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.

5 Alternative Seating Options for Kid-Smart Spaces

By now, it's safe to say most of us are back in the swing of school. Welcome back!

If you and your students have returned to a classroom or learning space with those same old hardback chairs and linear seating arrangements, we suspect you'll find them antsy and ready to return to the outdoor life of summer sooner than later.

Coming back to a learning environment and staying still and focused can be difficult, even for adults! We've pulled together our favorite alternative options for classroom seating that can help even the most hyperactive kids maintain focus on what matters.

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Ball Chairs

You've actually got a few options with this route. If it's in the budget, these Modern Ball Chairs from Fun and Function are great additions to a savvy classroom. If you're working with fewer funds and have the space, go for plain old exercise balls! Not only will they help keep hyperactive students occupied, they'll add a healthy component to any learning space!

Standing Desks

If you're up for a classroom overhaul, try out standing desks. Newly praised across classrooms and offices alike, standing desks are becoming more and more popular as options for avoiding the perils of sitting all day. This StandDesk model is completely customizable, but there are a wealth of options based on height requirements, adjustability, budget and more. You can even invest in balance boards or gel pads as well to add that active component.

Bean Bags

What we really mean here is: give your students some floor time! As humans, most of us don't spend enough time on the floor, even though doing so has great health perks, both physically and mentally. Some of us do our most creative work on the floor! Why not add a few bean bags to your classroom to encourage students to leave their chairs and get innovative? Our selection is from Amazon, but bean bags are available all over!

Bungee Chairs

Even if you're not quite ready for bean bags, these bungee chairs are an excellent option for providing alternative seating, especially for kids who fidget. With a few of these in your learning space, you may just say goodbye to telling those students to leave others alone or quiet down! Check Amazon for plenty of options like this one

Bicycle Desks

Here's another option we're fond of if you can fully commit. Schools like Arlington, Virginia's Oakridge Elementary have seen nothing but great benefits from replacing stationary desk chairs with these bicycle versions. This seating option works on multiple levels, serving to give fidgety students an outlet and adding a bit of often much-needed physical movement to our classrooms. 

We suspect (we KNOW) that there are many more options for getting rid of those outdated desk chairs. We have faith that these five will make a difference, but we'd love to hear your ideas for making the classroom a little more accessible to all learning types! 

How to Prevent Summer Slippage

Parents may or may not realize that, while summer break can be an excellent refresher for students of all ages, it's also a tricky time for retaining skills learned during the school year. Studies show that over a typical 3-month summer vacation, students in varying grade levels can lose as much as an entire month of learning! 

We think there are ways for kids to enjoy summer just as much and still hold on to the eduction they've picked up during school months. One great way? Gardening! 

Summer gardening can be an excellent way to stimulate thought and creativity and help to maintain an atmosphere of learning (albeit a secret one) even outside school hours! Plus, interacting with nature has been proven to enhance mood, health, productivity and more, and gardening keeps kids busy and active! It's a win win! 

Here are our favorite ways to work a little summer education into the fun of gardening.

Count the seeds 

Use a ruler to measure the space between plants 

Play "Name that Plant"

Write stories about plants' journeys

Read gardening books

Memorize plant names 

Paint rocks with the names of plants or a drawing to use as markers for each plant 

Draw labels on pots 

Make pots out of milk cartons or other creative vessels 

Paint garden furniture

Making any (or all) of these activities a part of your child's time in the garden can help combat the summer slippage that comes with taking some time off. You can also use this list to kick start your own creativity and think of even more ways to help your little one retain that knowledge. Then share with us!


Don't forget to also enter our #SummerReading giveaway for a free kids' book of your choice! 

Our Top 5 Books for Summer Reading + A Giveaway!

You may have noticed, through reading along or following Kid-Smart Spaces on social media, that we're pretty huge fans of summer reading. Reading is an amazing way to quietly pass the long summer months, especially when friends aren't available for play dates, and it also benefits children of all ages immensely, through improved vocabulary, general knowledge, grammatical flexibility and much more. 

We pretty much love all books, but these five top the charts for best summer reading material this year. Take a peek and see if you agree!

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Mixed Me

With the follow-up to his debut book, Chocolate Me, actor and father, Taye Diggs continues to help children understand and deal with the unique set of questions that arise as part of an ethnic identity. Having already addressed what it's like to be a young, black child, Diggs has moved forward with Mixed Me, dedicated to his bi-racial son, to give mixed children something to identify with and a positive role model for accepting and being comfortable with who they are. 

With his main character, Mike, in Mixed Me, Diggs not only helps bi-racial children through what can be a tough growing period, he also provides an incredible example of of self-love, acceptance and optimism in the face of adversity, teaching not only children, but parents as well that it's absolutely worth it to be proud of who you are.

Role Model Ricky's Big Birthday Bash

Chances are, you want your children to make good decisions, know how to share, respect others, and have good values. It's a dream come true for most parents, including Jeremy and Janel Miller. The two parents of three boys decided to write a book after seeing that there were not enough books on the market to help teach children how to have exhibit good behavior. Role Model Ricky's Big Birthday Bash is their answer to this lack.

Jeremy may be a Minnesota State Senator and Janel may work full-time, but instilling good values in their children from a young age is something these two parents clearly value, for both their sons and many other children.

Little Banty Chicken and the Big Dream

We're increasingly living in a world where children are no longer taught to nurture their dreams, since they aren't tested and measured. For Lynea Gillen, this is a message worth disputing. The Portland yoga teacher and licensed professional counselor has been writing for and sharing her love of literature with children for over 30 years, and Little Banty Chicken and the Big Dream is the newest in her effort to bring dreaming back to childhood.

 With a heartfelt message, this beautifully illustrated book teaches children the importance of dreams and how sharing them can lead to discovering ways to make them come true. With the help of barnyard animals, children and their families, kids learn how beautiful, important dreams turn into actions that ripple out toward the creation of positive outcomes.

Happy!

If there's anything better than summer reading, it's being genuinely happy! Grammy winning musician, Pharrell's 2014 hit, "Happy" had adults and kids around the world tapping into their happiest moments, and his hardcover picture book of the same name translates that into still images and picks up where Pharrell's music video left off. 

With so many intense things going on in our world, it can sometimes be easy for little minds to lose track of the joy of happiness. Happy! serves as a beautifully composed and photographed reminder of what it means to be happy, something we could all use a little more of!

Asthma Is Not Stopping Me!

This upcoming book is the latest release in Emergency Room Physician's Assistant, Tolya L. Thompson's award-winning Smarties Books Series. Thompson and her Smarties Books Series are dedicated to bringing kids useful information about staying healthy and out of the ER in a fun, interesting way they can understand, all the while promoting literacy. 

For Piper Lee, the book's main character, asthma might be an issue she has to deal with, but she's not letting it define her. Through Asthma Is Not Stopping Me! and other health-oriented books, Thompson has created a very effective and valuable approach to opening dialog on coping with asthma in a way kids can understand, teaching children how to conquer asthma and be unstoppable!

ENTER OUR SUMMER READING GIVEAWAY

In tribute to our love of summer reading and this collection of amazing books just for kids, Kid-Smart Spaces is excited to launch a summer reading giveaway! Over the next three weeks, we will be giving away one copy of each:

Role Model Ricky's Big Birthday Bash

Little Banty Chicken and the Big Dream

Asthma Is Not Stopping Me!

Each week's winner will win one of the three books! To enter, get to know us on social media by following or liking the Kid-Smart Spaces Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram feed or all three! Then just share your details with us to confirm, and cross your fingers!

Check back each Monday, starting July 25 for winner and book announcements. Good luck! :)