Setting Kids Up to Tackle Homework

There are many factors that contribute to how independently and successfully kids complete their homework on a given night. Of course, the first and most obvious factor is their understanding of the material they are working on. But there are several other factors, including alertness, mood, and environmental factors that will make or break a homework session. Here are some of the factors that are in your and your child’s control:

Noise Level

Some of us work best in absolute silence. Others need background noise like soft music or the news on a low volume. Children have the same individual needs and preferences. Don’t think just because you work best under certain auditory conditions, your child will too. She might love to work with headphones in, but since you find it distracting, you discourage her. Let her wear her headphones! Unless you have observed that it is actually detracting from her work environment, there’s no harm in listening to music while studying.


In addition to creating an optimal level of noise for your children, it’s also important that the lighting in the room helps them to be productive. Natural light has been shown to be best for mental stimulation. If that isn’t possible, the best option is bright but soft lighting. Lights that are harsh (like the fluorescent lights in most school buildings) can sometimes cause mild anxiety and aren’t necessarily the most peaceful lighting choice.


Nothing saps our brain’s ability to function quite like hunger and thirst! Make sure your child can recognize signs and feelings of hunger and thirst before they start their work. Many kids (and even adults!) don’t really know what hunger feels like. They may not realize that their distractibility and lack of focus could be addressed just by eating something.

Visual Stimulation

Help your child establish a work environment that is as free of distraction as possible. This might mean different things for different people. Some kids might work best sitting at a window with the ability to look outside. Others may find this too distracting. Some enjoy working at a desk that has pictures of their friends or family that they can look at as their mental gears are turning. For others, this would detract from their work process. In general, the simpler the workspace is, the better.

Accessible Materials

Make sure your child has all of the materials they’ll need to get their work done. Nothing stops a work train dead in its tracks like not being able to find a highlighter or leafing through desk drawers looking for post-its. The time we spend looking for materials is time not spent working. Help your child keep his space organized and check that it is stocked with necessary supplies regularly.


Finally, we all want to be comfortable when we’re working. Some homework assignments are conducive to lying in bed or sitting on the floor. Other times, sitting at the table or desk is the best place to complete an assignment. It’s probably not the best idea to solve math word problems lying down, but why not read in bed (so long as it’s not so cozy it puts your child to sleep!)? And big visual projects are often best worked on sitting on the floor, where you can spread everything out in front of you. Let your child get comfortable, as long as it’s appropriate to the task!

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