Setting Up a Workspace for Children at Home

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
August 27, 2020

Regardless of whether students are in kindergarten or seniors in high school, it is important for children to have a space within the home where they can complete their schoolwork efficiently and effectively. A global pandemic has caused work, play, and learning to move inside the home, with virtual learning taking the place of in person instruction for the foreseeable future. Parents are now more than ever faced with the challenge of creating a space within the home that is conducive to learning. 

In order for students to feel comfortable and alert in their space and ready to dive into schoolwork, there are a number of things to consider when developing this workspace at home. Answering the five questions below will assist you in creating a workspace that your child will thrive in. Remember to have fun with your child in creating it. Although you will need to be flexible with your child’s needs over time, his or her workspace will hopefully get lots of use and enjoyment for years to come, whether it is for virtual learning or homework.

1.  Where in my home should my child’s workspace be located?

When considering where to set up your child’s workspace, it is important to find a place that is well lit so that your child does not have to squint or strain his or her eyes when working. While sunlight is often very beneficial, if your child is one who is easily distracted by scenes from the outdoors, you can use overhead lighting or a desk lamp.

The workspace should be free of clutter and distractions. For some students, facing a wall, rather than an open room, might be beneficial to minimize distractions. Ideally, the workplace should be in a quiet area, away from the play area of siblings or screens. Try to avoid places where a child can be easily distracted, such as near games, toys, or high foot traffic areas. Because many children like to feel independent and prefer to do their work on their own, the workspace should entail some degree of privacy, while being visible enough for parents to monitor and assist. Be mindful of technological needs, including electrical outlets and wifi access, when setting up the workspace. 

2.  What should my child’s workspace look like?

Some of the more obvious workspaces that children can use are a desk or unused table space, assuming that it is free of clutter and regularly available. Reused crates can be used to create a makeshift desk. In fact, some students may prefer an unconventional workspace over a traditional desk or table. For older students, the use of a lap desk or a comfortable floor nook packed high with pillows might do the trick. No matter what type of space you use, just make sure that there is enough room for all of the supplies that the student may need. A key note to remember is that this workspace should be used for just that – working, rather than trying to use a bed, for instance, which will often have children falling asleep.

If your child is going to use a table or desk, another question is what type of seating is best. The chair should be sturdy and comfortable, ideally with back support. It is important to use a chair that is height appropriate to encourage good posture while writing or typing.   

3.  What are my child’s frequent needs at their workspace?

Just as most adults work better in a clean and organized environment, children tend to be more efficient when their supplies are readily accessible. When items are visible, children can find their supplies easier with fewer lost items and subsequent frustrations. Some suggestions for storing supplies can be in clear plastic glasses or mason jars, which can hold pens, pencils, or paintbrushes. Notebooks can be stacked on shelves. Baskets and bins are a great tool, especially if labeled. If possible, use hooks to hang backpacks or headphones. Some children may even want to have a pencil sharpener, timer, or fidget tools in the workspace. To avoid clutter in the workspace, frequently dispose of any trash and unnecessary items. You child can play an active role in tidying up the workplace at the end of each day.

Being properly hydrated can improve a student’s brain function, as well as mood. Therefore, it can be beneficial to have a water bottle available at your child’s workspace for your child to drink regularly. Having a drink readily accessible will avoid the need for your child to get up frequently, which can be an unwelcome distraction.   

4.  How do I encourage my child to use the workspace?

For students of all ages, it is important for them to have input into what their workspace will look like so they will be invested in the idea of using it regularly. Making the workspace their own can vary depending on the developmental age of the child. For instance, younger children may want to have a stuffed animal nearby for comfort, while older children may want some pictures of family or friends. Children may also have certain interests, such as a sports team or musical artist, which they may want to put on display in their workspace. Another way to add personality and versatility to the workspace is to add contact paper to the work surface, which is changeable and easily cleaned. Not all of your child’s workspace has to be decorated. In fact, leaving some of the space empty and unadorned adds flexibility as your child grows. 

5.  What are some tips for making my child’s workspace conducive to learning?

Sometimes your children may want to work in different parts of the home when completing their schoolwork, especially if there is something exciting going on in one of the rooms. Despite their inclinations, it is beneficial to maintain a routine where the student will work consistently at their workspace. Being consistent will instill better work habits in the long run.

Another tip to helping your child work effectively at his or her workspace is by utilizing appropriate time management and organizational skills. Your child can use post-it notes or a written calendar to write down and remember important dates and assignments that are coming up. A dry erase board may also be beneficial and fun for some students when listing their goals or projects that need to be completed. When working at their workspace, children can set a visual timer to stay motivated to work at a reasonable pace. It can also keep a student on track by knowing when work on a specific subject should be finished and work on another subject begins. Students may take short breaks between subjects, which can be set through the visual timer as well.

The Healthy Minds Blog shares information related to youth mental health and wellness for an audience of parent, educators and community-based providers. Articles include tips and strategies for increasing wellness and resiliency, as well as fostering success at home, at school and in the community.

The Healthy Minds Blog is a collaborative project between Fairfax County Public Schools and the Prevention Unit of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. It is part of the Healthy Minds Fairfax (see below) initiative, designed to support emotional wellness in youth and families.

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