Creating a Comfortable At-Home Workspace for Kids
This year, “back-to-school” looks significantly different. Many of our children will do at least some of their learning online, in either a hybrid or fully virtual format. This presents challenges for educators, parents, and students alike, but we can do our best to make it a positive and productive experience. Start by following these tips for setting up an at-home workspace for kids!
Choose a Space
First, find a space that works well for your child. Consistently working in the same space creates structure, which feels safe for children and increases productivity. Sitting at a table or desk with a chair also “feels” more like school than sprawling on a bed.
If your child will need a lot of support, you may want their workspace to be in a communal area. Older children will likely want to work at a desk in their own room.
Other considerations include your child’s preferences about noise level and lighting, as well as the amount of space they’ll require. For instance, young children with many materials and projects may need more desk space to spread out, in comparison to older kids working mostly from laptops.
Clutter is distracting and can even negatively impact stress levels. Once you choose a workspace, clean and organize the immediate area. Get rid of clutter and any other potential distractions.
If some of the clutter can’t be removed entirely, consider alternative ways to store or organize it.
Make It Comfortable
A great at-home workspace for kids should feel welcoming and cozy. After all, they’ll be spending a significant amount of time there! You want them to enjoy the space, rather than dreading the time they spend there.
Choose a chair that’s both supportive and comfortable.
Use cheerful colors, and consider equipping the space with an air freshener. Scents like lavender, jasmine, and lemon are mood and productivity enhancers. Citrus boosts energy, and cinnamon is said to sharpen the mind.
If your child misses their friends or a teacher, adding a few small photos to their workspace can also make it a more comfortable and enjoyable learning area.
Add Essential Materials
What materials does your child need on a daily (or almost daily) basis for school? Equip their workspace with these materials so your child doesn’t need to constantly get up, disrupting their workflow.
Essential materials may include pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, colored pencils/markers/crayons, folders, Post-It notes, and index cards. If your child’s teacher provides a school supply list, keep required materials in your child’s designated work area.
A trash can or recycling bin near the workspace will allow your child to throw away papers quickly and easily as needed. Plus, it may encourage your child to keep the area nice and neat!
In addition to removing clutter in the immediate area, make sure to organize the workspace itself. Use containers, supply caddies, desk organizers, and labels to create a tidy space that makes it easy for your child to focus.
Talk to your child about developing a useful organization system. For instance, some children like to keep folders that are color-coded by subject (e.g., green for Math, red for Reading, and yellow for Science).
Dry erase boards and pin, cork, and magnetic boards are helpful for reminders. Older children will benefit from a calendar to record important dates and deadlines.
Create a Visual Schedule
Creating a visual schedule for your child (or with your child) is another great way to get organized. In this unpredictable school year, some semblance of routine and predictability will help your child feel balanced and focused. Visuals are especially helpful for young children, who process images more easily than words.
Some children will follow a virtual schedule that resembles a regular school day. Others, especially younger kids, will have more flexibility. Once you know what your child’s school expects, you can write out a schedule. Depending on the amount of structure your child needs, you may include lunch and other designated break times.
After writing out the schedule, add pictures. Ideally, these will be pictures of your child completing the activities on the schedule (e.g., a picture of your child logging into their laptop to start the day and a picture of your child eating lunch). Feel free to use drawings or clip art if that works better for you.
Bright spaces, especially those with natural lighting, are ideal for learning. If natural lighting isn’t an option for the workspace, make sure the area is well-lit. Purchase a standing or desk lamp to brighten up the area if needed.
Adding mirrors or greenery and removing items that close off the space can also brighten a dark room.
Bonus Tip: Add a Calming Corner
Big emotions are a consistent part of life. During this unique school year, students may experience even more difficult feelings than usual. When children feel sad, worried, or frustrated, learning becomes nearly impossible. To access higher order thinking skills, a state of calm is essential.
For this reason, a truly productive at-home workspace for kids should include a calming corner. Calming corners go by several different names: cool down area, quiet corner, safe place, etc. Whatever you call it, it’s a quiet and comfortable space for children to practice self-regulation. It’s where children go to change their inner state from upset to calm.
How to Set Up a Calming Corner
Choose a quiet area of your home. Make it comfy with items like a soft rug, a bean bag chair, pillows, and blankets. Next, equip it with items that can help your child calm. These will vary by child and may include stuffed animals, stress balls or fidgets, a journal to write or draw in, pictures of loved ones, and books. Invite your child to choose items that they find soothing.
Finally, it’s helpful to teach your child the process of self-regulation. At first, they may need your support in the calming corner. As they learn to deep breathe, identify and accept their emotions, and then choose a calming activity, they will eventually be able to work through their feelings independently.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) provider Conscious Discipline uses the term Safe Place. Watch this webinar on How to Set Up a Safe Place at Home for more tips and examples.
Final Thoughts: Creating a Productive At-Home Workspace for Kids
Most children probably have mixed emotions about schooling from home this year. It’s a new experience for all of us, and there will surely be some bumps in the road as we adjust.
These tips on creating a productive at-home workspace for kids are merely a starting point. Talk to your child about what they need, and personalize their workspace accordingly.
We can’t control much about this school year. But we can provide comfortable, clean, and organized workspaces that maintain some degree of routine and structure for our kids. It sounds simple, but setting up a welcoming workspace will boost your child’s focus, productivity, and overall mood about school.