Child's Work Station Child's Work Station

For families everywhere, as the school year gets firmly underway, the space in the house seems to steadily shrink. This is particularly true in winter, when scarves, boots, sweaters and other outerwear can clutter up hallway or mudroom space.

To take care of this problem, which you know is only going to get worse as we head into winter, you can start by cleaning out the front closet, and by installing a row of hooks by the front door, so no one has the excuse of only coming into the house "for a second" as reason to dump coat and mittens on the front hall floor.

But there's another problem with the advent of the school year, and that is the flood of school-related items that comes into the home. As the school year gets underway, you may be noticing the living room getting increasingly littered with lined notebook paper, pencils, and books with titles like "The People of Armenia" and "Fun with Fractions."

This kind of clutter is a more challenging problem, because you want to have the books and school accessories readily available for homework time; the last thing you want is Junior going to the teacher and reporting that his mother won't let him study because it ruins the look of her living room. But in fact, creating a special study area for the kids can actually encourage them to do their schoolwork, and can even improve their concentration.

Let's start with the work surface for the kids.

Today, parents often erroneously assume their kids need what's known by the unfortunate appellation of "computer desk" or "workstation."

This may not be what your children need in order to study most comfortably and most effectively. In fact, de-emphasizing the computer at home can actually encourage your child to develop good study habits, and can also help keep his creative spirit alive.

Think of it: if your child works on a classroom computer, does homework on Mom or Dad's laptop, and watches TV for a couple of hours, he's spending an inordinate amount of time in front of the old glowing screen. He may be better off with a work surface on which he can color pictures, mold something from clay, work with numbers, or write out a story long hand.

The first factor to consider is what kind of work your child does at home. Chances are he or she is doing some share of reading, writing and 'rithmatic, and the best place for this may still be a good old-fashioned desk, where the kid can be comfortable using pen and paper.

Think about the child's comfort. The desk should be child-sized, of course, but it should also allow for those growth spurts that can sometimes take you by surprise.

The best solution here is to get furniture that can adjust to your child's changing body dimensions. If your kid has a growth spurt and shoots up two inches in six months, you'll be happy to have a chair that can adjust in height. If the desk can also adjust, all the better.

  • Tip: Some homework furniture for kids can also serve dual purposes. If you can find a desk that will fit under a bunk bed, for example, you'll save room; likewise, a unit including a desk and bookshelf or desk and dresser can mean a smart use of limited space. One warning here: the Sheffield Feng Shui experts tell us that having study space in the bedroom is a bad idea, and can cause sleep problems. Ideally, you have room elsewhere in the house for the kids' study area, but if you do have an in-home library, of course that's preferable to having the kids study in the bedroom.

By paying attention to your child's work place at home you may be ensuring your child's educational future, possibly guaranteeing that your kids will be able to support you in high fashion in your golden years. Or, at least, you'll be able to find a place to sit down in the living room.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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