ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Bedroom makeover can help hone kids' study skills
By Tim Torres
Copley News Service
To do their homework effectively, children need the best learning environment you can give them.
Now may be the time to do a mini-makeover of their room so their improved homework turns into academic success in the classroom.
The best place to start a makeover is with a little face-to-face with your child.
"Involve your child in the changes you want to make. Giving a child more control over his environment is a sure way to gain cooperation and to help ensure it is a space your child will enjoy," says Leon Baranovsky, president of TeamUP! Tutors Inc. (www.teamuptutors.com). This means helping to choose paint colors, posters or other art to decorate a room in a way that is simple to change.
What you redo depends on your budget and the space you have to work with. New furniture and accessories, experts say, is easily obtained through a variety of sources that will fit your pocketbook, from discount stores like Target to upscale retailers like Pottery Barn Kids.
A great study desk is any neat, flat surface, Baranovsky says. Don't bother putting a calendar on it, he says, because that will get quickly covered up.
Interior designer Esther Sadowsky, of Charm and Whimsy in New York, says kids need a lot of desk space. There has to be room for books, paperwork and maybe a PC, she says. "It has to be ample enough to spread out."
When kids are young, a hutch will work for storing books. As they age, children need bookcases accessible at the floor level, she says. In all of this, parents need to plan ahead for growth. Get a bookcase, for instance, that can be converted to fit a flat-screen TV sometime in the future.
Storage areas should include empty cubbies, great places to quickly shove a backpack out of the way or place shoes without leaving them in the middle of the floor, Baranovsky says.
"A map is a great way to decorate a room. A globe can add a nice touch too, but the Internet has, to a great extent, supplanted the need for many reference books or an encyclopedia," Baranovsky says.
If there isn't space for a globe on the desk, you can find and easily install world map wallpaper, Sadowsky suggests.
Get a chair with a back, one that is height adjustable and with wheels, Sadowsky says, because kids are always on the move, even when studying.
If you are going to paint or wallpaper, remember that your child has to be able to concentrate in there.
"I wouldn't paint all four walls red!" Sadowsky says jokingly - but neither would she recommend a dull beige. If color is wanted, use it as an accent on the bed wall or use color border at ceiling or picture level. Don't use neon or too bright colors, Sadowsky says, "There's no place for the eye to rest."
Good task lighting is needed and can be inexpensive. For lighting, you can always use under-cabinet fixtures, many of which use cool-running and energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, Baranovsky says.
The desk lamp should be flexible-arm or gooseneck type, Sadowsky says. And make sure the bulb wattage is at least 60 to 75 watt.
Children need to get ample sleep to do well in school. Don't skimp on the window treatment, Sadowsky says. Make sure the curtains/blinds make it dark enough to sleep in. She says parents should sit in the room at night and see if clock faces and electronic devices are too disturbing. "You'd be surprised. There is a lot of activity going on when the room is supposed to be dark."
TAKE A MEMO
Children in grades five and up should have a spiral notebook-type organizer/planner, Baranovsky says. "Remember that it only works if you use it!"
A corkboard on the wall is also great for memos and planning notes. If you are worried about toddlers getting a hold of fallen pushpins, use a fabric-covered board with ribbons across it to hold the paperwork, Sadowsky says.
Obviously the room will be used to entertain friends. It is a study room but also a child's safe haven and play area. But in regard to TV, both Sadowsky and Baranovsky recommend pulling the plug, at least for the early years. "It's distracting and you don't know what they're watching," Sadowsky says.
More than two-thirds of children have a TV in their room, Baranovsky says. "And among 8- to 18-year-olds, over 60 percent watch TV, listen to the radio or talk on the phone while doing their homework. Parents should consider removing the TV or otherwise restricting its use during homework time."
"The most important attribute of a good work space is one that is quiet and as free as possible of distractions. Children need a dedicated space in their bedroom or elsewhere in the home that is quiet and is consistently available," Baranovsky says.
"Without question, parents have the biggest influence on what type of student their child will be. The younger the child when good habits are instilled, the better - and having a good work space is important," he says.
And speaking of consistency, it is the parent who must see that this at-home study hall is always used, Sadowsky says.
Homework should be done in the room, not at the dinner table or in the den, she says. Too many parents don't heed this, she says. "They should say, 'You have a room ... go to it.'"
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