The Best Kinds of Paints for Wooden Furniture in a Kid's Room

A coat of paint breathes new life into wood furniture, but paint used on anything in a child's room can raise concerns. Parents need to consider which paint coatings will be safest, most practical and most appealing in a child's room. It's important to know what features to look for in your furniture paint before heading down to the home improvement store.


In the past, paints have used solvents that contain volatile organic compounds. As paint dries, these VOCs are released into the air. The Environmental Protection Agency website warns that some VOCs may have "long-term adverse health effects" and goes on to list a number of problems, such as skin irritations, eye irritation, nose and throat irritation, nausea, headaches, liver and kidney damage and damage to the central nervous system 1. The site notes that many VOCs are suspected carcinogens. For health reasons, your first priority when painting furniture for a child's room should be to find paints labeled "No VOCs" or at least "Low VOCs." According to a Consumer Reports article, more and more paint companies are voluntarily lowering the VOCs in their products to a strict minimum, falling even below the caps set by the federal government, so finding low- to no-VOC paint should not be difficult 2.


Paints can be divided into oil-based and water-based. Oil-based paints contain petroleum solvents and alkyd binders, which usually result in a much stronger odor and high VOCs. In addition, oil-based paint takes much longer to dry and requires chemical solvents like turpentine for cleanup. None of these features is particularly desirable for painting anything in a child's room. The only advantage that oil-based paints have is that they dry harder for more durability. Water-based paints normally have lower VOCs, fewer fumes, lower toxicity, dry quickly and clean up with soap and water. The Valspar website recommends using latex -- water-based -- paints designed for porches and floors for added durability when painting wood furniture 4.

Satin or Semi-Gloss

Paints come in different finishes known as the "gloss." Gloss finishes range from dull to shiny. Flat and eggshell finishes have the lowest gloss. Lower gloss makes imperfections less noticeable; however, low-gloss paints are very difficult to clean. A damp sponge or rag can leave water marks on a flat paint finish, and dirty fingerprints can be impossible to remove. Since kids are notorious for smudges and splatters, flat paints are not well suited for anything going into a child's room. Satin and semi-gloss paints give furniture a sheen with a lightly reflective surface, and they are much easier to clean. For a brilliant shine and the easiest surface to clean, go with a high-gloss finish.


When painting furniture for a kid's room, there is no point in being boring and neutral. Give your child furniture that is youthful and dynamic. Pick your child's favorite colors or use bold shades. Get a quart of a contrasting color and use it to paint stripes, polka dots or accents. Get playful by painting a desk top with chalkboard paint so your child can draw on it, or an armoire with magnetic paint so you can use magnets to hang pictures, messages and school papers on it. Since wood furniture is so easy to repaint in the future, get creative now while your child will enjoy it 4.

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