing for the website Project Nursery. Green affects infants the same way nature calms you: It evokes tranquility, peace and serenity, which is why health care decorating professionals use the color lavishly on the walls of offices, hospitals and clinics. Follow their example. Use green room colors to reassure your infant that he is safe and secure on a subliminal level and Mother Nature won't be the only one applauding your choice. Pair serene greens with sparse touches of deep pink or sunshine yellow and you won’t compromise baby’s ability to self-soothe when he’s cranky because the balance is just right.

Warm, Wonderful and Wild

Too much vivid red, yellow and orange can turn the calmest infant into a screaming banshee, so skip these colors to avoid the stimulation and tension baby’s developing nervous system may not be able to handle. Color analysts and students participating in Oracle’s ThinkQuest Foundation research project agree that holding the line on bold brights can positively affect your infant's development. Don’t pout. If Popsicle colors have captured your heart, dial down the hue to create room colors that calm and comfort. All it takes is some white paint to morph heart-stopping yellows, reds and oranges into creamy sherbets. Ah, compromise. Everyone sleeps. Even you.

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