Parents remember how stressful it was to manage schoolwork from the kitchen table after schools closed this spring...shudder. With a new school year beginning, we're armed with something we didn't have back in March and April: a chance to set ourselves (and our kiddos) up for successful learning at home.

Record numbers of kids are going to be learning at home at least part-time this year—by some estimates, up to half of school-age kids will at least start the school year at home. But whether your family is homeschooling, unschooling, remote schooling or doing a hybrid "blended learning" model, remember: Children are natural learners, and they can thrive in an at-home learning environment stocked with just a few basics.

While preparing for the 2020 school year may be different than in years past, there's never been a better time to set up a beautiful, functional space for exploration, creativity and early learning at home.

Plan Toys desk and chair

Plan Toys desk and chair

A sturdy wooden work table with a chalk-friendly surface and two storage compartments will stand up to hours of drawing, building and experimenting—with perfectly-sized chair to match. The sleek, modern, space-saving design is a definite plus—while it's built for the playroom, it fits into any room in the house. Kinda wish this set came in a grownup size, tbh.

$170

Janod splash adjustable easel

Janod splash adjustable easel

Stand this easel up in a corner of your child's work-play area for creative inspiration. One side is a chalkboard surface and the other features a magnetic whiteboard. Attach the included paper roll with magnets and set kids loose with paints, pastels or crayons, or post your daily schedule in an easy-to-see spot.

$99

Plan Toys round table

Plan Toys round table

Need a shared workspace for multiple kids that inspires teamwork and creativity? This round wooden play table is a great spot to gather and play games, draw, build or create. And yep, that surface is a chalkboard: Let the doodling begin.

$120

Plan Toys natural wooden chair

Plan Toys natural wooden chair

The chances of your kids sitting still long enough to work on a project or get through a lesson go up significantly if they feel like they have an "official" chair that's built just for them. This perfectly proportioned child's chair is sturdy enough to withstand being dragged around, but stylish enough to be tucked in a corner of the living room.

$65

Lorena Canals 'I love math' rug

Lorena Canals 'I love math' rug

Yes, it's the cutest math-themed rug you've ever seen. Yes, it's beautiful and soft enough to spend hours stretched out on. Yes, it's a cool chalkboard-green that doesn't show stains. And yes, someone who's really really good at math double-checked all the equations to make sure they're correct.

$239

Storypod

These days we all want a little less screen time and a lot more story time for our kids. Storypod is a brand-new audio toy that lets children listen to stories and music and read along with audiobooks independently. Kids activate the player by placing one of the insanely cute craft figurines on top—and a special figurine lets you record your own messages. There's a built-in timer and a parental control app, too.

$75

Janod learning colors game

Janod learning colors game

Introduce young learners to colors and shapes while supporting the development of fine motor skills with this clever, colorful set, which includes activity cards, chalk and a magnetic easel with magnet chips.

$33

Janod human body puzzle set

Janod human body puzzle set

Children 5 and up can use this info-packed learning set to understand anatomy, the skeletal system, organs and more with these four giant puzzles of the human body. The set includes one 50-piece double-sided girl/boy puzzle, one 75-piece puzzle of the organs and one skeleton-themed puzzle with 100 phosphorescent pieces.

$33

Janod curiosities of the world puzzle

Janod curiosities of the world puzzle

This adorable 350-piece puzzle teaches kids geography, spatial learning skills—and patience. Perfect for a rainy afternoon, the set includes a learning guide, a poster and 50 cute cardboard figurines to assemble, place and play with.

$33

Dough Parlour farm set

Dough Parlour farm set

From dedicated art time to simply relieving stress and fidgets, the squishy soft and delightfully scented play dough from Dough Parlour is a preschooler favorite. It's non-toxic and totally natural and comes with three fun farm animal cutters and a wooden rolling pin.

$45

Big Life Journal for kids

Big Life Journal for kids

Whatever else can be said of growing up during the coronavirus pandemic, our kids will have a significant chapter to tell in their life story. Encourage self-expression and storytelling exploration with this journal created by developmental experts to boost social-emotional learning and help kids face life's challenges with confidence.

$25

Plan Toys hand sign tiles

Plan Toys hand sign tiles

Teach children letter recognition and sight words as well as American Sign Language basics (like how to sign their name, or M-A-M-A) with these natural wooden tiles.

$40

Farm Steady everything bagel making kit

Farm Steady everything bagel making kit

It's a snack, a science class and an afternoon cooking project all in one. Make everything bagels and cream cheese from scratch with this how-to kit, which explains how to rope, loop and boil your own dozen bagels and craft your own cream cheese.

$30

Janod wooden balance board

Janod wooden balance board

At-home learning schedules need to include a lengthy period of P.E. to keep kids energized and engaged. And on days when the weather is uncooperative, these simple wooden balance boards offer just the right level of gross motor skill challenge for kids in a space-saving, indoor-friendly format.

$75

Yamazaki favori storage box

Yamazaki favori storage box

The kids are all over the house but that doesn't mean their schoolwork needs to be. Every student in the family can use a tough, totable carry-all to stash supplies, pencils, books and papers and carry them from work station to kitchen to bedroom, and back again.

$33

EKOBO square bento

EKOBO square bento

For kids who may be missing the experience of eating in the school cafeteria with friends, these sweet (and sustainable) bento-style serving dishes make lunchtime and snack time a little more special, even when used at the familiar old kitchen table.

$22

EKOBO insulated lunch bag

EKOBO insulated lunch bag

Work-from-home parents know this trick: Packing your child's lunch in an actual lunchbox each morning (or better yet, the night before), and storing within easy reach for whenever hunger strikes can help save precious time, encourage kids' independence and prevent video meetings from being interrupted with calls of "Moooommm, what's for lunch?"

$29
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