In­spir­ing study spa­ces

How to create the ideal en­vi­ron­ment for fo­cus and cre­ativ­ity

The Kids Post - - Education Feature - By Reiko Mil­ley

Back to school means back to the books. But for many stu­dents, the idea of bring­ing them home is daunt­ing — es­pe­cially if they have trou­ble con­cen­trat­ing. Whether it’s a spell­ing ex­er­cise or mid-term es­say, ev­ery stu­dent needs a quiet place to tackle home­work. And with some thought­ful de­sign and smart sup­plies, an ev­ery­day study area can be­come the per­fect place to re­gain fo­cus and get in­spired.

Home room

The ideal study space could be lo­cated in any room. For Nigel Fong, a tu­tor based in North Toronto, the most im­por­tant thing is that stu­dents “can feel like it’s their space for as long as they need.” So, the kitchen, where they might be limited due to meal prepa­ra­tion, or a bed­room they share with a sib­ling may not be ideal. The lo­ca­tion should also limit dis­trac­tion. He ad­vises against choos­ing a room with a tele­vi­sion.

Emily Dyer-To­bar, a de­sign ex­pert and owner of Rosedale’s pop­u­lar chil­dren’s store Ad­vice from a Cater­pil­lar, sug­gests a space with min­i­mal con­trast­ing colours and ac­cess to fresh air.

The ideal space should also have room to dis­play the child’s work, she adds, not­ing that “a clothes­line where spe­cial pieces or projects can be dis­played is mo­ti­vat­ing and a way to re­spect the child’s learn­ing and ef­forts.”

Dyer-To­bar em­pha­sizes the im­por­tance of a calm­ing en­vi­ron­ment. If the study space is in a child’s bed­room, she sug­gests us­ing a screen to close it off when not in use.

Fong agrees that a peace­ful en­vi­ron­ment, en­tirely free from ten­sion or ar­gu­ing, is es­sen­tial for suc­cess­ful study — a wor­thy goal for any space that a child can call his or her own.

On the ta­ble

Though most work sur­faces can func­tion in a study area, the ideal op­tion pro­vides stor­age and room to spread out. “A large work ta­ble is won­der­ful,” says Dyer-To­bar. “For ages two to eight, we love the P’kolino’s new­est art ta­ble, Lit­tle Mod­ern Ta­ble. It has a re­versible table­top that is painted with chalk paint and can open to re­veal un­der­table stor­age for pa­pers and work­books.”

And as chil­dren grow, look be­yond the dull, par­ti­cle­board desk. Dyer-To­bar notes that “a har­vest ta­ble, cut down slightly, can be won­der­ful for larger projects and study groups.” Add a smart stor­age com­po­nent, so sup­plies are read­ily avail­able, like a nearby book­case out­fit­ted with boxes and bins. Dyer-To­bar loves us­ing small buck­ets to hold craft sup­plies: “When de­sign­ing a work or study space, it is im­por­tant to con­sider ac­cess,” she says, not­ing that stor­age should al­ways be suited to a stu­dent’s height, to en­cour­age stay­ing or­ga­nized.

Guid­ing light

“Good light­ing can be en­er­giz­ing,” says Fong. He cau­tions though against in­tense ar­ti­fi­cial light, which has the op­po­site effect on his stu­dents. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to lo­cate study spa­ces near a large win­dow. For times when the sun isn’t shin­ing, an ad­justable work lamp is a help­ful ad­di­tion. Fong rec­om­mends mid-level task light­ing that can be an­gled to shine di­rectly onto the pa­per. For added con­cen­tra­tion: “Dim the light level of the sur­round­ings slightly, so the task light is the main light,” he sug­gests. “A work light is fan­tas­tic when it can be fo­cused.”

Take your seat

Stu­dents spend a lot of time sit­ting down to study, so a great chair is es­sen­tial. If the study space is in the child’s bed­room, he or she may en­joy pick­ing out a fun, mod­ern de­sign that matches the child’s decor and suits his or her stature.

Dyer-To­bar ex­plains that, when a work space is “easy for the child to reach in­de­pen­dently,” it can en­cour­age the child to use the space more of­ten, and “take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their learn­ing process.”

Con­sider choos­ing a chair with some seat cush­ion­ing and lum­bar sup­port, as well, as Fong em­pha­sizes the value of cre­at­ing a com­fort­able space for suc­cess­ful study at home. For ado­les­cent stu­dents, a chair with ad­justable seat height is an­other prac­ti­cal choice, as it will adapt to ev­ery growth spurt.

Sup­plies party

“Go to an of­fice sup­ply store and get the kids a few of their favourite pen­cils and erasers,” Fong ad­vises. “It’s im­por­tant, be­cause they will spend all their time work­ing with these in­stru­ments,” so they should be tools that they en­joy. He fondly re­mem­bers a me­chan­i­cal pen­cil he owned as a young stu­dent: “I loved it. I think this helped me with get­ting my math home­work done.”

“An as­sort­ment of age-spe­cific pens, crayons and pen­cils are won­der­ful,” agrees Dyer-To­bar. “Small hands learn well with thick crayons, and pen­cil crayons play a beau­ti­ful role for pre-kinder­garten to age eight. Paints are also im­por­tant for work­ing with colour and de­vel­op­ing fine mo­tor skills.”

When choos­ing a study space, it is all about lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion

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