Children thrive on routine. As the school year begins and the easy days of summer fade into a distant memory, routines help to ease this transition by creating a sense of stability, comfort and purpose which can translate into better work habits and increased success in school. Parents can support the establishment of powerful study habits by working with their children, no matter what their age, to create a dedicated space for homework and studying. Don’t despair if you live in a small space or if your child doesn’t have their own room. Use these simple tips to create an effective studying atmosphere that will bolster your child’s efforts and make you proud of your own.
Choose a Study Space Together – Learning styles vary. Some kids need a quiet corner while others actually do better with some level of mild auditory or visual stimulation in the background. Of course, you don’t want your child to stop studying because they are mesmerized by a television program, but use your best judgment when you decide where your child’s learning style can best be optimized. Then, make your child a stake-holder in this decision by choosing the space together, even if it requires some negotiation.
Keep It Readily Available – Whether it’s the kitchen table, a desk in your child’s bedroom or a folding table tucked under a windowsill, make sure your child’s studying time is the first priority for this space. This will be easier if a solid homework routine is scheduled for specific times of the day, so double-duty spaces can be used to accommodate multiple purposes.
Make It Comfortable, But Not Too Comfortable – Some kids will beg to study on their beds or living room couch. Unless you want to wake them up every 20 minutes, this is probably not going to work. A waist- to rib cage-high desk or table that provides elbow room and a desk chair are your best bets for functional study space furnishings. If your child insists on keeping their laptop in their lap, get a lap desk made for this purpose. Some kids, particularly those with attention deficit issues, will actually do better if some of their studying time is spent standing up. If this is true of your child, don’t enforce a sit-down rule but rather, let them go from sitting to standing as needed and try to accommodate them with a hard surface they can work on in both positions.
Keep It Well-Stocked – Searching for pencils, notebooks or batteries for the calculator can use up valuable time and become part of a negative study routine. Help your child to show their procrastination techniques the door and efficiently buckle down to the job at hand by making sure supplies are well stocked, organized and at the ready. Make sure this is a shared responsibility or you will wind up spending your own time checking on how full the white-out bottle or tape dispenser is. Have your child keep a list of supplies they are running low on or need for certain projects. This technique can also help young children learn how to spell as well as acquire responsibility for their own work space. Very small children can use magnetic alphabet letters or even pictures to communicate with.
Keep It Clutter-Free – A cluttered work space represents a cluttered mind. Sometimes, simply making sure your child has a small waste basket at arm’s length can help with this issue, as pencil shavings, gum wrappers and other unnecessary items can immediately be disposed of. Items not pertaining to schoolwork should also be kept at a minimum, although some kids will be comforted by surrounding themselves with a few personal objects in their study space, such as a favorite stuffed animal or framed picture.
Lighting Matters – A well-lit work space is crucial. Lighting that is too dim can diminish productivity and invite sleep. Daylight or lots of bright lighting in the evening will do the trick.
Temperature – A too hot room can also cause drowsiness and a too cold room can be distracting, plus stiffen fingers up, making it hard to write or type. Simply cracking open a window for fresh air or plugging in a safe space heater are all you need to make sure any room is comfortable and conducive to studying.
Make It a Facebook-Free Zone – Remember when your parents used to tell you what to do and you vowed that someday you’d be the one in charge? Well, guess what. As a parent invested in their child’s success, it is up to you to establish hard and fast rules on things like social media use during studying time. Homework, texting and Facebook simply don’t mix, unless your child is working with other students in a Facebook study group. This rule will only work if you enforce it and establish consequences for breaking it, but it is absolutely crucial in the development of an effective studying environment.
Build In Healthy Break Time – Everybody can benefit from standing up and stretching or by cleansing their mind by taking some short, ten-minute, head-clearing breaks. Your child will best be served if they use this time to take a short walk or do something physical like yoga but of course, many will reach for the phone instead. That’s ok, as long as you place a cap on the number of breaks and their duration. Rather than turn yourself into the timing police, let an egg timer do the dirty work for you and keep it set to 10 to 15 minutes max.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.