Opinion: The Issue With Beige Parenting
Neutral-toned home decor is a trend that has recently gained attention on social media. Beyond home decor, beige is taking over contemporary nurseries and daycare centers. Many of these parents surround their children with neutral colors to match the aesthetic of their homes. However, the lack of color can negatively impact child development, especially for infants.
After birth, infants don’t have a fully developed sense of sight, including color vision, until they are in the five to eight month range. The reason baby toys are so bright is because they can only see in black and white. For infants to distinguish between colors, they have to be high in contrast. This means that the toys are significantly lighter or darker than their surroundings, which helps them stand out in the infant’s blurry vision. Not only do toys have to be brightly colored for an infant to see them, but brightly colored toys also aid in an infant's visual development. These toys maintain an infant's attention and assist in developing their visual acuity. To assist in an infant's development, toys do not have to be bright colors, they just have to be high in contrast meaning they could also be black and white. Despite the many options, followers of this aesthetic still choose toys in varying shades of tan and beige.
Another issue that arises with this trend is the accessibility of it. Many ‘beige mom’ influencers perpetuate that the colorless aesthetic is best for children. This is problematic because the most popular sites to source these neutral toned clothes and toys, such as Boston+Forest, are expensive. By pushing the narrative that beige accessories are what’s best for an infant's development, these influencer parents are pressing a sense of guilt onto parents who can’t afford this lifestyle. The implication that one is a better parent for surrounding their child with beige accessories is one to take issue with.
Greenwashing is also prevalent in circles promoting the beige aesthetic. Greenwashing is misleading the public to believe a product or company is more environmentally responsible than it actually is. Many influencers push the narrative that the neutral aesthetic is more environmentally friendly than others. Truthfully many of these clothes and toys are made using the same practices as others. The most environmentally friendly way to buy items for infants is secondhand.
Dr. Cynthia Edwards, Professor of Psychology at Meredith, shared her thoughts as a professional in the field of developmental psychology. She said, “Infant visual systems are still developing and need stimulation to reach their full potential. Infants seek out novelty in their environments, and enjoy looking at things that change and move.”
While beige nurseries are not inherently harmful, those who choose to remove all color by consciously selecting neutral toys with a lack of contrast could easily hinder the development of visual acuity. People who defend this aesthetic argue that too many colors overstimulate a child, which objectively is not true. Surrounding children with a plethora of colors encourages a child's curiosity. By exploring these colors, children learn new things which allows them to create mental connections to the world around them. Before infants reach crawling age, they receive most of their stimulation from how their environment interacts with their five senses. Therefore, a lack of color may equate to a lack of mental stimulation.
Dr. Edwards also stated, “Choices in the overall decor of the nursery are really more for the benefit of the parent than the child in these early months. If parents prefer a neutral palette, they can still provide the child with developmentally appropriate—and colorful —toys where the child will interact with them. Meanwhile, if the parent wants to make the rest of the nursery beige, they can do so, as long as they recognize that to their baby it will all be one big blur.”
The issue with the ‘beige mom’ aesthetic is that it carries over into their children's lives. The most essential part of being a parent is aiding in your child's development. By sacrificing the development of their infants to maintain their aesthetic, and fostering a sense of moral superiority alongside the aesthetic, beige parents are proving themselves to be superficial.
By Liese Devine, Contributing Writer