With kids doing so much of their learning at home during the COVID-19 outbreak, it becomes very important to make sure that their personal study area in the home is especially conducive to study and concentration. Here are five tips for putting together an optimal learning environment for your teen (or child). Naturally, there are built-in limitations to some of these tips for those who lack the space or resources, but at least try to come as close as you can to these prescriptions:
- Situate the Study Area Near Natural Light: Research suggests that natural light is optimal for good academic performance, so if possible place the learning area near a window or skylight. If this is impossible (and for nighttime learning), choose full-spectrum bulbs for illumination. Avoid neon lighting.
- Provide Wiggle Furniture: Research indicates that some kids benefit from fidgeting while they study (including many kids diagnosed with ADHD), so if you can, provide your teen or child with a desk where they can either stand or sit, a swivel chair, a stability ball they can sit on while they work, or bungee cords stretched between the legs of a chair, so they can bounce their legs against them while they work (also available commercially as Bouncy Bands).
- Have a Countdown Timer On Hand: For kids that do better studying in short quick bursts of attention, make the countdown timer feature on your smart phone available for timing study sessions. For example, divide up study periods into fifteen or twenty minute segments, and when the timer rings, that can signal a brief exercise break or trip to the bathroom or quick snack.
- Provide a Bulletin Board to Support Organizational Skills: A simple 22 x 17 inch cork bulletin board situated in front of the desk area can serve a variety of purposes. It can hold to-do lists, learning goals for the day (or week), assignments with deadlines, calendars, and also include some cheerleading as well (e.g. affirmations like ”You’re An Amazing Student!”) or motivational photos (e.g. like a runner reaching the finish line with a ”You Can Do It!” caption).
- Provide Noise-Canceling Headphones: For students who are apt to be distracted by household activities, screaming siblings, or other disturbing noises, a pair of noise-canceling headphones can be had for $60 on Amazon. Alternatively, if you find that your teen (or child) actually studies better when listening to music (not all kids can), then music headphones would be a good way to go.
- Use Technology Tools to Help Eliminate Computer Distractions: There are a number of computer apps that shut down parts of the computer screen or temporarily prevent access to distracting sites (like social media) including WriteRoom, Isolator, Camouflage, Dropcloth, Swept Away, and SelfControl. You can also have your teen write down things in advance that he thinks might distract him while he’s studying, and then have him generate specific steps he’ll plan to take to prevent the distractions from derailing his study sessions.
As I said before, you may not have the set-up, or resources, to provide all of these environmental modifications for your teen’s study area, but they represent goals to approximate as best you can. It’s also highly advisable that you include your child or teen in the decision-making process while designing this study area, so that they can put their own personal touches on the environmental choices. Since they’re going to be the ones logging in the hours at that location, they should feel good about their personal home study area. And what if they’d just prefer to flop on the bed with their laptop? If they’re being productive, then I say go for it!
For more information about designing learning experiences according to your child’s or teen’s specific learning needs, see my best-selling book In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences.
This page was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.
Follow me on Twitter: @Dr_Armstrong