Parents are preparing to send the kids back to school, and an important part of the equation this year will include having a good spot for the kids to do homework. While kids might have been fine doing their math and science at the kitchen table, having a dedicated spot to get work done really makes things easier, especially as kids progress to higher grades. So, it’s worthwhile to set up a work area for them, starting with a desk and chair and moving on to other essentials.
In May, we cleared out a section of my 8-year-old son’s playroom to set up a desk and chair for him to use his Chromebook, draw, do crafts, read, and enjoy other school-related activities. While school has been out for a few months now, he still uses the desk to play around on his computer, do activity books, and more. And over the past four months, I’ve updated the area with new items that we realized he needs as well.
What are they? Here’s a handy checklist to help as you set up a kids work area in your own home.
Naturally, first and foremost, you need a good desk. Figure out where you want to place it first, measure the area, then search for a desk that will fit nicely. My son has an L-shaped corner desk situated in a corner of his playroom. But any computer desk or even writing desk will do, depending on the needs of your child, how often they’ll be working there, and if they require storage or just a spot to place some books and a computer.
Shelves are important for organizing items like pens, pencils, glue sticks, and other utensils. If the desk has drawers, that’s a plus, too, so kids can organize workbooks, notebooks, and other items. The desk we got for my son did not have drawers so we measured the space underneath and got a cabinet that fits under it. There, he stores things like extra notebooks and paper, crafting supplies, pencil crayons, books, and some small toys for downtime. Consider getting a mobile cart on wheels so the child can wheel it out and move it around as needed. If you have the space, you can also place the cabinet beside the desk versus under it.
A Comfortable Chair
Next is an office chair, and make sure you don’t skimp on this or choose one because of a funky look over comfort. Especially if the child will be using the desk often, you want something that they’ll be comfortable sitting in for long periods of time. A basic task chair should do, but make sure it is on wheels and offers adjustable height so the child can position themselves properly while typing away. A mesh backing is a good idea since it’s breathable and the child won’t get hot.
I noticed pretty quickly that without desk organizers, my son would leave papers and writing instruments all over the main area of the desk, especially if he had run out of room on his shelves or in his drawers.
A desk organizer can come in handy for storing assignments the child is working on at the moment, along with the writing instruments they use most often, like a pencil and black pen, as well as an eraser, calculator, and so on for quick and easy retrieval at their
fingertips when needed.
Alternatively, you could consider an office desk hutch to position above a basic computer or writing desk for storing frequently used items, like the book they’re reading right now, tissues, pens and pencils, calculator, and more. Some modern desk organizers even double as stands and chargers for mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones.
Power Bar/Wall Adapter
Another thing I realized after a few weeks of setting up my son’s work area was that he couldn’t make do with just the two AC outlets underneath. A power bar is a useful accessory to allow them to keep their laptops fully charged up at all times while also charging things like wireless headphones, tablet, smartphone, and other educational tech gear.
Look for one that has USB ports as well as traditional AC and that has a long enough cord so you can plug it in and pull the block through the hole in the desk for easy access to plugging and unplugging gadgets.
Another option is a wall adapter that plugs into one of the AC outlets and expands it to offer four or more outlets, along with USB.
Smart Speaker or Display
Why would a kid need a smart speaker or display? Beyond being used for background music to help get their creative juices flowing, a smart speaker can come in handy for many other reasons. My son has a Google Home Mini on his desk that he uses for music, but Google recently announced a new feature called Family Bell that is great for families whose kids will be learning from home. Say “Hey Google, create a Family Bell” or set them up in the Google Assistant settings, and it will initiate a school bell each time the child should switch activities, grab a snack, go for recess, and more. There are suggested bells or you can even create your own customized ones, like “Sarah, it’s time to start French homework” or “Billy, come upstairs for a snack!”
A Google-compatible smart display like the Nest Hub Max adds another element to the equation, showing a school-themed video on the screen accompanied by the familiar sounds of school, like kids going to their lockers. The lights will also flash red, orange, and yellow when it’s time to move from one activity to the next.
Additionally, both smart speakers and smart displays can come in handy for assistance while studying and providing downtime entertainment in the form of fun facts or jokes, kids activities, games, and stories.
Depending on where the desk is located, lighting can be an issue. My office desk, as well as my son’s, are in the basement where the windows are small so not much natural lights get in. And when you’re hovered over a laptop or book, it can cast shadows that make the area too dark. A desk lamp solves this issue.
An ideal option is one that’s on a gooseneck with a clamp so you can move it around and adjust as needed, based on each task. But there are also ones that feature a number seven shape, sitting beside the computer or a book and casting light overtop it to improve your view. Kids will appreciate that when doing tasks like poring over big textbooks, trying to highlight passages and make notes.
One of the biggest challenges I have with my son during a school day, whether he’s working at home or in class, is drinking enough water. Arming the child with a stylish water bottle they can keep at their desk can help.
There are lots of fun designs but the most important feature I look for is a spout that won’t allow water to seep into cracks and creases and thus build up mold over time. A good water bottle will cost you more than you might think, but it’s worth shelling out the extra dough to avoid having to replace it in a few months.
Kids will require a good pair of headphones for participating in distance learning classes, watching school-related videos, doing homework assignments in mobile apps, communicating with classmates and friends, and more. Parents and siblings will also appreciate these if the child wants to listen to music while they work, so they can listen privately without distracting others.
Depending on the age of the child, you might want to consider headphones designed specifically for kids, not only because they will provide a better fit but also because many of them include volume-limiting technology so kids can’t crank the volume to levels that are unsafe for them.
There are lots of fun and cute designs kids will love. Consider noise-canceling headphones so the kids won’t get distracted by ambient sounds, like a neighbor mowing his lawn or the garbage truck passing by. Neat tip: I bought a standard adhesive hook and stuck it to the side of his desk so he can hang his headphones there when he isn’t using them.
While parents have their minds set on the essentials kids will need for back to school, like a backpack, lunch bag, computer or Chromebook, tablet, smartphone, pens and pencils, and a new wardrobe, it’s important not to forget that setting up a dedicated spot in the home that’s conducive to learning is critical, especially for kids who will be doing their schooling at home, even just part-time.
Start with figuring out where the area will be and work from there. Measure for a desk, find a good chair, then eyeball the set up and figure out what else the child will need and find items that matches the overall look and feel. Having a dedicated spot to get homework done, whether it’s in their bedroom, playroom, basement, or other room of the home, can make a world of difference.
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