Wall Decals for Kids: What You Need to Know

Yowsers, there are a lot of options for wall decals for kids these days. But before you even decide you want flowers over dots, there are a few things you need to know to help you shop.

We have terminology confusion, application skills and key words to watch for. By the time I’m done, you’ll be properly armed to shop for wall decals and assured you’ll get what you want.

Wall decals make it quick and easy to turn your child's walls into a work of art.
Wall decals make it quick and easy to turn your child's walls into a work of art. | Source

Why would you want to use wall decals?

Personally, I’d rather paint designs on my walls, but that’s not an option that works for everyone. Sometimes you don’t have the time, sometimes you don’t have the talent, sometimes you don’t have the choice.

Wall decals are great options for people who can’t do anything permanent to their walls, like in an apartment, because they are temporary and won’t damage anything. They’re also easy to install, taking mere minutes, so great for those looking for a quick and easy way to decorate.

I’ve also noticed a trend where you can find wall decals for some kids bedroom ideas where you can’t find specific bedding. Curious George comes to mind – although that’s likely to change once the movie comes out – and I’ve seen decals tied to the book Guess How Much I Love You? but never bedding for it. So it might be an option for creating a theme you might not have the option for otherwise.

Put decals on windows too!
Put decals on windows too! | Source

Where can you use wall decals?

While decals are great, they aren’t an option for everyone, simply because you can’t use them just anywhere.

Just about any brand of decals says they can work on any clean, smooth surface. The operative word there being “smooth”. So windows, sides of furniture, doors, even the floor are options. But walls – depends. Seems kind of weird since the decals are typically marketed as “wall” decals.

It’s best if your wall is not textured at all (smooth surface, remember), flat as possible is best. Orange peel or knock-down texture is pretty much a no-go, which is unfortunate because it’s the most common texture used in new housing. (Hides all the boo-boos and it’s difficult to mess it up.) No stick-um on that kind of surface. I’ve tried it; ended up stapling the border to the wall. Boo.

Oh – and don’t forget clean. Every time you reposition a decal, you’ll be taking dirt from the old surface and the more dirt, the less sticky the decal becomes. There are some brands that claim you can move their decals up to 100 times, but I’m doubtful you’d get that many. But the cleaner the surface, the better your odds.

What kinds of decals are there?

If you're just starting your shopping for wall decals for kids rooms, you need to know that a lot of different terms are used to mean the same thing. And a lot of things are called decals or murals when they're really something else. It’s common to see something referred to as a decal when what they really mean is that it’s peel-and-stick and/or repositionable.

Decals/stickers/graphics

These words are used pretty interchangeably (and sometimes all at the same time) and generally refer to a collection of individual images that can be used separately or as a group. For example, a set of Barbie decals might include three of Barbie in different poses or outfits. Great for placing in different locations, but kind of confusing if you put them together.

Borders and wallpaper

We know what these are, right? The big change these days is that so many are peel-and-stick now. Note that occasionally you'll see the word "border" to describe a particular set of stickers meant to go along a straight edge in a specific design and not necessarily an actual wallpaper border.

Murals

A term that pretty much means a scene. This could be a single piece of paper that goes up like wallpaper - a stick-on poster, if you will - or lots of wall decals that work together to create a scene. The larger, single sheet murals come in the repositionable stick-on kind, as well as pre-pasted that require water.

Just work from one end to the other, smoothing as you go.
Just work from one end to the other, smoothing as you go. | Source

How to install your wall decals

I mentioned before that these were simple, right? Generally, it’s about like the stickers you used to put on your notebooks in school only much, much bigger.

Pick your spot, whether for all the decals in your pack or just a few. I recommend starting with the biggest graphic in whatever grouping you’re creating, then build out with the smaller stickers.

Tape up the entire thing with backing to make sure you know just how you want to position images and that you have enough space for it. If there’s enough space between the different elements on the sheet, cut them apart to get them all up at the same time. Adjust as needed.

From there, it really is like paper stickers. Most of them, you just pull off the backing, put down one end of the graphic, then work your way to the other end, smoothing it down as you go. This is where the repositionable part comes in handy because you can pull up and adjust as needed.

Save the backing to put the decals back on for later use (moving, etc.) if you like.

(Note that a freshly painted wall needs to cure before you start sticking things to it. Thirty days (yes, 30) is the recommended amount of time. Patience.)

Tips on Installing Wall Decals from Roommates

What to watch for in wall decal descriptions

As I’ve shopped around for wall decals, I’ve almost gotten tripped up a few times because key words don’t pop out.  Which means it’s easy to get something you weren’t expecting. None of these are bad, they just are wildly different things and you likely want something specific.

  • Peel and stick/Repositionable – Classic words for wall decals. Means it peels off a backing and sticks to the wall. Usually with low-tack adhesive that won’t damage the wall and it’s easily removable. And then reusable.
  • Traceable – I’m seeing this word occasionally. It’s still peel-and-stick, but usually a stencil that you then trace around, take off the wall and color in the design. Painting involved.
  • Stencil – See above. Only this time, you usually paint through the stencil rather than drawing the design on. Still painting involved.
  • Pre-pasted – This means the paper has glue on it already and it’s activated with water. Typically seen with borders and large murals. Typical of wallpaper in general. This means it’s not reusable. When you take it off, you’re going to be throwing it away because it’ll be in pieces.
  • Paint – Read the descriptions. Can’t tell you how many I’ve seen where I was convinced that the image was a wall decal only to get to the bottom and realizing that it was a scene you have to paint! Sneaky.
  • Transfer – I see this a few times as well. Still easy, but more permanent than standard peel-and-stick wall decals. These tend to be the kind you put up to the wall and use a stick to rub them on. Benefit is that they will work on some textured walls.
  • Giant/Jumbo – Another misnomer depending on whose product you’re looking at. Some companies will use the word “giant” just to mean that the sticker is the size of the whole page or on a sheet bigger than a standard page. If you’re looking for a big design – a really big design – make sure you double-check the image size before you buy.

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