Healthy Homework Habits from an OT

By AASLSeptember 11, 2018

Miss Jen shares with you her favorite homework tips to promote success for your child!

As our children have all made the jump back to school, now is a great time to check in with our homework and study habits.

Occupational therapists work with children and families to support and promote academic success, assisting in adapting environments and introducing strategies to adjust to each new school year’s demands.

The goal of occupational therapy is to facilitate success and independence for children in all of their daily roles, including that of student, which in large part is supported by the habits formed around completing homework.

Here are a few tips to help establish good work routines and maintain a healthy school-life balance.

Set up for Success

  • Set up a designated “homework space.” This area should be well-organized, well-lit, and in a distraction-free zone (i.e. away from clutter or stray noises of television or video games). Having a space that is separate from meal times and leisure activities sets the expectation for work to be completed in an optimal environment for focus. Keeping organized doesn’t only apply to our homework space, by the way! Make sure other physical spaces, such as school lockers, desks, and even bedrooms, are tidy so that you are able to locate things that you need easily. When our physical space is organized, it helps us to keep our brain and body organized.


Check your Form!

  • Within the “homework space,” encourage proper positioning by sitting in a firm chair with back support and your feet planted on the ground. Office chairs are typically good for this because you can adjust the height. Good posture promotes comfort and prevents placing unnecessary stress on your neck and back. If working on a computer, your head should be level with the monitor so that your eyes line up with the top of the screen, forearms parallel to the keyboard, and lower back supported (if your chair doesn’t have this you can put a small pillow or rolled-up soft towel in the gap between your lower back and the chair).


Build in Breaks and Supports

  • Help manage time by setting up a visual timer, with breaks built in from sitting every 20 minutes or so. Taking a break to stretch supports healthy posture and promoting physical activity between sedentary periods (aka sitting at a desk doing homework) has shown to reduce frustration and fatigue with homework, while increasing sustained attention and focus.   Use a check-off system to complete each task (or portion of a task) as it is finished. Visual supports can be very reinforcing and motivating in addition to helping with time management and organization.


Plan Ahead

  • Empower your child to manage his or her own schedule by using an organization system. Have him/her pick out or decorate an agenda or planner to track due dates and assignments. It may be helpful to create a “check-in” system with a parent to monitor and oversee completion. Planners aren’t only used for school assignments; we can also keep tabs on sporting events, afterschool activities, and plans with friends!

Find a “Just Right” Time

  • Create a homework routine, keeping in mind optimal work times that are in accordance with daily habits, preferences, and sensory needs. For example, some children need a break after school to rest or play outdoors to do their best work, others do better before or after dinnertime, depending upon when your child is most attentive and has a “just-right” level of energy. An occupational therapist can help to identify and incite these peak times.

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