29 October 2009 03:50 PM

Your Child's Study Area

by Dr. Rick

A reporter was recently looking for tips on how to “furnish” a child’s study area.  Did I have any tips for her?


My response was that a child doesn’t necessarily need her own private “office.”  In fact, I often think that the younger the child is, the better it is for her to be doing her homework in the family room or on the dining room table, where Mom and Dad can keep an eye on her progress, her mood, her challenges, and her successes.


But as kids get older, they want – and maybe need – the privacy and quiet of their own space.  If this is the case in your household and you’re considering a personal study area for your child, here are a few ideas to guide you.  The final arbiter, of course, is you, the parent.  If the study area doesn’t work out, if it devolves to a disorganized mess, if it doesn’t help her to meet the academic goals you’ve agreed upon, then change the rules.  Back to the dining room table, my dear.  Ever the optimist, though, I’ll concentrate on these tips.

  1. Minimal distractions.  This is key.  Especially for older kids, middle- and high-schoolers, a space that’s as free from distractions as possible is necessary.  She’ll be studying, reviewing her notes, writing that term paper, preparing for her speech in Social Studies.  She’s going to need a space that’s removed from the household hubbub, but not so far removed that you can’t monitor her by stopping in regularly to see how things are going.

  2. Comfort.  A comfortable chair is a must, but not so comfortable that she’s going to fall asleep!  The best is chair is comfy, straight-backed, and attractive.

  3. Neatness.  Insist on it.  This is a place for work, not play.  There should be enough room to spread out – space for notes  maps, notebooks, texts, etc.  The materials on the desk should be necessary and organized.  It really IS more difficult to get anything accomplished when your work space is a mess.  (And don’t fall for that old chestnut, “It may look like a mess to you, but I know where everything is!”  That’s just a lazy person’s excuse for, well, laziness.)  When you check her nightly homework, insist on neatness, too.  If you think it’s messy, so will her teacher.

  4. Plenty of light.  The old rule of thumb is still true – left light for right-handers, right light for left –handers.  The light should fill the entire work space and not shine directly in her eyes.  Tired, red eyes are not conducive for learning.

  5. Adequate storage.  She’ll need plenty of space to keep stuff – pens, pencils, supplies, calculator, ruler, index cards, highlighters, etc.  This is important so she won’t be racing around the house looking for her stuff.  Those inexpensive plastic baskets (label them) make good organizers.

  6. Display areas.  I like the idea of having a place to display favorite pictures, meaningful quotes, A+ quizzes and tests, thoughtful notes and cards, and other inspirational or humorous items.  This personalizes the space.  If adults can do it in cubicles, why can’t kids do it in their study areas?

  7. Organizers.  Anything that helps her organize and keep the area neat is good.  I like sturdy hooks, colorful files, and wall pockets, for example.

  8. Planners.  Don’t forget the mandated planner/assignment book to help keep her organized.  This doesn’t have to be an expensive electronic device.  A paper one is just as good.  Whatever you choose, show her how to use it.

  9. TV or cell phones.  Turn them off.  Homework and study time is for just that, homework and study.  I do encourage a few minutes at the beginning of this time for her to call her Study Buddy to clarify an assignment or to ask pertinent questions.  A few minutes are all that’s necessary.  Then it’s down to work.  No multitasking  allowed.  Occasional short breaks after an agreed-upon period of time are allowed.  Music is optional and probationary.  Some kids really seem to concentrate better with some music in the background.  If grades fall and goals go unmet, then the music goes.

  10. Decorations.  Let her have a hand in picking out styles and colors, but the true purpose of the study area is study.  Let her put the stamp of her personality on her space, but, as always, you’re the final arbiter.

I’d be interested in what YOUR study area looks like.  Send me a description of your homework/study space and tell why you like it and how it’s important to your learning.  Click on “Comments” below to share.




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