As many school districts across the country continue virtual instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the question arises: How do we get our kids learning when the living room is the classroom?

Chris Jones has a few tips for parents. Jones specializes in creating “functional, creative spaces,” which most of the time finds him designing children’s spaces. He’s the co-founder of Thinkterior, a company that designs interior spaces, and Adaptiv Design Concepts, where he does commercial design work and sells his myWall pegboard products. Both companies are based in Virginia, where Jones lives.

Remember these five principles 

Theme, focus, storage, growth and safety are common design principles, and they’re applicable to making effective learning spaces, too.

Theme is key, but it doesn’t have to be over-the-top. The theme can be your child’s favorite cartoon character to something “as general as ‘contemporary,’” Jones said.

The focus? In this case, a space for learning. 

Storage is necessary in keeping a space organized (more on that below). 

Growth means buying furniture and decor that will be useful for your children as they continue to grow. 

And for safety, the basics: no sharp corners, no materials that could hurt your child and nothing they can jump off.

Keep learning separate 

It’s important for children to mentally be able to separate school time from play time, Jones said. Since that distinction is lost with virtual learning, keeping their desk or workspace away from their toys and their bed is helpful.

Remember, some kids may benefit from changing locations throughout the day. Others prefer the routine of always working in the same spot, he said. Also, younger kids may need to work near their parents or caregivers to remain on-task, so be sure there’s room for an extra chair.

And for people in smaller living spaces, Jones suggested taking the doors off a closet to set it up like a mini-classroom with household items such as sheets or string lights.

Stay organized

If kids are doing work for multiple classes, they’ll need to keep their assignments straight. Jones suggested having a different colored clipboard for each class — and maybe even hanging them on the wall. Having a whiteboard for listing tasks also can help kids stay on top of their work. 

And there should be minimal distractions in the space. Remember: toys stay in the playroom.

Think ergonomically

It’s best to have a desk and chair fit for a child, which means it should allow his or her feet to touch the ground. A chair should be comfortable, but not too comfortable in case he or she loses focus. 

Keep monitors at eye level so your child doesn’t have to slouch over it. 

Also, the more natural light the better.

In the end, the ultimate goal, according to Jones, is for your child to look at the space and think, “OK, this is my little school now.”

How did Jones get so excited about spaces? His background is in graphic design, but he has always been skilled at carpentry, sculpture and painting. When he designed his son’s room 17 years ago, he immediately fell in love with the craft.

“What’s great about doing kids rooms, is you can just have fun with it,” he said. JN

This article first appeared in Washington Family, a Jewish News-affiliated publication.

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