( Originally Published Early 1900's )
AS soon as the child is old enough to leave the nursery it should, if it is a possible thing, have a room to itself. It is infinitely soothing to the nerves to have the peace and quiet of an unshared sleeping place, to have bureau drawers and closet all to oneself, and to have untouched places for one's own best-loved belongings. This may tend to selfishness, possibly, but that must be counteracted in some other way. Of course with a large number of children this ideal of the separate room may not be possible; but at least two children can always have separate beds, and a certain amount of space kept sacredly for each in closet and bureaus; so much each has a right to have.
Children's Rooms Should be Attractive.-It is not necessary that much money should be spent to give a child an attractive room; but it is really necessary that it should be one that is pretty and appropriate to his needs if he is to remember his home with affection. The old idea too many parents had that "anything will do for the children's rooms," is not to be mentioned to-day. Anything will do better for any other room in the house than the room the children so soon grow out of and away from forever.
There should he a plain floor-covering first of all; this may be a matting, or a surface of brown stain with a rug over it, but no worn out, flimsy carpet should be tolerated. It is easy enough to paint or stain the floor, and a hit-or-miss rag rug will do excellently if there is nothing better to lay down. Then as to furniture, by all means have narrow white iron beds if possible, not wooden ones. A coat of white paint can be put on whenever it is needed, and so they will always be fresh and attractive. If a boy prefers a couch with a cover, then have it look as neat as may be, not spread up with unaired blankets day after day, but made up as a bed should be, with the cover laid on in the daytime only.
The wallpaper should be appropriate to the room. If it is one with a cold, north outlook, never choose a blue paper, or one of pale green, but get a red or pink, or striped or flowered paper. For a girl's room a white ground covered with bright, good sized roses is always pretty; a boy will probably prefer a soft hunter's green, or an Indian red, and a plain, inexpensive cartridge paper is a good choice in this.
Furniture and Conveniences.-The chairs in the room should be substantial, not fragile; old ones which have been set away, often may be painted white to match the bed and used again, especially if their seats are upholstered in a gay cretonne. A strong wicker chair of plain design is a delight, and for a boy, a heavy wooden rocker which will suffer all things without giving way, may be bought and painted to match the rest of the room.
As to curtains, fresh air, especially at night, is a prime necessity in any bedroom, so they should not be heavy or too good; dotted Swiss makes good curtains, as they can be taken down and washed often. Over these chintz may hang in straight lines at either side of the window without keeping out the air, and with a plain paper nothing could be prettier.
In some corner of the room there should certainly be what we call a shirt-waist box; that is, a strong, prettily covered box of medium size, which can hold blouses or shirts or other starched things without crushing them, and in addition can be used as a seat. Often these boxes are put in the window, but as rain is pretty sure sometimes to find its way in at night and ruin them, a corner of the room is a better place.
The bureau in a child's room should not be ornate, but plain, yet it may be painted white and have a pretty cover of chintz or muslin, and a good glass. As a girl grows older it will be time enough to get a dressing-table for her; but a chest of drawers, not too high, with a plainly framed mirror over it, makes a delightful substitute, either for this or for a bureau. The washstand should never be set out with cracked or mismated china, but a simple, attractive set should be used, other-wise the delight in the room is at once spoiled for the child. One of the things which is most prized and remembered is a light, dainty bowl and pitcher, with a colored pattern matching the room. A set with rosebuds for a girl's pink room will never be treated carelessly.
Books and Pictures.-A little writing desk, or a small table fitted out with writing materials, is a constant joy to. either a boy or girl; a couple of coats of white paint will make almost anything look well, and a big sheet of blotting-paper of the tint of the walls, a plain glass inkstand and some inexpensive paper and envelopes will be a real delight. Over this desk may be a book-shelf; a long board fastened to the wall and painted white is good; or there may be a small book-case; but certainly there should be one or the other, to hold the child's own books those he loves and reads again and again, and adds to from year to year.
As to pictures, there need not be many, nor need they be costly, but for the sake of educating the child's taste they should be good ones. A girl will like a Madonna, an Italian peasant, a soft brown photograph of some lovely cathedral or city street. A boy will enjoy a Sir Launfal, some of Landseer's dogs, or a good picture of a harbor full of boats.
Privacy Guaranteed.-In one corner of the room there should be a curtained book-case with shelves, kept for a child's own personal belongings; a boy's collections of abandoned birds' nests, butterflies or stones; or dolls and dresses, or whatever a girl treasures most. This should be sacredly kept, untouched by older hands. Besides this, there should be space if possible for anything of especial value which the owner wants to have near by; perhaps a turning lathe, or a doll's bed, or what-ever seems most precious at the time; these will be outgrown and replaced by other things, but they should be kept in the child's own room, if there is where they are wanted, to give a delightful sense of proprietorship.
On Saturday mornings both a boy and a girl should devote as much time as necessary to putting the room to rights. Some one else may perhaps sweep it, and wash the windows and do such things, but the owner should be responsible for the order of the closet and bureau drawers, the dusting, the arranging and general care; nothing so trains a child to keep a room neat day by day as the knowledge that half a Saturday may have to be spent in setting it all to rights if it is neglected during the week.
There should be one word said on another side of this question; that is, the respect the members of a family should have toward a child's room. Too often it is used by this or that one, perhaps to sew in, or to write in, when any other would do as well, and so the child loses that complete ownership which means so much to him. The right a child has to have its own room to itself is one not to be held lightly by the rest of the circle.