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How our editor created a schoolwork station for her kids

And it was way easier than I thought.

How our editor created a schoolwork station for her kids

When the pandemic hit in March, we panicked—in every possible way.

We were worried about everything, and I'll be honest: Our adjustment to having school happen in our home was far from ideal. Our school did an excellent job supporting us, but we were simply not prepared or set up for the challenge.

Our Experts Editor at Motherly describes it perfectly—it wasn't homeschooling or virtual-schooling, it was crisis-schooling.


That's exactly what it felt like in my house. Every day was chaos. We lost school items constantly, missed assignments, and there were many tears shed (myself included). And you know, all this happening amid the trauma of a pandemic.

So this weekend, my partner and I sat down and identified the pain points. What were some of the factors that made it so hard? Are there small but meaningful solutions we can implement? Because listen—this whole situation will never be easy, not even close. Still, I can still try to make it better, even if it's in small ways.

As we face the new school year, likely much of which will be spent in this house, I am determined to have it feel more organized. Part of that is designating work stations for each of my three kids. The work station is where everything school-related happens and stays. Zoom meetings, notebooks, pencils—they all stay in one spot.

This year, back-to-school shopping will be back-to-home shopping.

Here is how I am setting up a workstation for my kids.

Ikea desk

ikea desk

All good home projects start in Ikea. I love that the desk is designed to grow with your child, thanks to its three different heights. We opted for the slightly wider size so they could spread out more (which avoids needing to use the kitchen table for work).

$59.99

Storage box

pencil storage box

In an effort to corral pencils and crayons, I wanted to get a storage container that was minimal in design, but super practical. This box from Yamazaki meets all of those needs perfectly.

$33

Active chair

active chair for kids

My kids are super squirmy (aren't they all?) so I am really excited about our new Active Chair that encourages them to move around. They promote the natural movements of the body and can help improve spinal positioning and muscle stimulation—all this can help improve concentration.

$49.99

Mini bookshelf

mini bookshelf

Under each desk, we'll have a small bookshelf so the kids can keep their stuff organized and books off the surface of their desks when they aren't using them. The unique design of this book rack with upward-tilted design makes for easy access to books and notebooks.

$32.50

Lunch box

bamoo lunch box

I won't be packing lunches anytime soon, but that doesn't mean I can't get ahead of the lunch game and still pack them in the mornings! This will be especially helpful when I am in meetings as my kids start to get hungry (which is always). The Ekobo bamboo bento box has a removable divider that keeps food separated, and the top doubles as a plate when it's time to eat. The smart design is constructed of safe, sustainable bamboo fiber and is firmly held together with a silicone band.

$23

Happiness light

happiness light

We live in Pennsylvania so when winter comes, it gets dark and cold quickly—and we all feel the impact of it emotionally. I recently got to try out the Veriluxe HappyLight therapy lamp, and I am really excited for my kids to enjoy it this year, too. Like a sunny day, bright light exposure can support your mood, energy and sleep patterns. The non-UV light therapy lamp emits full-spectrum light that mimics sunlight on the days you need a little pick-me-up.

$50

Fun art

Having a workspace that I love to work in is so important to me and I realized that the same goes for my kids. I am letting them each pick out a piece of art to hang above their desk and help them feel inspired as they work.

$15.19

Planning notepad

planning notepad

We, er, missed a few assignments last year. 🤦♀️So we need a better way to stay organized. With the Mochi planning notepad, I can easily take notes, make to-do lists or plan our week. It's made with a sturdy backing and is easy to write on.

$23.96

Big Life journal

kids journal

Emotions have been running high of late, and I don't expect that to change when school starts. To help me help my kids process their big feelings, I am excited to use the Big Life journal. This science-based guided journal helps kids develop social-emotional learning and a growth mindset to face life's challenges with confidence. Through engaging activities and inspiring stories, they'll learn to persevere and believe in themselves even when making mistakes.

$25


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Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

Minimize smoke exposure.

Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

Do your best to filter the air.

According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

"Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

"COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

Most importantly, don't panic.

In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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