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Color Psychology

How Color Affects Kids


Color Psychology Photo courtesy of Bob Mical via Flicker.

Choosing a color scheme for a nursery or kid’s room can be tricky. Yet, hoping to escape the standard pink or blue motif, many parents leap into the world of color armed with little more than a whim and a prayer. After all, color selection is not exactly a science, right?

Actually, it is. Just ask the army of marketing execs who have poured millions into the research.

Psychological studies - first conducted by advertising firms - suggest that color selection can influence mood and behavior, stimulate the brain and body and even affect one’s health.

Marketing experts have been using these findings to their advantage for decades. The décor at your gym, your day spa, even your favorite burger joint has been specially designed to affect everything from your mood to your appetite. But color psychology can be used to affect more than just your wallet. Scientific studies have also found that exposure to certain colors can improve sleep habits, increase memory power and even enhance academic performance - excellent benefits for growing minds and bodies.

Whether you are planning a nursery or giving your pre-teen’s room a much-needed update, your design may benefit from a little psychological intervention. Before you open that paint can, take a minute to consider the psychological effects of your color choice.

Color Psychology 101

Warm Colors
In general, warm colors elicit happiness and comfort, creating intimacy by making large, open spaces feel a little cozier. Bold shades of red, orange and yellow can stimulate the mind and have an energizing effect on the body- beneficial for growth and development, but less than advantageous during the nightly bedtime showdown with your average, overly energetic toddler.

Thus, warm colors are best used in moderation. Instead of painting an entire room a bold red or bright yellow, paint a single accent wall and tie in a few matching accessories. You might also consider pairing warm colors with cooler shades to create a sense of balance and temper any negative effects.

Rich and highly emotive, red excites and energizes the body, increasing heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. Have a little athlete on your hands? Some studies suggest that the physical affects associated the color red increases athletic ability. However, red is also associated with increased aggression, an inability to focus and even headaches. Some research suggests that exposure to the color red may even hurt your child’s academic performance.

Universally loved by little girls, pink evokes empathy and femininity and creates a calming atmosphere. However, despite an initial calming effect, pink can become irritating over time, leading to agitation and anxiety. While your princess may love this rosy hue now, be prepared for her to reject it in the future.

Bright and cheery, yellow is associated with happiness and motivation. Soft, subtle yellows promote concentration while brighter shades can stimulate the memory and increases metabolism. However, too much yellow can evoke feelings of anger and frustration resulting in fussy, over-stimulated babies.

Friendly and welcoming, orange borrows many of its parent’s positive attributes. Orange has a distinctly social nature, inspiring interpersonal communication and putting people at ease. Like yellow, too much orange can be over-stimulating so use bold shades sparingly.

Cool Colors
Cool colors have a calming effect on the body and can make your child’s room feel spacious and relaxing - Think open skies and rolling waves. However, dark, cool colors can evoke all the doom and gloom of an impending storm and should be used in moderation.

Despite their soothing nature, cool colors are not particularly inviting and can leave people feeling cold and reserved if the atmosphere is too stark. Too soften the effect, pair with creamy neutrals and dress with soft fabrics and comfortable accessories.

The exact opposite of red on the color wheel, blue calms the mind and body, lowering blood pressure, heart rate and respiration and decreasing feelings of anxiety and aggression. Children who have trouble sleeping or are prone to tantrums and other behavioral problems may benefit from spending time in a blue environment. The physical effects of blue also cool the body, creating a refreshing oasis in hot, humid locations.

Associated with wisdom and spirituality, purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red, taking on the characteristics of either, depending on the shade. Purple can also have a luxurious feel and is associated with wealth and royalty.

Green symbolizes nature and thus promotes a serene and calming environment. Associated with health, healing and well being, green has a soothing effect on the body and mind, reducing anxiety and promoting concentration. Exposure to the color green may even increase reading ability. One study found that by laying a transparent green sheet on top of text, students improved their reading speed and comprehension.

While science can make useful generalizations, remember that psychological responses are deeply personal. You may feel differently about a color based on your own cultural and personal preferences, and that’s fine. If your little boy loves the color red, don’t worry about the negatives. The brain is designed to identify what it needs and likes and will reward us for following direction. In other words, if your baby is happy, his brain is happy too.

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