For many families with school age kids, this year has been quite the challenge. From distance learning to juggling work, childcare, and play parents have stretched themselves thin trying to find a balance. Now, with summer coming to an end, many are wondering how best to set up their at-home learning space. Although this might be the most unusual back-to-school experience we’ve had so far, rest assured that there are many clever solutions for successful distance learning. Check out our five favorite tips to prep your space for a productive and fun-filled year.

Pick Your Location

In an ideal world, kids would have their own dedicated space to learn and study. Yet for many families, that’s just not possible. If you are coming up short on space, consider creating a homework zone. This can be a wall mounted desk with individual shelves for each child, or a tucked away corner nook in the kitchen, living room or under the stairs. For kids you can trust to self-start, a desk in their room might be preferred. Smaller children may need to be in a more public space, where parents can monitor progress and little kids can avoid the feeling of missing out on the action.

Get Sorted

For success in this situation, organization is key. We all understand how quickly a play or work area can get overwhelmed with excess paper, assignments, toys and clutter. Cut the mess and increase focus with storage solutions. Use labels and bins for office and art supplies, mount wall-hanging holders for easy to grab items like pens and crayons. Avoid drawers or anything too hidden that can collect junk. Embrace minimalism to streamline your space.

Size Accordingly

Like adults, kids also benefit from ergonomic learning stations. While they might prefer to work curled up like a pretzel in bed, this can lead to bad posture, lack of focus, and long-term pain. Sitting in furniture that is too big or struggling to see a monitor that is too tall can also contribute to eye strain and headaches. Invest in a booster seat or child-sized chair and table. Do your own simple ergonomic assessment and make sure that when sitting, your child’s work surface is at or slightly below their elbows. Feet should be on the floor and knees should be bent at a right angle.

Eliminate Distractions

If siblings are having trouble sharing space, find a creative way to separate desks. Select a large leafy plant, tall bookshelf or pop-up screen to create individual workstations. Cordon off toddlers or other infants that might be too small to understand privacy needs. A white noise machine or noise-cancelling headphones for older kids can help create a neutral background tone. Orient workstations toward walls with windows to the sides or the desk rather than head-on. For wigglers, swap a chair for an exercise ball or balance board to counter constant fidgeting.

Inspire with Aesthetics

From soothing colors to touchable textiles, make your child’s space a welcome retreat. Take their input into mind when it comes to form, function and creativity. Carve out a space for them to display their work, hang their art, and escape into the zone of productivity. Hang a corkboard or use chalk paint to make a customizable drawing area. Add plants that they can care for and a reading nook for quiet escapes. Taking their wants into account, as well as their needs will help them want to work in the space.

Distance learning has proven to be another great challenge for 2020. And though it might be done out of necessity rather than choice, having a parent that goes the extra mile really makes all the difference. So while you are out there wearing the hats of guardian, teacher, mentor, employee, cook and guide all at once, keep in mind that as long as you engage your kids to make sure they’re healthy and happy you are already prepared for the year ahead.