How do I decorate my baby's nursery to stimulate his development?
Despite what you may have heard, read, or seen—you do not need to spend a fortune or decorate your baby's nursery in red, white, and black in order to stimulate his development. In fact, when it comes to nurseries, I would go for a fairly simple, safe, and soothing-chic look. Let me explain.
First, to address your specific question about stimulating early development, one of the single best things you can do in addition to talking and singing to your baby is to read to him. As a long-time early literacy and Reach Out and Read advocate, I would therefore make setting up a comfy, cozy place in your nursery where you can read with your baby each day a priority. This is as easy as setting up a comfortable rocking or nursing chair, and then consider adding a footstool and a not-too-bright lamp. Then you can find fun and decorative furniture to accommodate plenty of books and make them easily accessible (such as a colorful, kid-friendly bookshelf). As a practical decorating tip I often use in the classrooms of the childcare center I own, you can even make books a part of the décor—putting colorful ones on top of dressers or even framed in shadow boxes on the wall.
I would also suggest minimizing clutter—both for safety's sake, but also so as not to over-stimulate your baby. Remember, your baby's nursery should be a place where he can relax and sleep, so it need not (and really should not) have a carnival feel to it. This is especially true of your baby's crib, where there is not only no need for stimulation, but it is recommended for safety's sake that there be nothing but your baby in the crib. Along these lines, let me also urge you to limit any fun fabrics or patterns to such things as the curtains or diaper holders, rather than blankets or other fluffy items that all too often end up in the crib. The bottom line is that soft and sleep should not mix when it comes to babies, as it can put them at greater risk for SIDS or suffocation. For more information on making your baby's sleep environment safe, read the latest on safe sleep from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
I hope that these ideas and safety tips get you off to a good start. It's good to remember that in some instances, less is really more. More than any time, effort or expense you put in to your son's nursery, it is you who are actually the single most important factor in stimulating your baby's development. No matter what color you paint the walls or what kind of crib you choose (so long as it's a safe one), it will be the times you spend cooing, talking, singing, and reading together that will give your son all he needs to stimulate his development.