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Best Desk Setups for Students: Essential Study Supplies for Every Age


| By Amy Vagne | February 1, 2021

These are the essential supplies students of all ages need so they can create the best desk setup for productivity and better study.

The best desk setup for productivity is one that allows all supplies to be close at hand

Having the right setup, with suitable supplies close at hand and an eye on efficiency and ergonomics, truly helps kids be more productive and focus more easily — and that goes for all ages, whether their homework involves colouring in or algebra. This list of essential school supplies will help create the best at-home desk setup for productivity. And, if you haven’t yet tackled the back-to-school shopping, simply upload your shopping list to Officeworks’ School List Service and let the team do the hard work for you.

Stage 1: Kindy, Years 1 and 2

For early primary school students, a good desk setup will help develop good future homework habits.

In the early years of primary school, kids don’t get a lot of homework. But they do need to master the basics — this means daily reading and writing practice, as well as working on their number facts. To that end, ensure your little students have their own special space to sit down and do their work — a sturdy table and small chair will do the job — and help them set up good homework habits for the future.

HOT TIP At this age kids need help keeping things tidy. Ditch the fluffy pencil cases and overflowing caddies of markers and crayons and just keep the essentials close at hand. An over-the-chair bag is a handy way to keep everything streamlined and orderly while keeping the desk space clear.

What They'll Need

  • Scissors and Glue Scissor skills are considered an important part of the curriculum. Cut-and-paste activities help develop fine motor skills, increase hand strength and improve coordination.
  • Mini Whiteboard and Whiteboard Markers As recommended by primary teachers, mini whiteboards are great for getting kids to jump in and have a go. They can practise their letters, do sums and draw pictures, then easily rub out their efforts and have another try. It’s a great way to teach them that imperfect attempts are a natural part of the learning process and not to be feared. And it saves on paper, too.
  • Counters Before they can master multiplication and other big number concepts, kids need hands-on resources to help them model the basics, including addition and subtraction problems. You’ll find these must-have “manipulatives” in every primary school classroom around Australia. Grab some for home to help boost their learning.
  • Lead Pencils and a Pencil Sharpener Before Year 4 or 5, many schools prefer their students not to use pens. Until then, it’s all about the pencil for ease of use in learning how to shape those letters and numbers. Jumbo triangular pencils are more comfortable for small hands and encourage the correct pen grip.
  • Colouring Pencils Drawing and colouring in aren’t just for fun, they’re incredibly important for cognitive development, boosting fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Plus, there’s increasing evidence to suggest colouring has a calming effect and reduces anxiety and stress.
  • Alphabet Magnets These can be used in many different ways to help young readers improve their sound, alphabet and spelling skills. Pop them on your fridge, or a special magnetic whiteboard.
  • Stickers The end goal for kids of this age should be to make homework and learning fun and enjoyable, so use stickers and the like to reward effort, not results.

What To Try

Stage 2: Years 3 and 4

Adapt kids’ desk setups as they get older to better suit their needs.

At this point, it might be time to update your child to a proper desk as soon they’ll be spending more and more time here. Consider a table that’s height adjustable so it can grow with them. By Stage 2, kids are able to work a bit more independently and start tackling more challenging and in-depth areas in the lead up to Years 5 and 6.

What They'll Need

  • Pens and Pencils Writing is really important in Stage 2, as students work on their spelling, grammar, punctuation and handwriting. Invest in good-quality biros and lead pencils that are comfortable to grip. Store them neatly in pen cups or a caddy, lined up across the top of the desk.
  • NAPLAN Workbooks Australia’s standardised school literacy and numeracy tests, known as NAPLAN, commence in Year 3. These clever books are good practice and also familiarise students with the style of question asked in NAPLAN tests.
  • Times Tables Charts and Posters Mastering times tables is a big focus for this Stage. Help kids absorb the patterns by hanging a colourful number chart on the wall.
  • A Ruler An essential for drawing straight lines, underlining headings and measuring things in maths exercises.
  • Document Wallets Keep worksheets and handouts safe and organised. For bonus points, use colour-coded folders for different subject areas to start to teach kids organisation strategies that will come in handy as their workload increases in the years to come.
  • A Corkboard and Push Pins Up to 65% of people are visual learners, so using patterns, pictures and reference lists can help us remember key things. A corkboard positioned close to a study area could be useful, to pin up spelling lists and word banks or to put awards and certificates on display.

What To Try

SEE ALSO: Getting Your Preschooler Ready for Big School

Stage 3: Years 5 and 6

As students’ homework increases, ensure their desk setup is ergonomically correct and has plenty of storage space.

As children enter Stage 3, the focus shifts to getting them ready for high school. Gradually their homework and assignments will begin to increase, so it’s important to choose a desk and chair that are comfortable and ergonomic. The best desk setup is as inviting as possible to encourage them to spend time here — invest in a decent lamp and order cool stationery and desk accessories.

HOT TIP If their bedroom is short on space, a hutch desk (a desk with a set of shelves on top) could be a clever solution.

What They'll Need

  • A Laptop or Tablet and Protective Case In 2021, digital skills are just as important as learning to read and write; a personal tablet or laptop are recommended at most high schools these days. Mastering this technology early will set them in good stead for the future.
  • Headphones Block out distractions, such as the TV or siblings, during homework time. Listening to music they enjoy can help students with problem solving and reduce stress. Headphones are also helpful while watching videos, or playing online learning games.
  • A Maths Set In Stage 3 mathematics, kids will learn about geometry and measuring angles. This set, complete with compass, set square, protractor and pencil, is the ultimate maths accessory.
  • A Dictionary Every school student needs a good dictionary to help them with spelling and vocabulary. Encourage kids to look up any unknown words they encounter in their reading.
  • Pens and Correction Tape By the upper primary years, kids should be writing with a < a href="https://www.officeworks.com.au/shop/officeworks/b/back-to-school-pens?cm_sp=all:menu:bts21:::pens"> ballpoint pen. Correction tape ensures their work stays neat and tidy as they get the hang of it.
  • Notepads and Exercise Books Provide plenty of paper and notebooks for creative writing, taking notes, drawing and making lists. The more writing they do each day, the better!

What To Try

Stage 4: Years 7 and 8

Setting up a new desk at the start of high school will encourage them to spend time here.

This is when studying gets super serious, with exams and assignments coming out of their ears. Set them up for success by gathering the essentials — a strong desk with plenty of storage space, a comfortable and supportive chair for long sitting sessions and a new laptop with solid internet connectivity.

HOT TIP Reconsider the computer setup if they’re spending long periods of time working away. Hunching over a laptop can lead to neck and back problems, while squinting at a small screen is a one-way ticket to eye strain. Most occupational therapists recommend an external mouse and keyboard with the laptop positioned up on a platform. Eyes should be level with the top of the computer screen.

What They'll Need

  • Highlighters Quick study tip: highlighting can help you focus when you’re reading a text. But avoid overload: stick to one or two colours and only highlight crucial information.
  • Sticky Notes and Planner Pads Staying on top of it all can be tricky and overwhelming: encourage your students to write lists and take notes to help them remember important information. You can never have too many sticky notes, planners or page markers.
  • Scientific Calculator Check with your school as most Maths departments will nominate a preferred make and model of calculator.
  • Study Cards Writing your own study notes is really important — it helps you process and understand information. Encourage kids to jot down key facts on index cards as part of their exam prep. Then, you can help quiz them in the car or at the dinner table.

What To Try