If your kids are learning from home or doing a hybrid option of home and school, comfortable and functional learning space can help them get the job done well.
Now is a good time to re-evaluate your student’s workspace to assure they have the support they need to succeed.
One thing is sure. Technology is not going away, so we must set up learning environments that match well with childsize bodies to avoid injuries like muscle, neck and back pain.
Contorting our bodies while sitting or bending necks up or down to view tablets will result in aches and pains that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders, said ergonomics specialist Nikki Weiner, occupational therapist and cofounder of The Rising Workplace.
The most important aspect of a home learning space is that the environment matches a child’s body, she said:
- Invest in a comfortable chair with good back support that is adjustable so that it can be used at a desk or table that is at a set height. Position the chair so that feet can be placed firmly on the ground or on a footrest or sturdy box. That creates a stable base of support for growing bodies, Weiner said.
- Match your child’s learning tools to their size, because using a tablet for hours a day can be hard on a child’s wrists and hands. If possible connect to a compact-sized external keyboard and mouse. For easier viewing use a larger monitor or connect a tablet to a television screen with a cable.
A dedicated home base is ideal for learning, but kids can have more than one. Use the desk for online school, but an alternative space can be used for research or reading, Weiner said.
Health and safety
Use a lap desk or barrier when possible, because notebook computers can produce heat and can get especially hot when placed on a student’s lap.
To prevent eye strain take screen breaks every 20 to 30 minutes.
“Tell your child to look away from the screen to adjust their gaze,” Weiner said.
Movement during the school day is a must. Because they’re missing passing periods walking through hallways, encourage kids to get up and move when they have the opportunity.
“Movement improves work performance. It helps a person stay focused and gives them the energy for the work they have to do,” Weiner said.
Every 30 minutes change positions. Get up and go to the bathroom. Get a drink of water or take a movement break, Weiner said. Moving around gets the blood flowing and helps alleviate the microtraumas of working at a computer.
If possible situate the learning space near a window.
“Natural elements help ground us. Exposure to natural light helps with mood, lessens fatigue and can help put a person at ease in stressful situations,” Weiner said.
Add a plant or a flower to brighten the space. A fidget toy, eating a crunchy snack or chewing gum can help a child focus and pay attention during online school, Weiner said.
Find a routine
One thing to avoid is working from bed, which pretty much guarantees a child will be hunched over, she said.
With many family members working and learning from home, it’s imperative for families to find a solid routine.
“Be schedule-oriented and find something that works for everyone,” Weiner said.