Go Ahead, Draw on the Walls!

Decorating, Home & Family
on January 6, 2002

The closet door in Callan Kreidels playroom would spark any childs imaginationits the center of a playhouse the girl and her mother painted on the wall.

When we painted her playroom, everyone who came in for months, she would take them to show them what shed painted, mom Cindy Kreidel says.

Children love drawing on walls, as any parent whos scrubbed off crayon masterpieces can attest. Giving them a free hand is an inexpensive path to a room that reflects your childs personality and can change with their interests.

Of all the things you can do to decorate a childs room, paint is the most forgiving and the most economical. If you dont like it, you just paint over it, Kreidel says. Start out by explaining that well try it, and if it doesnt work, well do something else.

Although Kreidel is an artist, talent isnt a requirementjust patience.

Older children can do everything. My artistic daughter drew and painted a jungle scene, an underwater seascape, the solar system, and a castle on the walls of her room when she was 11. Even very young children can fill in outlines with paint. My son was just 6 when he helped paint a baseball field, complete with a player wearing a St. Louis Cardinals uniform. He was enthralled with Mark McGwire that year.

Kreidel suggests borrowing an overhead projector from a church or school to project pictures on the wall and trace murals or using tracing paper to transfer pictures to the wall. How-to-draw books from the local library produced line-by-line instructions for my sons airplane and archer. And we copied his baseball field from a painting in an art book.

Favorite childrens books can be a source of inspiration for pictures that can be copied or traced, Kreidel says. We looked at Winnie the Pooh to see how his tree house looked.

It is possible to hire an artist to paint murals, but it can be expensive. Kreidel says she would charge between $200 and $500 to paint a wall, depending on the size and complexity of the picture.

Remember that children will be happy with simple pictures, a simple tree with a cork trunk that doubles as a bulletin board, and easy-to-draw characters such as Snoopy, Big Bird, or Barney. And dont be critical of their art work or the drips and drabs of paint that will end up out of place. The goal is for the child to be happy with a unique décor.

To get started, paint the background in regular latex wall paint. Draw with pencil, or mark off broad outlines such as a playhouse with masking tape. Think funPlexiglas mirror tiles for a window, 3-D items such as a mailbox, and chalkboard paint for grass. Experiment with Velcro, glue, nails, or staples to see what works best on your walls. With young children, be sure to let them help at the starttheir attention span is short and they will often wander off before anything complicated is under way.

I would let my daughter start painting and then shed become disinterested and I could paint while she played, Kreidel says.

For the murals, use acrylic paints, which sell for as little as three for $1 at craft stores. Glitter or glow-in-the dark paint can add pizzazz. Brushes cost from $2 to $10, depending on size and quality.

The possibilities can inspire for yearsmy 13-year-old daughter still adds touches to her murals, such as flowering vines that climb the castle walls.