With a new school year upon us, many families are settling into new routines that seek to balance busy activity and work schedules with homework assignments and school project deadlines. Even if your child doesn’t have a long list of homework at the day’s end, having a designated space for reading,writing, school projects and general creativity is ideal for their success. Learning and creative processes can be fostered or frustrated based on the environment, so providing a specific area that is organized, appealing, and comfortable gives students the edge to do their best.
Find the space.
Everyone loves a space to ‘call their own’ and students are no different; they are more likely to thrive if given a space to focus on their assignments. Whether you have 30 square feet or 300 square feet, identify a ‘space’ that is designated as their work zone.
Local 3rd Grade teacher (at Belmont Central Elementary School), Erin Braswell, agrees. “I feel having a designated space for homework and school projects is very important. This area should be free from distractions, have school and art supplies readily accessible, and offer adequate lighting. This allows kids to focus on their work instead of getting distracted by TV, electronics, or siblings.”
Ideal study zones can fit into nooks on large stair landings or under stairways, unused space at the end of a hallway, in the corner of a quiet room, or even in a cleaned-out closet with the door removed. Even if you don’t have the square footage to identify a space solely for this use, be consistent by always using the kitchen table or kitchen island – store necessary tools and materials in a rolling cart or large bin that can be accessed and stowed on a daily basis. This creates a temporary space to meet the student and the family’s needs on a daily basis.
The room is not as important as the location of a study or creative area. As Mrs. Braswell noted, the work space should keep distractions and temptations to a minimum. Adjacent to tv’s, gaming systems or within a younger sibling’s play space is not ideal. Papers to write, math problems to solve, and science projects to create are best done in a place where students can concentrate comfortably without distractions. Homework will always loose to television, toys and siblings so keeping study areas somewhat isolated from main activity areas is ideal (but close enough for parental supervision if needed!).
Keep it organized.
An organized space leads to organized thoughts! While it’s important to eliminate clutter and try to control the chaos of a child’s workspace, it is equally important to keep needed materials visable and accessible. “It is very important to make art materials readily accessible to any school age child, even if it’s just markers, paper, glue and scissors. This equips them to make use of their creativity whenever the spark occurs.“ says Belinda Gunter, local art instructor at the Fine Arts Academy at First Baptist Church of Belmont. “Out of sight, out of mind” applies to students, too; so if they are unable to see or easily these tools, they are less likely to put them to good use. The best approach to this often visually-overwhelming area is simply to give everything a place. Clutter control solutions don’t have to break the bank; the dollar store and dollar bins of local retailers are often filled with bins, baskets, and buckets that can do the job in a tidy way that is visually appealing to kids. Open shelving can be added to nearby wall space to house books, papers and bins of less-often-used supplies. Many Pinterest and DIY Design Blogs offer oodles of solutions for creative storage solutions on a budget. Organizing supplies is also a great way to ensure a clean, workable surface for reading, writing or working on a computer.
Make it appealing.
A student’s work space should be appealing to young eyes, comfortable enough to make it feel like home, and personalized just for them. Studying can be serious but the workspace doesn’t have to be. Add elements of fun and playfulness with colorful, attractive containers, from pencil holders to stacking trays to baskets. Bulletin boards allow pin ups without damaging walls and kids can have fun adding their favorite photos and mementos. White boards are great for making notes and having visual reminders of tasks at hand. Add small pieces of their own interests (trophies, medals, small aquarium) to remind them that life’s not all work and no play!
While you don’t want students so comfortable, they find themselves more likely to nap than work in their space, this IS home, not school, so offering a more personalized comfortable environment is ideal. If budget allows, let the child select their own cushioned desk chair, maybe in a bright color, something suited to their size. Whatever seating is used, be sure the child can comfortably reach the work surface so little ones aren’t craning their necks to see the desk and older students aren’t hunched over with sore shoulders.
Show them you are proud.
Every child of every age is proud of their work. Knowing you are proud of it as well is just added incentive to continue to do their best. Giving them a special place to display their work is one of the best ways to show them that you’re proud of their efforts. Whether it’s a cork board, a magnetic board or the nearby fridge, designate a place, ideally near their work space, that is for displaying recent art projects, science projects or even fabulous homework assignments and test grades. Inexpensive frames can even be grouped together to give a gallery-type feel to kids’ artwork on display. Keep it simple and easy to change so it can be a revolving reminder of the fruits of their labor.
The objective is simple: create a space that will inspire and motivate the child who is using it! Providing a quiet area to study with an adequate work surface, ample storage and good lighting is a healthy way to encourage your child’s success.