Conquering Homework: Tips from Chicago Occupational Therapy

For children of all ages, homework time can be a struggle. After a full day of school, homework is often one of the last things on a child’s mind, behind spending time with friends, playing games, and watching TV. But homework is critical, not only for gaining specific content knowledge, but also gaining skills related to personal responsibility and deadlines.

Below are some tips from trained occupational therapists that may help ease the homework battle!

Create a designated workspace
When a child has a specific workspace that is dedicated to homework, it becomes easier to focus and switch into “homework mode,” helping to be more productive. These workspaces should be free from clutter and other distractions, such as a TV, and should be away from any high-traffic areas of the house that could cause distractions.

Keep it comfortable
Both children and adults have trouble working efficiently when they are uncomfortable. This comfort begins with the right chair and posture. The child should sit up with their back supported and both feet planted on the floor or a stool.

Take breaks
Even with an optimal workspace and chair, short motor breaks are important to “keep the blood flowing” and promote better attention and concentration. Motor breaks every 20 minutes may involve playing tag with siblings, or other active games. It is important that these breaks involve physical stimulation (as opposed to watching TV, for instance) in order to break up the sedentary nature of most homework assignments.

Monitor progress
While it is important to monitor your child’s homework progress, it is also important that they learn to self-monitor in order to work toward more independence. For younger children, a visual schedule with Velcro-backed pictures may be useful and motivating. For older children, a written planner or calendar that they can transport to and from school may best support this process.

Make a plan
Each individual child will demonstrate different needs when completing their homework. Some children may do best right away after school, as they are already in the more structured “school mode.” Others may need a break after school before tackling homework. When planning the optimal homework time, consider sensory needs like hunger or noise, as well as other activities that typically happen throughout the afternoon and evening that could act as a distraction.

Conquering homework doesn’t need to be a battle! Setting up a comfortable and distraction-free workspace while also accounting for your child’s individual needs can help take the stress out of homework time and help build good, lifelong habits.