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Temporary alternatives to desk and chair for NTI learning days at home

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Learning corner example 1 - desktop computer set up on household items
Example 1 of 2: Learning corner for my oldest that I set up in the spare bedroom. It's not the perfect learning space, but it's a decent start and he likes the cozy informal feel of it.

Here I'll show you two examples of how you can create a learning space for your child anywhere in your home for NTI days or snow day learning. Ideally, your child would have a desk and chair in their own room. But what if there's no space for a desk or chair? Or what if there's space, but no desk or chair? Or what if they want something that feels a little more relaxed and cozier, but that will still look OK at Zoom meetings? Maybe you have even ordered a desk and chair but it hasn't arrived yet and you need a temporary work-around.

Don't worry: if you just need a quick set-up for your child with your existing items, it's easier than you think.

Step 1: Decide on which room is best

As no two houses have the exact same layout and usage, there is no hard-and-fast rule here.

  • If your child has his or her own bedroom then this will most likely be the best place to set up, since he or she can close the door for less interruptions and noise during online class meetings.
  • On the other hand, if you already have a separate dining area with existing table and chairs and the ability to close the door, this may be ideal and you may not even need to set up anything or anywhere else.
  • Do you have pets? If so, you'll want to set up where the family cat or dog won't be roaming to and fro, especially if the pet is likely to mess anything up in the learning area.

Step 2: Take a look at where you can fit in a learning area

It doesn't need to be a big space. Ideally it should:

  1. Be away from a door opening
  2. Near a power point for computer, laptop or tablet charging
  3. Have a simple background for online meetings

Corners can be surprisingly good for this. Don't be afraid to re-arrange existing furniture if that would help the space function better for your child, especially if you have multiple days in a row of NTI instruction. You can always move the furniture back to the normal positions afterward.

Step 3: Place the seating and the technology

Here's the second of my two examples that I did. The seating is simply a soft toy pillow and a regular pillow; a beanbag could be another option. I've placed the laptop on a small lap table. That's it! The only thing that cost me any money for both examples was the lap table (around $30 each; suggestions and links shown below for where to buy). If that's not an option for you, you may be able to find something else around the house that can work instead, or if you know what you're doing you can even construct your own lap table from spare wood that you might already have.

In both examples, when needing to do written school work, the child can move the keyboard or laptop off the desk area temporarily and use the desk as a writing space.

Learning corner example 2 - laptop computer set up in a corner
Example 2 of 2: Learning corner for my youngest in a corner of his bedroom.

Please be aware the two examples I showed are not the best or most ergonomic setup: if you can get a proper desk and a comfortable chair, that will be much better for your child. The kitchen table might in fact be the best place for this. My two kiddos have different lunch and snack periods so that was part of my decision to set up their learning areas in separate rooms. You may even have a folding card table and chair set that is stored away that you can bring out whenever you have an NTI or snow day. My type of setup is just a starting place if you need something temporary for just one or two school days. TBH we will probably keep it this as our snow day setup in our home though: my youngest actually requested a cozy corner instead of a desk and chair.

Now, lastly I'll cover options for where to buy a lap table in case anyone was wondering about that.

Lap table

We got our lap tables from Amazon.com. This type of lap table is perfect and we love it. When you're not using it, it can be folded up flat and stored away in a closet or under the bed.

Very important: If your child is toward the older end of elementary school or above, I'd recommend that the width be at least 20 inches, otherwise it'll be too narrow for comfort. So be careful to check measurements before buying.

It's easier than you think to create a learning area for your child!

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