At some point over the last two years, I would bet many of you reading this spent some amount of time rearranging your own home workspaces in order to reach an optimum level of performance. You may have even gone ahead and tackled your kitchen and pantry with the intent to make more meals. Our environment directly impacts our performance. It can have an effect on our behavior, our level of focus, even our anxiety. With children once again learning at home, I thought it might be a good time to revisit the topic of at-home workspaces for children, and what you really should focus on in creating a properly conceptualized space for learning (and maybe even a little fun)?
A teacher sets up their classroom with such intent and consideration because they know how much of a critical impact a child’s environment has on their development. When organizing a space for their students, a teacher’s primary goals are to reduce unwanted and disruptive behaviors, improve learning outcomes, and promote on-task engagement. This can also be achieved at home.
Whether your child is in kindergarten or fifth grade, creating a purposeful learning environment at home could be the difference between a miserable day, and a sort of ok one (heck, maybe even a good one). Here are a few quick tips:
1. Designate the Space
Choose a space that not only works for your child, but everyone else that will be home. It can really be anywhere, as long as they can be productive (and so can you!). If your child needs to be flexible with where they work in order to accommodate other family members, one way to keep things consistent for them is to use a rolling cart with drawers – it’s a great way to keep your child’s work and materials organized, but mobile. If your children will be sharing a workspace, and have a hard time focusing on work and not play when together, positioning them so they can’t make eye contact is key. Additionally, sleep experts recommend keeping rest and work as far apart as possible, so ideally your child would not be able to physically see their bed from where they are working.
2. Minimal is Key
This is not a space for your child’s nail polish collection, or every piece of pottery they ever created. So what should your child have on hand? Whatever they are working on at the time, and the materials and tools needed to complete the task. Any unrelated materials need to be put back before beginning so they don’t become distractions later on. When it comes to things they absolutely do need, like writing utensils, keep the options minimal. There is no need for fifteen different pencil choices. Anything that doesn’t serve a purpose is ultimately a distraction.
3. Pops of Play
Your child is not wired to sit for extended periods of time and focus on one thing after another. Classrooms are designed so that children have to get up and move around. Encourage your child to take a break by putting things around them that make them pause. For example, a little basketball hoop, a fidget toy, a picture of friends, brainteasers, a family photo, a stress ball, a coloring book – having one or two of these things available to your child during their work periods can improve focus and overall performance.
Your child’s workspace at home should engage them in a way that supports their development. That space can be at the dining room table, or in their bedroom, just consider what’s around them. Are there any obvious distractions? Is the chair they’re sitting on the right size? Is there good lighting (natural light is even better)? Are there items around them that inspire and bring joy? You can indirectly improve your child’s performance by simply giving them a purposeful space to succeed.