Your Secret Tool for Creating a Mindful Study Space

By now, you've probably heard of the incredible benefits of mindfulness, both in and out of the classroom. Meditation is catching on like wildfire, and for good reason. Mindfulness improves memory, verbal reasoning and concentration, and further benefits of meditation are numerous. But you don't have to institute a meditation practice in your little one's study space. There's another way to add mindfulness to his daily learning routine!

Aside from adding a natural quality and aesthetic value to a space, aquariums can be a great tool for incorporating mindfulness into your student's study time. Studies show they can lower heart rates and blood pressure in addition to improving focus, making them not only a mindfulness tool, but a health benefit as well. 

Interestingly, it seems the more fish in an aquarium, the better these benefits! Research even shows that with more fish, mood improves! Of course, it's important to keep other factors in mind before loading down an aquarium with fish. Take time to research which fish work well together, whether you prefer a salt or freshwater tank and how many fish can comfortably live in your aquarium. You don't want to overload it!

If a fish tank or aquarium isn't in your budget or space allowance, you can use a video of fish swimming for a similar effect! Check out YouTube or other video sites for beautiful videos, or take a family field trip and make your own! 

Whether you opt for a live aquarium or a simulation, adding fish to your home learning space is a fantastic way to increase mindfulness and support your child's learning. 

Creating Kid-Smart Spaces with Magalie René-Hayes

Last month, we were honored to have Magalie featured on the Raising smART Kids 2.0 Podcast, with Yong Pratt, owner of Elko Arts Academy. Elko Arts is a performing arts school dedicated to using dance, karate, music and other art-based programs to supplement traditional education and raise "smarter and more confident kids who become leaders for the next generation."

Join us in listening in as Magalie and Yong discuss:

  • how Kid-Smart Spaces came to be
  • why school design is so important
  • the role of design in creating joy in our classrooms
  • using various elements, like plants and colors, to create kid-smart spaces
  • entering study spaces with a mindful routine
  • tips for moms and dads on creating homework spaces
  • Magalie's experiences in individual schools
  • the Kid-Smart Spaces book! 
  • why including art in school is a must

How to Create a Stylish Home Study Space

Now that we've covered the most important aspects of a home study space, let's get to the fun part! Outside of ample lighting, ambient sound and appropriate temperature, creating a stylish study space for your little one is an entirely creative and individual process, but these tips can help provide a little structure for your kid-smart home!

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Keep It Positive

Kids may not inherently want to study, but creating a positive work space can change that up! Hang photos of your student enjoying herself, on family vacation or at a birthday party, in your home study space to associate learning with positive emotions. 

Separate Space

Home is a place for relaxation and nourishment, but it can also be a place to learn and grow in education. To facilitate this, be sure to differentiate your child's learning area from the rest of the home, even if it isn't a separate room. Putting up dividers, using color to separate the workspace or adding wall shelves serve to remind your little one that time in the learning area isn't time to play, sleep or eat. 

Share Ownership

Take care that you don't create your perfect learning space, but one that your student identifies with. It's easy to let our decorating instincts take over, but be sure to let your little one choose a few items of decor or his supplies, so that he feels like part of the process and is left with a space he enjoys too.

Create a Cool Space

No one wants to learn in a cold, boring environment, including you! Help your little genius out by getting creative with this learning space and building a fun, pleasurable, even adventurous place for homework and studying.  

Personalize It

Once again, this is a project to share with your student. Since she'll be spending the most time there, it's important that it reflects her interests, and not yours. Is she a softball star? A Star Wars fan? Put a little touch of your genius's personality into the study space. After all, that's what you love about him! 

3 Homework and Study Space Must-Haves

Now that your little genius is back to school and bringing home assignments, it's time to check in on the space you've set aside for completing them!

There are a number of important aspects to creating an effective at-home study space, but while the perfect colors and cute accessories are ultimately optional, these three factors aren't.

 

Lighting

Good lighting is important for obvious reasons, to reduce eye-strain and ensure that your child can see clearly, but it also serves to create a sense of openness, relieving stress and increasing concentration levels. Keep these tips in mind when selecting and arranging lighting for your little one's study space:

- Avoid placing the desk directly in front of a window, as this can be a distraction. Instead, arrange your student's desk so that natural sunlight streams in from the side.

- Window or not, position the desk to face towards the inside of the room, rather than a wall. Facing the wall while working or studying (or anytime, really) can create a sense of closure that isn't conducive to studying.

- Lighting is best when it comes from above. For this reason, avoid short table lamps and aim for taller floor lamps or ceiling installations. 

- Be sure to balance natural and artificial light, as the latter can cause sleepiness, which definitely won't get the homework done!

- If you have limited natural lighting, consider alternative options like cream colored paints, lighting that faces up and venetian blinds. 

 

Sound

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Another important sense to keep in mind in a study space is hearing. External sounds and noises can have an effect on your genius's ability to concentrate and grasp lessons, so remember this:

- Silence is usually best for smaller children when doing schoolwork.

- If your little learner does want music, opt for classical music or easy listening.

- Avoid using headphones, as this can be harder to tune out for focusing purposes. 

- Consider using the sounds of nature as background noise. Studies show this reduces tension and stress. 

 

Temperature

 

Not surprisingly, productivity can drop or increase depending on temperature. This means it's important to get it just right in your student's study space. These guidelines should help make sure of that:

- If possible, keep the temperature at 77. It's the ideal focusing temperature according to studies. 

- Avoid placing your little one's desk near the heater or air conditioner.

- If adjusting the temperature isn't possible, be sure to keep sweaters, blankets or fans nearby to keep your student at an optimal temperature for learning.

8 Quotes that Totally "Get" Summer Reading

Summer is here. We made it! Take a few seconds to pat yourself on the back, whether you're a student or teacher, for making it through another school year! 

As far as we're concerned, the best part about summer isn't hot dogs, flip-flop weather or the beach, even though all of those are great. The best part of a kid-smart summer is so. much. time. for reading! These authors, leaders and all-around awesome readers get exactly what we mean. 

What are you and your littles looking forward to reading this summer? Please share in our comments so others can read your favorites too! 

6 Inspirational Quotes for Packing Up Your Classroom

It's finally the end of the year, and if we know teachers, we know you're ready to pack up and head home for the summer. Like, SO ready. This part of the year can be particularly important, because if you pack up the right way, starting off next year on the right foot is a breeze. Last year's Kid-Smart expert, Tanya Kolb, has tips on how to get organized before next year, and you can check them out here. In the meantime, here's a little organizing inspiration to get you through these last few days before the glorious summer. 

The Kid-Smart Spaces Guide to Learning-Inspired Kids Design

We’re all about creating kid-smart spaces, both at home and in the classroom, and since kids spend a huge amount of time at home, it’s important to help them create a safe, inspiring space to be themselves. Of course, we also want to promote healthy growth and learning!

We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite kid-smart design items that accomplish both goals and add a little style too! In no particular order, check out our top seven favorite learning-inspired additions to the perfect kids room.

Map Wall Art

These Canadian and U.S.-based maps are great ways to add some color to your little one’s walls while helping expand their growing minds. Choose from a variety of styles and sizes to find the perfect fit!

Whale Reading Chair

We can’t think of a cuter way to encourage children to read. Everyone needs a personal reading space, and this one is simple, easy to assemble and totally awesome when you’re a kid.

Draw-On Duvet Cover

Kids need to express themselves, and this duvet set is ideal for just that. Not only is this creative design touch totally washable and kid-smart even without the doodle pens, it’s a great way to promote sustainability (save that paper!) and teach kids to let go, a much needed skill even into adulthood.

Color Your Own Placemat

What kid doesn’t love the paper and crayons at a dinner out? With this set, your little one can get that coloring time in, even during a night in for a healthy, home-cooked meal. With all the research pointing to the benefit of coloring, even for us grown-ups, this one’s a no-brainer!

Mirror with Doors

We love mirrors for teaching self-recognition to our youngest counterparts and encouraging healthy body image as they grow. This kid-friendly mirror is safe for any age in soft framing and even includes a bit of kid-smart storage too!

Dry Erase Wall

Any parent knows the struggles of balancing a creative, artistic child with clean walls. With these dry erase paint options, those woes are a thing of the past. Best part? It even comes in transparent! That means kids can draw on your beautifully-selected, colored walls without repercussion!

Dresserz Drawer Knobs

Kid-smart spaces mean organized spaces, and these dresser knobs can help accomplish that, for all ages! Teach your tots to put away their belongings in the fashion of one of our favorite quotes, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Pictures and words make these knobs perfect for younger kids learning to read!

 

Plus, check out these awesome, custom wall-art comics from Peanut Gallery Comics. These guys create framed, drawn-from-scratch comics based on your very own funny stories from life with kids. We know you’ve got some memorable ones!

http://www.peanutgallerycomics.com/

Real Kid-Smart Spaces: Immersive Suite

Imagine if every time you needed to learn a lesson or skill, you were able to immerse yourself in that environment and live the experience as you learned it. Our newest Real Kid-Smart expert does just that for each of the children in her 2nd grade class. Take a peek inside her inspiring methods!

Kid-Smart Spaces Immersive Classroom

Name: Sian Thornton

School, City & State: Holy Family Catholic Primary School, Surrey, United Kingdom

Years Teaching: 4 Years

Grades: 2nd Grade/Year 2 (6-7 year olds)

 

In 2013, the school introduced the innovative concept of an Immersive Suite and a whole new style of learning. 

 

WHAT IS AN IMMERSIVE SUITE, AND HOW DOES IT WORK? 

The Immersive Suite provides children with an opportunity to learn in a completely different way, in an exciting environment that plays with the standard classroom space.

Lessons start off by immersing the children in the environment that the teacher has set up using computer-driven imagery, visuals and audio to create an interactive, sensory learning experience.  

Children are stimulated by the images, colours, sights and sounds of the world, offering a beautiful enhancement to cross-curricular learning. 

They truly forget that they are in school and not, for example, on board a flight to South America. 

HOW HAS THE IMMERSIVE SUITE ENHANCED THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?

Children can now go to the moon with Neil Armstrong, travel back in time to a Victorian workhouse, explore the ocean with sea creatures - the possibilities are quite literally endless. 

These dynamic lessons impact students’ work and enable significant progress. Children who are usually difficult to motivate come alive in the suite. 

The Immersive Suite has also provided some fantastic lessons for children with Special Educational Needs, who benefit from its sensory nature. We invite children in from a local Special School each week and it is delightful to see their reactions to their environment. 

Kid-Smart Spaces Immersive Suite

WHAT HAS THE IMMERSIVE SUITE TAUGHT YOU ABOUT THE TEACHING EXPERIENCE, AND HOW HAVE YOU ADAPTED YOUR METHODS TO THIS ALTERNATIVE SPACE?

Seeing the children respond so positively to a space that contrasts with the traditional, restrictive classroom environment has made me change my whole classroom! 

Each topic we cover now has a dedicated area in the classroom where children can go to immerse themselves. 

When we learn about the moon landing. I spend an evening with a colleague covering the whole area in aluminum foil, and it becomes a space station. 

When we learn about The Great Fire of London the area is transformed into Pudding Lane Bakery. They pretend to run the bakery, and especially like the drama they can create when they pretend it has caught on fire! 

Best of all the children are more interested in the topics and often come into school with extra research to share and display in the area. 

THERE ARE THREE PARTS TO THE KID-SMART SPACES PHILOSOPHY: 

  • The places children learn in shape them, and help them shape the world.  
     
  • Space, light and movement are integral to wellness and success.  
     
  • Every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life.  

WHICH RESONATES WITH YOU MOST, AND HOW DO YOU SHARE IT IN YOUR CLASSROOM ROUTINE?

I believe that ‘every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life’ is a great philosophy to have. 

As a teacher, you get to know students so well, and you are made aware of those whose home lives are far from beautiful. Creating a comforting, exciting, positive environment for these children is essential to ensure that they are able to spend a significant portion of their day in a happy place. 

A positive learning environment makes a positive learner, and if you can foster that in a child with some tinfoil and a cardboard space rocket then you absolutely should!

Kid-Smart Spaces Immersive Suite

WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST SPACIAL CHALLENGE, AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME OR MITIGATE IT? 

It’s finding the ways to fit in the ‘essentials’ as well as the extra, exciting things to my classroom – like the cardboard boxes that have been made in to a bakery oven or an Egyptian pyramid!

I’m learning to manage clutter better, but as long as I have a keen eye for creative learning then I think it’ll always be a work in progress.

WHAT'S THE NUMBER ONE LESSON OR TIP YOU'D LIKE TO PASS ALONG TO FELLOW EDUCATORS ABOUT CREATING A KID-SMART CLASSROOM?

Keep it budget friendly! I (and every other teacher I know) could spend a fortune of their own money on things for their classroom, and I definitely have over the years. 

Working with a low budget can make it difficult to buy lots of new and exciting things for your learning environment, but there are ways around it. Thrift shops or eBay…there are so many ways to make your classroom environment more exciting without breaking the bank. 

Decide to make it a part of your teaching style and you won’t ever go back to a ‘normal’ classroom again!

Keep checking back for our next interview with Real Kid-Smart Spaces, and if you know an amazing mom or teacher, let us know! 

Cool Kids Educational Toys: An After-Holiday Gift Guide

If you're looking to put your child's holiday cash and gift cards to good use for more meaningful post-Christmas shopping, this is for you. From encouraging your little ones to become citizens of the world to inspiring the next science genius, we've curated a quick list of toys that are equal parts, empowering, educational, creative and cool.   Happy Holidays!  

Little Passports

1. Choose an adventure. 2. Check your mailbox. 3. Discover and learn. 

Little Passports destination-specific subscription packages arrive every month filled with letters, souvenirs, activities & more delivering discovery and adventure. They'll spark the imaginations of children ages 3-12.


Elle and Cee World Girls

Rebel, Explorer, Scholar, Warrior, Healer - each doll inhabits these traits, and Elle and Cee World Girls represent girls from different countries and backgrounds, with unique personalities and perspectives, just like real world girls.


All In One Easel

Play, write or draw with chalk.  This easel does it all! 


Project MC2

Perform an experiment at home with tech genius and socially savvy, Bryden Bandweth and all the other dolls of MC2 using safe household ingredients. They're also available at Target.


Marie Curie by Miss Possible

Early exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is found to be extremely important to girls' eventual success in those fields.  Miss Possible provides one part inspiration and one part skill-building through role models – in the form of dolls.  


Goldie Blox

Connected with incredible organizations like Techbridge, Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and the Society of Women Engineers for their work in providing role models and support for women in STEM, Goldie Blox dolls get girls building  and inspire the future generation of female engineer via these fun, fabulous construction toys.