In early 2020, along with the implementation of worldwide social isolation measures, we published several articles in order to help our readers increase productivity and comfort in their home offices. After months of continued isolation, surveys show that more than 80% of professionals want to continue working from home even after quarantine ends. In addition, a good number of companies are similarly satisfied with current work practices, showing a high tendency to adopt this practice indefinitely, since the majority of companies observed that remote work was as or more productive than face-to-face work.
However, with respect to children and home studying during the pandemic, the result was not as positive. One of the main reasons for this difference is that it can be difficult to get students to concentrate and motivate themselves for a long time in front of screens. Lack of physical interaction with other children is also a contributing factor. Yet until the global situation improves, it is likely that the return to schools will continue to be postponed. With this situation in mind, we decided to share in this article a series of efficient strategies to transform study spaces at home into better spaces for learning.
How to rethink home study spaces for children and adolescents:
Each child and age group will require specific needs that parents or guardians must observe on a daily basis. However, it is possible to delineate generic parameters that will contribute to three conditions necessary for teaching at home for any age group: the academic, the cognitive, and the physical and emotional health of each child.
1. Create a specific physical space for the study. It is recommended to start by choosing and creating a study space in an area with plenty of natural light and suitable acoustic conditions. If there is more than one option, it is important that the child choose the one they like the most and help configure it. If you do not have a well-lit area, you can review our article with tips for lighting interior spaces for children.
2. Choose a table that has the right dimensions for the space and height of the child. There are many desk options available on the market, but it is also possible to design and manufacture an exclusive piece. A minimum width of 80 cm is recommended so that the arms can rest comfortably around a notebook or laptop, but if it is possible to have a width of 1.20 meters, the child will be able to move and reach their study objects more easily, and allow the use of larger screens. A table height of around 50 cm is recommended for preschool, around 60 cm for elementary school, and above 70 cm for the later years of school, although this dimension varies according to the height of each student. An example of a good desk design is MiniMe, a children's table for young kids created by the architect Camila Thiesen.
3. Invest in a comfortable chair. Ergonomics is essential. For younger children, make sure that the measurements match their specific height and needs. A seat height of between 25 and 30 cm is recommended for preschool, between 35 and 40 cm for elementary school, and above 40 cm for the later years of school, although ideal height will vary depending on the user. A chair with adjustable heights can effectively adapt to the growth of the user or allow it to be used by different people in the house.
4. Organize the study environment. It is scientifically proven that the physical organization of an environment is directly conducive to the internal and emotional organization of the children themselves. In addition to incorporating storage spaces for books and other materials, it could be useful to incorporate a calendar with a class schedule, for example, located at the student's eye level. If the child cannot read and write yet, symbols or photographs should be used. Magnetic whiteboards, pegboards, or cork boards can also be useful for jotting down and saving ideas.
5. Adapt the space to other common areas. If the study space is not in a closed and independent environment (it can be in a common area, such as in the kitchen or in the living room, for example), partitions and other adaptable screens can be used to avoid visual and acoustic interference during lessons. Mobile, translucent, or flexible solutions can greatly increase comfort when studying. Curtains, for example, are an effective and relatively low-cost option.
6. Encourage the autonomy of children, leaving study materials within their reach (for example, on low shelves) so that it can be consulted even during leisure hours. More relaxed and comfortable environments can also be accommodated for homework or reading outside of class hours, using poufs, stools, rugs, and low tables.
7. Consider the coatings and colors that already exist in the environment so that the new study area does not visually interfere and is instead a contribution to space. It is important to choose colors that are to the liking of each child, making them feel happy and motivated in their environment, incorporating also other elements relating to their personal interests. To help guide this process, there exist certain universal guidelines for handling colors:
- Blue: contributes to productivity - is considered calm and stable.
- Green: according to experts, green inspires tranquility, delaying eye fatigue and general exhaustion.
- Yellow: can be a good option for children as it is a cheerful color, inspiring optimism and creativity.
8. Differentiate the study space from the play space. Play is recognized as effective for educating children during early growth, so encouraging fun breaks between classes is healthy. If possible, however, it is recommended that play is relegated to a different space so as not to mix activities, allowing children to clear their minds once each play or class session is over. If well thought out, it is possible to transform or adapt the study space for other activities on weekends or holidays.