They might not get paid for it, but kids work hard—at learning to write, coloring pictures for you, and filling out applications to schools and colleges. So, put as much thought into buying a desk for them as you would for yourself. Style, size and use will change over the years, but it is possible to find a desk that functions as well at 8 as at 18.
There are two sizes to be concerned with: the size of your space and the size of your child. First, measure the area you have available for a desk. Then, consider your child’s age. You don’t want your child hunched at a desk that’s too small or dwarfed by a set-up that is too big.
Think about how your child will use her desk. Will your child be using pen and paper or a computer to complete most of her homework? You may need storage space for reference materials like dictionaries and thesauruses, as well as ledges for printers or other electronic equipment.
Good sitting habits start during childhood, just as good work habits do. Help your child’s posture by choosing an ergonomically designed desk. Your child’s elbows should be waist level when using a computer, and their feet should be flat on the floor.
Find a desk with rounded corners for pre-school-aged children. Also check that a desk won’t topple over if weight is placed on top. While it’s less of a concern for older children, siblings do roughhouse, and sharp corners and metal pieces could pose a safety issue.
Children develop their preferences in interior design surprisingly young. Choose a desk that fits their style as well as with the décor of their room, and think about how their tastes might change just a few years from now.
Measure your space to determine what size limitations you may have. Also, keep in mind how your child will use the desk. If your child uses a computer, he requires a deeper desk. Pre-school children will need a desk about 19 inches high, while grade-schoolers will need approximately 23 inches to sit comfortably.
Your child may use his desk for a variety of tasks. If he doesn’t have a computer in kindergarten, he may have one in just a few years. Computers may come with accessories, like printers or a Wacom tablet for drawing in software. He will continue to use his desk for paper and pencil tasks, so you may want a desk with space beside the computer. Some desks come with buddy benches, which come in handy when two children collaborate.
Desks come in a variety of materials, from plastic to hardwood. Molded plywood desks are long lasting, reasonably priced and easy to clean. Plastic doesn’t clean up easily and scratches can’t be fixed. Laminated particleboard also has a short lifespan. You may also want to consider environmental concerns, as plastics and glues used in furniture can sometimes contain toxic chemicals.
A desk outfitted with a hutch, drawers and ledges can store reference materials, art supplies, paper, and electronics. You may want to purchase a desk with a hutch or install shelves above the workspace. File cabinets, corkboards, and wall-mounted file racks and shelves can also be added around simpler desks as your child’s needs change.
Some desks come with built in lamps, but make sure it doesn’t create glare on the computer. You may need to buy a separate desk lamp. Consider a lamp with an adjustable arm and keep in mind its placement, so that your child doesn’t burn himself on a hot bulb. Make sure it has a sturdy base, and consider the light source—fluorescent lights may cause eyestrain.
Buying two or even three desks over the course of a childhood may seem like an excessive but unavoidable expense. Recently, however, manufacturers have been building adjustable desks. Some desks can be adjusted from 14 inches to 30 inches in height, carrying your child from toddlerhood to college. Adjustable desks range in price from about $200 to $800. The higher cost can be offset by only having to buy one desk, as well as by the environmental benefit in having less waste at the end of the product’s life.
Teachers have long known that getting a child to sit still while studying is not only difficult but may even run counter to the learning process. Fidgeting can actually help a child concentrate, and to that end, many schools have added standing desks to their classrooms. Standing desks feature a swinging footrest as well as taller chairs, which allow a child to choose a position most comfortable for them. You may want to consider this option for your child’s room.
Hand-me-down or used desks save money. Consider repainting an old desk and fitting it with funky pulls to personalize it. Stores like Ikea offer attractive yet affordable models that you assemble yourself. Pine and plywood are less expensive materials but more sturdy than pressed board or plastic. Environmentally friendly materials may cost slightly more but might be worth it for peace of mind.
Your kindergartner might love the color purple, but that purple desk could end up an eyesore by second grade. Lean towards more classic or minimalist styles that will last through many stages.
Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing that his workspace was just a simple desk in a little cubby underneath the stairs in his home. The most important consideration in purchasing a desk is to create an inviting area for your child to work. It should be clutter-free and relatively quiet and private. Provide the tools necessary for creative work, and give your child the time and the space to relax and explore their potential.
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