Five Considerations for Creating Learning Spaces at Home

McGraw Hill
Apr 3, 2020 · 5 min read

Where a child learns is often just as important as what a child learns. With millions of students now learning at home, parents are challenged with crafting the ideal workspace that will facilitate education, discovery, play, and achievement. Fortunately, it is simple to build an effective workplace that your child will enjoy. Here’s what you need to know about creating learning spaces at home.

1) Carve Out a Purposeful Space

Kids need to have a designated space for learning — a place that their minds and bodies will associate with work, creativity, and discoveries. This workplace can be at the dining room table, a beanbag on the floor, at a desk, or a cozy corner complete with pillows. It should be comfortable, reasonably spacious, relatively free of distractions, and tucked away from household foot traffic. It should also be an arm’s reach away from supplies your child will need for that day’s learning, such as:

  • Pencils and paper
  • Notebooks and folders
  • Age-appropriate books, textbooks, and worksheets
  • Art supplies
  • Digital technology and a charging station

Ideally, the space should be reserved for times of active work and learning. Children should be encouraged to take breaks, eat meals, and have free time elsewhere away from their workspace. But the important thing is that your child identifies their space as a place to learn, and they are comfortable returning to it each day.

2) Let in the Light

The most effective learning spaces are those that are well-lit. Natural light and other sources of blue light are shown to increase productivity, alertness, and focus in children. In fact, a study of 21,000 U.S. elementary students found that kids who were exposed to more sunlight during the school day saw 26 percent higher reading outcomes and 20 percent higher math outcomes than children in less sunny rooms.

If you can, position your child’s workplace near a sunny window or in a room that gets plenty of natural light. If your home or space lacks natural light, blue-enriched LED lightbulbs are also effective.

3) Quiet is Key

Children are much more vulnerable to the impact of noise. Studies have demonstrated that noisy classrooms can be detrimental to student focus, engagement, memory, and overall learning. The same applies to noisy learning spaces at home. The quieter the space, the better optimized it is for learning.

However, certain kinds of music, like classical and ambient, can help boost productivity by strengthening the auditory, visual/spatial, and motor cortices of the brain (1). If your child enjoys listening to music while working, encourage quiet classical music or instrumental sounds that don’t contain lyrics. Your child should avoid high-tempo music like jazz, pop, and hip-hop, and should not work with the television, radio, or videos playing.

4) Give Your Child Ownership

Allow your child to make their learning space their own. Encourage them to choose where they would like to set it up (using the above guidelines). Have them personalize their space with colorful artwork, signs, and decorations. They can add pillows, blankets, and even stuffed animals (as long as they aren’t distracting) to help to make the space feel more comfortable, familiar, and inviting. If a child feels they have ownership over their space, they will be more motivated to use it and care for it.

For more on promoting ownership and autonomy in children, see the below blog post.

5) Use What You Already Have

Learning spaces don’t have to be fancy or equipped with the highest-end supplies. You don’t need to spend a fortune on organizers, bookshelves, buckets, and bins. At a time when social distancing is of utmost importance, there is no need to take unnecessary trips to the store, when you can fashion an effective student workplace with ordinary materials you likely already have.

  • A coffee table or foldout table can easily transform into a desk. Cover with a table cloth to protect from pencil or pen marks. You can even work with your child to make your own table cover out of newspaper or wrapping paper.
  • Shoeboxes or other cardboard boxes can be repurposed into storage bins or organizers. Encourage your child to decorate the boxes themselves, and label them to indicate what will go inside.
  • Forts or “mini houses” are great for children with sensory needs. You can make a fort the traditional way with sheets and chairs, but they can also be fashioned with a large cardboard box. Melody Johnson, a McGraw-Hill guest blogger and curriculum developer, says “Using a large, refrigerator box, you can help your child build their own mini house. They can even decorate inside of these boxes with letters and numbers.” Cut out “windows” or place battery-operated string lights inside the box to ensure it is well-lit. Allow your child to fill the box with blankets and pillows so they feel comfortable and can work inside for an extended period of time.

How are you creating learning spaces in your home? Let us know in the comments below!

Works Cited

  1. Kariippanon, Katharina & Cliff, Dylan & Lancaster, Sarah & Parrish, Anne-Maree. (2017). Perceived interplay between flexible learning spaces and teaching, learning and student wellbeing. Learning Environments Research. 10.1007/s10984–017–9254–9.

Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for PreK-12 educators.

Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for PreK-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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We apply the science of learning to create innovative educational solutions and content to improve outcomes from K-20 and beyond.

Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for PreK-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.