With the Covid-19 pandemic preventing return to school in many cities, parents are trying to figure out how to optimize their children’s home school experience. How do you provide an environment within your home in which your child can pay attention to a screen for multiple hours a day? If only we all had a room in our house called the “classroom” which mirrored the real in-school setting. But we don’t.
The first step is to dedicate an area in your home that your child will use for school and studying each day. This school station will look different in each household depending on the needs of the child and the family. If you need to be able to monitor your child while simultaneously working from home, you might both be in the same room with earphones. If your child’s bedroom is the only non-distracting space for them, that can work as long as they are not sitting in bed during school. Kids should be up, dressed, and have breakfast before school begins.
Your child will need a desk or tabletop to place their remote learning device (computer or ipad). This desk space should ideally be free from distracting toys and clutter. The electronic device should have text notifications turned off, and video games disabled during school hours. The seating for the desk space is the most important aspect of the ergonomics of the homeschool station. To be best for posture, a child’s chair height should allow them to have their knees bent at 90 degrees, and their feet flat on the ground. Their screen (computer or ipad) should be at eye level, so that they are not bending their neck up nor down to look at the screen.
Research has shown that some kids have trouble concentrating if they are forced to sit still for prolonged periods of time. These kids are better able to concentrate if they are able to wiggle or fidget while simultaneously paying attention to the teacher. There are many alternative seating choices that allow for this amount of wiggle which gives the kids sensory input and allows them to focus more intently on the teacher’s words. These seating options include inflatable disc cushions, also known as wiggle seats, that can be placed on top of any chair. Another option, depending on the height of the tabletop, is a balance ball, also known as a yoga ball or a therapy ball. They come in multiple diameters, and the size you would need depends on the height of your child. You would want their feet to be able to be flat on the floor while sitting on the inflatable ball. Foot fidget bands that loop around the 2 front legs of the chair are another option which allows the child to push their foot against the rubbery band while sitting. A long-term option is a sit-stand adjustable height desk for kids, which allows the child to stand for part of the day and sit for part of the day. For kids who prefer to stand, getting a padded anti-fatigue mat for them to stand upon can improve their comfort during the school day.
Good luck to all the families with children adapting to online school from home! There is no one right way to do it. Do what works for you, your family, and your child.
Dr. Bren Boston is a a board-certified physiatrist with a life-long interest in integrative wellness specializes in primary care, women’s health, sports medicine and pain management. Schedule an appointment with her by calling 310-451-8880 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org