One of the first exercises my Grade 3 son participated in for online school this year, was taking a snapshot of his workspace at home and uploading it to the school’s online platform for class discussion. As a result, I got privileged insight into about 20 different kids’ workspaces from across the country.
What struck me was that very few of those workspaces, if any, were geared towards children. And few, if any, encouraged creativity and focussed learning time.
Based on my understanding of physical spaces as an architect, I dedicate this blog to parents who would like to set up a child-friendly workspace at home, at minimal cost. Aspects we will look at are: lighting, child-friendly furniture, room dividers, accessible stationery, storage space, attractive posters, learning mat, workbooks, technology and time management.
Physical spaces don’t only impact our emotional well-being, but our physical and social well-being too. Let’s prepare our children for a lifetime of learning by applying these small spatial interventions, so that they can be the best that they can be.
Improvement 1: Lighting
Probably the most important way to create an attractive workspace is to prioritise lighting. Although our instinct is to orientate workspaces towards windows, so as to benefit from natural light, most times we will need to close the shutter or curtains to minimise the natural glare.
Workspaces that face a window should be avoided, as the contrast between sunlight and computer screen creates an uncomfortable strain on our eyes.
Likewise, when workspaces face away from a window, sunlight reflects off our computer screen, resulting in lower visibility and uncomfortable heat.
Ideally, workspaces should face a blank wall near a window, so that natural light can fill the room and generate ambient lighting.
A direct cool-white desk light should be placed near our computer, so as to ensure maximum legibility and reduced strain on the eyesight at all times of the day.
In addition, an indirect warm-white light source should be placed near our workspace, so as to create a cosy atmosphere at night-time. These indirect light sources can be switched on or off as needed.
Ambient ceiling lighting is not sufficient to ensure a functional, attractive workspace.
Improvement 2: Child-friendly furniture
Children like to fidget and move, and thus finding a suitable bench or chair that gives them maximum ergonomic support, while allowing ample movement, is crucial.
The ENZOKUHLE children’s workspace collection offers a good range of tailor-made children's workspace furniture to meet this need.
The ENZOKUHLE bench, for example, can be adjusted to suit the height of pre-primary, primary and high school aged children. As their core muscles strengthen and develop, so the ENZOKUHLE backrest can be added to the ENZOKUHLE children’s bench for comfort and support.
The ENZOKUHLE children’s desk can also be adjusted to accommodate pre-school, primary and high school children, ensuring that a healthy posture is maintained.
Pre-school children also have the option of tilting the desk top, so as to ensure easy reach of pencils and books. The ENZOKUHLE lower and upper desk extensions and transparent storage boxes are optional extras to accommodate play material, stationery and electronics as required.
While the ENZOKUHLE children’s desktop and bench tops have a durable coat of paint for ease of cleaning, ENZOKUHLE backrests and extensions can be purchased in varying designs and colours, to suit your growing child’s evolving preferences and needs.
The ENZOKUHLE children’s desk and bench do not need to be replaced–they grow with your child.
Improvement 3: Room dividers
Often times your child’s workspace will need to be set up in a shared family space, and thus creating a “quieter” zone through the use of room dividers is crucial to helping your child focus and think.
It is also important to separate your child’s “work” space from his/her “fun” space, so as to help them manage stress. The use of pot plants, bookshelves, curtains or screens can be placed next to your child’s desk, creating a “cosy” zone that is set up for “focussed learning time” only.
Improvement 4: Accessibility encourages autonomy
Pre-school children often forget where books and stationery are stored, and so it is a great idea to keep crayons and craft equipment visible and easily accessible at all times. This encourages autonomy and spontaneous learning moments throughout the day.
The MELOKUHLE pencil holder creates ample space for all your child’s stationery requirements from pre-school through to high school, and can be placed either on the side or at the top of the ENZOKUHLE children’s desk.
Craft material, paper, play dough, Lego or robotics kits can be stored in transparent 15 litre storage boxes under the ENZOKUHLE children’s desk, visible to your child at all times, and easy to reach.
Improvement 5: Sufficient storage space
One of the challenges is finding enough storage space to organise your child’s toys, learning material and stationery.
Our MELOKUHLE pencil holder can be placed on the ENZOKUHLE children’s desk, and storage boxes can be placed as needed underneath.
For those who need extra desk space for storing workbooks, printers or files, the ENZOKUHLE lower extension and ENZOKUHLE upper extension can be added with ease. They also come in fun designs, to suit your child’s preferences and personality.
Improvement 6: Attractive wall
As your child’s workspace is preferable facing a blank wall, we encourage you to use the blank space for displaying his/her work.
You could either frame masterpieces and nail them to the wall, or simply use Prestik to hang drawings and artwork as it is produced. This not only encourages your child to see his/her work exhibited, but also makes his/her working space more colourful and creative.
There is no need to purchase posters or a painting to liven up your child’s workspace–your child’s work is beautiful and unique, and should be displayed.
Improvement 7: Learning mat
Although the ENZOKUHLE children’s desk has a durable coating that is easy to clean, it is worth investing in the ENZOKUHLE learning mat to provide a smooth surface for your pre-school child to draw on. This mat can be replaced if needed.
For primary school children, the use of a school planner or cutting mat is encouraged, so as to protect the ENZOKUHLE children’s desktop from cuts or spills.
High school children can purchase the ENZOKUHLE mousepad as needed.
Improvement 8: Workbooks
For children doing online school, either the use of white boards or tablets is often encouraged. Pre-school and primary school children should continue using paper and pencil, however, as it is a medium they will encounter in years to come.
So as to manage the collection of random pieces of paper, I would encourage you to purchase exercise books and cover them with colourful wrapping/ homemade paper. That way they will build a diary of knowledge over the year, proof of what they have learnt and celebration of how far they have come. Their workbooks can either be stored in the transparent storage boxes under the ENZOKUHLE children’s desk, or on the ENZOKUHLE extensions.
Improvement 9: Technology
School of 2021 is synonymous with technology. The ENZOKUHLE children’s desk has a cable slit to ensure all cables are kept tidy and out of reach.
The ENZOKUHLE tablet/phone stand can be adjusted to your child’s preferred angle, and accommodates both smartphone and tablet. For older children using laptops, the ENZOKUHLE mousepad can be handy.
Ensure that your child has a stable Wi-Fi connection during school hours, and that headphones are available in a shared living and working space.
For video calls, ensure that the device’s built-in camera is not facing a bright window, as the contrast between your child’s face and background will diminish visibility. The light source should always be in front of your child’s face (use a table light as direct light source) when taking photos or videos.
The use of a headphone with built-in microphone is also advisable, if background noises are unavoidable during online sessions.
Improvement 10: Time management
One of the definite skills your child will master with online learning and home education is time management.
Support your child’s effort by ensuring there is a clock near his/her workspace, and that a weekly planner or calendar is accessible for noting when sessions begin. Introduce regular breaks during the school day, so as to help your child relax between sessions, and limit the hours your child spends online.
If our children learn to live a balanced lifestyle at a young age, it will carry them through life. Plan at least 20-minutes of physical activity into their schedules every day; the fresh air will stimulate their brains, and movement will keep their bodies healthy.
Henriette Frohlich is a professional architect, who is passionate about creating child-friendly workspaces that are accessible to all. She is the founder of HF Design, a small startup that is flexible, simple and local. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org