School is back in session for the year and with that comes a multitude of homework assignments and extracurricular activities. As this busy season begins for families, children can be found doing homework anywhere and everywhere: in the car before soccer practice, laying in front of the tv, or even in their cozy bed. No matter how big or small the space, children benefit from having a structured area to complete their assignments. Whether you transform your child’s bedroom, playroom, or even the kitchen table, here are some tips for creating a stress-free study space conducive for learning:
Building a Foundation: At the heart of a good study space is a supportive and comfortable chair and table. Find a chair that supports good posture, good focus and attention. Couches and beanbags, though comfortable, tend to encourage slouching and are associated with leisure times rather than study times. The study chair should allow for feet to be flat on the ground, the knees bent at a 90 degree angle above the ankles, the hips at a 90 degree angle, and a straight back. Additionally, your child’s desk should be high enough for their forearms to rest on the tabletop comfortably. Feet don’t touch the floor? Child loves to wiggle? Get creative! Add a shoebox under the feet to create an elevated flat foot surface and consider alternate seating cushions, such as a folded blanket or a squishy air cushion, or even a standing option, to provide some movement and alerting input for studying.
Location, Location, Location: Some children prefer to be in a quiet, isolated space while some benefit from being closer to parents for help as needed. Consider what would be best for your child based on preferences and needs. Remember that the space can be a particular chair at the kitchen table while you are cooking dinner, a designated space in their bedroom, or whichever environment in your home that is suitable for studying. Consider environmental distractions in the location as well as the lighting in order to optimize focus and attention. For example, a high traffic area of the home or a spot near the tv may be distracting. Additionally, a spot with natural light may be preferred for alertness as compared to a dim, dark spot. Encourage your child to consider what type of environment would be the most helpful for learning based on their preferences to develop their own understanding of what is necessary for their own sustained focus and attention.
Involve your child: Allow your child to help pick out items to personalize their new study space, whether it’s a bin for organization, fresh new pencils and markers, or a clock to help with time management. They will love being able to contribute to their new space and be motivated to utilize this space as a successful and independent student. Encourage your child to try different things, such as listening to classical music or white noise, to better understand their preferences for studying.
Once you have a designated space for studying, implement a daily routine and gradually empower your child to be responsible for maintaining a clean and organized learning area. A novel space may be just what your family needs to reduce the stress of homework times in the evening.
Bonus tip: As second semester approaches, encourage your child to give their study space a “mini makeover” to reignite their excitement for learning, whether that means moving the desk to a different area or adding a cozy blanket to the space.
If you feel your child struggles with homework times, such as having difficulties with handwriting or fine motor skills, sustained attention, or self-regulation, visit us at connectpediatrictherapy.com for more information or to schedule a free consultation with one of our OTs.