When it comes to planning and decorating bedrooms or play areas for children -- whatever their age -- take inspiration from the memories of your own youth. Revisit your childhood to try to recapture something of the fun and exuberance of your earliest years. Can you remember when there seemed to be no rules no preconceptions about anything, least of all interior design? Small children are naturally attracted to bright colors, strong patterns and familiar images, whatever form they take, so try to incorporate all these elements into their surroundings to give them a lively and spontaneous flavor. Bear in mind that a room scheme should develop with the child and accommodate his or hers changing tastes and needs -- the bedroom of a boisterous toddler serves a very different purpose to a teenager's private and fiercely-guarded hideaway. With a little forethought, however, you can plan a space that is both stylish and adaptable and one that your children can grow up with happily. If you are starting a room from scratch and furnishing a nursery for a new baby, it may be tempting to go for the full-on coordinated look available from high-end stores. Changing tables, cribs and and dressers, complete with matching rugs, curtains and wallpaper may be the ideal solution for the first few years, but they are expensive, soon outgrown and, when the design choices have already been made for you, they provide little scope for individuality. It is far better (and more economical in the long run) to start off with a few good pieces of basic furniture, plain walls and ceiling, and a simple floor covering. You can then introduce blocks of color and pattern by means of the soft furnishings, bedding and accessories. These can easily be changed and updated, the furniture can be repainted when a new look is demanded. Young children's rooms are not really the place for subtle colors. You only have to look at their boxed games, dolls, fluffy stuffed toys and picture books to be confronted with an onslaught of bright primary colors. So look to crisp greens, vivid reds, and clear blues as a starting point for the soft furnishings. A jumbled mix of stripes, checks and cheerful gingham always work well together and would look good in either boy's or girl's room. If you prefer to incorporate some pattern, there are some great retro-style prints about, featuring cowboy or seaside themes. However, special children's fabrics depicting beloved cartoon characters, super heroes or pop idols, are bound to be their favorite. If you start with out with a simple, classic theme of which your child approves -- nautical, sports, zoo animals, colorful fruit and flowers, little princess or Shaker inspired folk art -- you can share your enthusiasm and build on it together by adding curtains, cushions, throws and new bed linens. The fabric should be hard wearing and easy to care for, as they are bound to get well used, covered in sticky fingerprints. Children spend a lot of time playing sitting and rolling on the floor, so a few large cushions or beanbags will make life a bit more comfortable.

You may also find it useful to have large quilts in the playroom or bedroom. They will provide extra bedding, but will also double up as soft play mats, cover an armchair or sofa to protect the upholstery or stand in as a magic flying carpet when necessary.