Q: “How Do I Create a Homework Space My Teen Will Want to Use?”
Follow these 10 ADHD-friendly tips to create an inviting homework space and study area that promotes focus and productivity.
Q: “You talk about how moving around the house helps students — especially those with ADHD and executive function weaknesses — study and get homework done. But my teen doesn’t want to move. She feels that doing her homework in one spot in the house will be less distracting and stressful. Now we need to set up a homework station for her, and I have no clue what that looks like or what we should include. Do you have any ideas?” — HRF
You are correct. I talk a lot about how movement helps students – especially those with attention challenges – focus on and initiate homework. However, having one “go-to” homework space can be just as motivating for some students.
We shouldn’t rely solely on our internal motivation to accomplish tasks. Think about it. We all have days when we are not “in the mood” to do a specific task. Relying on our internal motivation all the time to complete work is exhausting, not to mention unsustainable.
So, I teach students, especially those with ADHD, to set up environments with “external motivators” to carry some of the motivational load. Our environment plays a huge role in how we get things done. Therefore, creating an inviting space that communicates this is where we get work done will promote productivity.
Set Up a Homework Station & Study Area in 10 Steps
Here are my top ten steps for setting up a motivating homework space and study area.
1. Pick Your Study Location Carefully
Some students can hunker down and focus even when distractions abound. Others need some distance from the hub of the house. My ideal? Pick a study area close enough to the kitchen to grab a snack but still far enough from the television to resist the urge to turn it on or watch. Bonus tip: Provide privacy but keep your daughter in sight if you need scaffolding to help her stay on track.
2. Use a Desk or Table
While your daughter may try to convince you that her bed or couch is her optimum spot for working, encourage her to sit at a desk or table. This clearly conveys that her homework space and chill-out space are separate. Bonus tip: Does she need to fidget or move around while working? If so, consider a standing desk. There’s no need to break the bank. Just place a milk crate or an upside-down box on the desk or table, and she can quickly shift from standing to sitting when the need strikes. My student coaching clients love being able to switch it up.
3. Ensure Ample Room to Work
If the table or desk space is too narrow or cramped, your daughter will be less likely to work on it. Make sure multiple books and homework supplies can be spread out comfortably on the desk or table she intends to use. A deep table is a great option to consider. Don’t ignore the wall space. Many of my students love to hang giant sticky notes to jot down ideas, work on math problems, or flesh out paper topics.
4. Ask for Your Teen’s Input
You already know she’s craving her own dedicated homework space. Why not infuse it with things she likes? We all feel inspired and energized when surrounded by our favorite colors, artwork, or even favorite pens (True for me!). Ask her to weigh in on options, such as the paint colors (if possible), desktop accessories, and favorite mementos. The more appealing she finds the space, the more likely she will be to use it.
5. Personalize the Study Space
Yes, this space is where your daughter needs to buckle down and work, but adding some fun touches will fuel motivation. Decorate the homework station with posters, framed photos, or a cozy blanket for her chair.
6. Make Sure the Light Is Right
Supply ample task lighting, such as an adjustable work lamp, so your daughter can control her study environment. Or consider placing the desk or table in front of a window. Natural light helps the ADHD brain stay focused and energized — a must for anyone who is easily distracted.
7. Dress Up Walls
A wall covered in cork tiles or chalkboard paint is fun and functional. Encourage your daughter to use the wall space for notes, reminders, calendars, etc. Hang an analog clock so that she can see the passing of time.
8. Bring in Background Noise
Background noise may block out distractions and help your daughter concentrate. Arm her study area with the ability to listen to soft music or add a white noise machine to block out household noises.
9. Table the Trash
To ensure your daughter’s broken pencils, old papers, and empty wrappers don’t pile up on her workspace, supply her with a wastebasket. Clearing away clutter from the study space helps clear the mind and will allow her to focus actively.
10. Be Equipped
Make sure to include a small bookcase or rolling cart for study tools, textbooks, and reference materials. You can designate a nearby cabinet to hold materials in an office area. Your daughter can use file boxes, storage bins, or colorful binders to stash old papers, exams, and assignments. Make sure to label each storage piece by subject for easy reference come midterm and finals.
Please remember when creating your daughter’s homework space that the space is for her. Be sure to keep her preferences and personality in mind throughout the process. If you build a homework station she loves, I’m sure she will be excited to use it.
ADHD Homework Space: Next Steps
- Free Download: Smart Homework Strategies for Teachers & Parents
- Learn: Homework Tips for Parents
- Watch: Stress-Free Homework Tips, Tools, & Solutions
- Read: Your High School Get-It-Together Guide
ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.
Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.