Good light, fresh air and minimal noise – these are the fundamental requirements of an effective study space. While most parents try to create the perfect study corner for their children, there are things that can be done to that space to motivate them and make them enjoy studying.
A study titled ‘Optimal Learning Spaces - Design Implications for Primary Schools’, by Prof. Peter Barrette and others was conducted between 2011 and 2012 in England. It states that various factors, such as the colour of the classroom walls, the flexibility of the study space and the quality of the light affects learning outcomes by as much as 25 per cent, either positively or negatively. By inference, we can assume that the spaces our children use to study at home too will have an impact on their academic performance.
Children often associate specific spaces with specific functions. They identify their cots with bedtime, their highchairs with meal times, and parks with playtime. As your child enters school, it is therefore important to establish a space where he can focus on his studies.
For primary schoolers
- Invest in a study table that your child can use for a few years. An adjustable chair should work well. Make sure the chair is comfortable. Add a soft cushion, if needed, to help him reach the desk. Buy a nice desk lamp, preferably one meant for children, and adjust it, so that the glare doesn’t affect his vision.
- At this stage, you will need to supervise your child’s studies. So, place a chair for yourself where you can help her whenever needed.
- Your child’s feelings and attitude towards studying will start developing at this stage. So, do everything you can to prevent it from being a stressful experience. If he has a favourite stuffed toy which soothes and comforts him, make space for that toy on his study desk or on a nearby shelf. The toy’s presence will calm him. You can also ‘involve’ the toy in the study process by asking your child to repeat his multiplication tables or spellings to the toy, instead of to you.
- Award your child little ‘stars’ cut out from shiny paper for a job well done. Put up a notice board where you can pin these stars. They will make her feel good and motivate her to do better.
- As your child grows, his interests will change. While it may not be practical to redecorate an entire room each time he finds a new passion, you could try re-designing his study space. If he is a sports buff, paint his study table in his favourite team’s colours. Or use a popular cartoon as the theme. Stick cut-outs of the cartoon characters on the desk and chair, and put a coat of clear varnish on them. The idea is to make the study space attractive for him.
- You will need to upgrade the study space by adding certain elements to it. A calendar and a clock are essential. So is a whiteboard or blackboard, along with the appropriate writing and cleaning tools. Problem spellings and diagrams can be put on it as visual aids. Teach your child to keep to time schedules, as opposed to watching the clock. She should know when tests and exams are scheduled, and work systematically toward them. Also, as she will have to spend more time on her studies at this stage, she will need short breaks. The clock will come in useful to signal both – break time and back-to-studies time.
- Put up little motivational messages on the notice board near the study desk and change them every week if possible. They can be general messages or personalised ones praising your child's efforts.
- Regarding specific aspects of the perfect study corner for older children, the one-size-fits-all rule does not apply. Some need to have a quiet place to study, others are catalysed by music. Some like individual study, others do better in groups. Some thrive on clutter, others are distracted by it. Understand that your teenager’s needs could be different from yours, and involve him in figuring out what works best for him.
- Various studies have shown that familiar, favourite music played low in the background can actually help students focus. It can help them tune out other distracting noise. If your teenager insists on listening to music, let her have her way unless you find that she’s focussing on the music instead of studying.
- Scientists studying workplace ambience have found that, in some cases, clutter promotes creativity, as it spurs out-of-the-box thinking. If opened books, piles of files, rows of post-its and a tangle of wires spill across your teenager’s study area, give him the benefit of doubt. There may be a method to this madness.
- Some children like to sit in one place and study, others like to pace. Ask your child which she’d prefer, and arrange her study space to suit her needs. Also, teenagers may like to have more than one study space, so don’t insist that she keeps to one room. Allow her to alternate between the garden or terrace and the study table if she so wishes. It will keep monotony away.
While keeping in mind the basic requirements for aiding concentration, the key is to understand your child’s personality and make study time at home a pleasurable experience. By doing so, your child will come to enjoy the process of learning, and automatically put in his best efforts.
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