Make Homework Space Sensory-Friendly

Ready to set homework up for success in your household? Maybe, it is back to school time? Alternatively, are you looking for a homework boost? Make homework space sensory-friendly and create a positive homework experience. In particular, for students of any age, sensory sensitivity or sensory overload contribute to homework distress. Anxiety, stress, frustration and tears can be negative parts of homework time. Paying attention to sensory preferences and the eight senses are keys to homework success.

This blog post will highlight various techniques at home to create a sensory-friendly homework space.

Infographic highlighting 7 ways to create a sensory-friendly homework space.

Select a quiet space

First, select a quiet spot in your home to create sensory-friendly homework space. Doing homework in a busy place in the home, like the kitchen table, may not be the best solution! Sometimes, location matters most. Background noise, from the TV, radio, and other smart devices, are often a distraction. Noise-cancelling ear muffs can reduce background noise, if it is not possible to find a quite space. Alternatively, if listening to music helps during homework time, then consider noise-cancelling headphone connected to a device. Finally, add tennis balls or the like, to the bottom of chairs, to reduce noise.

Try an outdoor space

Weather permitting, nature bathing can be a relaxing and focusing environment for homework, too! Set up a table and chairs outside for some homework time.

Additionally, research has found that learning in outdoor spaces can be particularly beneficial for children with autism. Many children with sensory disorders tend to have difficulties focusing in traditional classroom environments for extended periods of time. Therefore, creating an alternative outdoor homework space is worth a try.

Make it ergonomic

Ergonomics is not just for adults at the office. Another important aspect of creating a sensory-friendly home working environment is an ergonomic setup. A good way to think about an ergonomic setup is thinking of the “90 degree rule.” Ideally, you want to have a 90-degree angle on your elbows, hips and knees when sitting. This helps to create a comfortable setup and promotes good posture. So, choose a chair and table or desk that fits. Most importantly, make sure feet touch the ground! If not, add a little footstool.

Add movement

Sitting, even in the perfect ergonomic set-up, for long periods of time, is not healthy. So, create alternatives, like standing, or moving to do homework. Another idea is to create a homework circuit: 15 minutes sitting, 15 minute standing and 15 minutes walking (and listening or reciting), for example. Furthermore, walk to the mailbox to get mail and practice recall. Post sight words around the house, and walk around to find and collect them. Doing something on paper? Make it vertical. Attach it to a wall or an easel and write, draw or colour, standing up. Finally, add in short movement breaks between subjects. For instance, subject 1, then 3 sets of 10 jumping jacks, subject 2, then a 5 minute yoga break, then subject 3.

Include sensory tools

Furthermore, there are many sensory tools that help calm , focus and alert. Try fidgets or a weighted lap pad. Noise-cancelling ear muffs were also mentioned earlier! Sensory tools can help with concentration!

Adjust lighting

Another aspect to consider when developing a sensory-friendly working space is the lighting. Use natural light where possible. According to a study titled, “The Implementation of Natural Lighting for Human Health From a Planning Perspective” by J Mardaljevic (2021), people prefer windows and outdoor lighting because of the connection to the outside and the information provided by the view, for example, the passage of time 1. Include natural lighting in your homework space to make it sensory-friendly. 

For a desk, ensure there is a task light. Insufficient lighting makes eyes tired. Moreover, overly bright or glaring lights is also a problem. Adjust lighting to be comfortable.

Young person completing homework at kitchen table.

Create a routine

Repeated habits and routines that makes homework time predictable. Predictability reduces anxiety and stress. Creating a regular routine around homework, also makes the sensory experience expected. Homework routines to try:

  • Same time of day, each day, e.g. home from school, snack, then homework
  • Alternatively, same time of day on specific days of the week, if the daily routine is different each day, e.g. Mondays and Wednesdays at 5pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm
  • Same place
  • Consistent order: e.g. subject 1, subject 2, subject 3

Ensure the routine includes both movement breaks and bio breaks. Bio breaks including a snack, drinking (especially water) and breaks to go to the toilet.

All of these tips will be helpful in creating a more sensory-friendly homework space. Here are more tips for home:

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  1. Mardaljevic, J. (2021). The Implementation of Natural Lighting for Human Health From a Planning Perspective. Lighting Research &Amp; Technology, 53(5), 489–513.
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