paint2.jpgIf you’re like me and don’t have babies or toddlers in your household anymore, you may have heard the plea for a “not so babyish” room from an older child.

While we do focus a lot on things for babies and younger children here, that doesn’t mean big kids don’t also need special care when we re-do their bedrooms!

Here are some things to consider when updating your child’s bedroom:

Paint
Use No-VOC or natural non-toxic paints. No-VOC (or Zero-VOC) means “no volatile organic compounds” which really just means none of the toxic stuff that contributes to indoor air pollution and that you don’t want your child (or you!) breathing in for years to come. Natural and No-VOC paints are more typically more expensive than regular latex interior paint but for a bedroom, one gallon may be enough and it’s money well spent. No-VOC paints are available at most home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowes and you can find a list of natural non-toxic paint brands here.

Flooring
If you have hardwood or tile floors, leave them. Carpet is the source of much indoor pollution and outgassing. You can pick up organic or natural area rugs for far less than re-carpeting a whole room or consider something like FLOR.  FLOR is eco-friendly, recyclable carpet that comes in self-stick squares so you can mix, match and make your own patterns while staying green.

If you already have carpet and it’s not beyond help, leave it and use a green carpet cleaning system (or certified service) to clean it really well rather than install new carpeting.

Furniture
Don’t be afraid to buy some things used. Most new furniture outgasses a variety of toxic chemicals into the air and your child will be inhaling it. Getting something used (from friends, consignment stores or the classifieds) means it’s probably already outgassed those chemicals and also, buying used means you’re helping to conserve resources. Ideal items to buy used are dressers, desks, headboards and bunk beds. As these are also big ticket items, you’ll be saving money, too. Just make sure to clean everything really well with a non-toxic cleaner.

If you’re going to buy new, stick with solid wood furniture as opposed to assemble-it-yourself stuff made from particle board or MDF (medium-density fiberboard) because it’s made with a lot of glues and formaldehyde that will definitely outgas and it will eventually fall apart anyway because it’s not made to last.

Bedding
If it’s time to move to a new bed, consider going with a natural mattress. There are a variety to choose from that don’t contain chemical-based flame retardants (children have been shown to have 3x more toxic flame retardant chemicals in their blood than their mothers).

Some natural mattresses are made from organic cotton and wool, others are made from natural latex and they are just as comfortable as a conventional mattress, if not more so. Additionally, latex mattresses also deter dust mites from nesting in it so they’re preferable for allergy sufferers.

Considering that your child will sleep on it every night for years to come, this is one investment not to skimp on if you can afford it but if you need a less costly alternative, get a waterproof non-toxic polyethylene cover that encases the whole mattress and use an organic mattress pad on top of that.

Window Treatments
Skip the mini blinds (they often contain lead and/or PVC) and vinyl shades (vinyl and PVC outgas toxic chemicals) and go for curtains or shades made of cloth or even better, bamboo or hemp. If you prefer light-blocking or room darkening window treatments, skip the widely available vinyl versions and check out the very affordable paper darkening shades from Redi-Shade.

Wall Decals
Make sure you get decals that are not made of vinyl or PVC.  Signazon, a custom printing company, offers a patented eco-friendly material called EZ-Stick, which is even available in fabric.  These low tack decals are highly reusable and leave no residue. Most importantly, EZ Stick is free of PVC and phthalates, which are known to be endocrine disruptors. EZ Stick wall decals are a really cool way to safely customize and decorate your big kid’s room!

Following these tips will increase the green/non-toxic factor of your big kid’s bedroom AND your entire home!

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This post is part of the Healthy Child Blog Carnival – an effort by Healthy Child Healthy World to help inspire a movement to protect children from harmful chemicals.

This month’s topic is “Safe House” and focuses on healthy home improvements.