Children who are in preschool or kindergarten need a space for art and hands-on learning tools. Any flat surface and a chair they can sit comfortably on for short stints will do. At this age, children don’t sit in one spot for long, and even though tiny desks for toddlers are cute, they’re about as necessary for learning as basketball sneakers are for infants. For this age group, a side table, play table, or the dining room table can suffice.
Elementary school children have more books, work sheets and other school supplies to contend with, and they’re learning the skills they need to study more independently for longer periods of time. For children in this age range, British furniture manufacturer Bluespot Furniture recommends getting a desk that’s between 31 inches and 47 inches wide, if you want the desk to grow with them. However, the desk doesn’t have to be as deep as typical desks for adults. A compact desk that’s about 24 inches deep accommodates a laptop and can be a better fit.
For junior and senior high school students, who spend the majority of their school days doing focused work at their desks, it pays to get something that’s sturdy and durable, and that they find attractive. They’ll likely be using more equipment, like a wireless keyboard, so look for desk features that make working with their tech easier, such as a keyboard tray or grommets to corral messy wires.
Essential gear: Ample storage is key. If the desk doesn’t have enough drawers or shelving, storage units like the Ikea Kallax Shelf Unit (about $80, and useful for toy storage as well) can corral papers and supplies. Wirecutter senior staff writer Lauren Dragan recommends the Kid Made Modern Arts and Crafts Library (about $40) both for the craft supplies it comes with and as a place to store art supplies.
Adjust their desk chair to support sitting for long periods of time.
Many desks designed for school-age children, like Pottery Barn Kids’ Desks, are the same height as typical desks designed for adults: 30 inches. This height best fits people who are around 6 feet tall, so most children will have to strain upward to write. They may raise their chair to accommodate the desk height, but chances are their feet will be dangling.
The solution to this is the same as it is for adults: Adjust your child’s seating situation with pillows or other supports. If the chair is raised as high as it can go, and your child’s arms and wrists are still below the height of the desk or keyboard, add a seat cushion to prop them up. If their feet are dangling, use a footrest, a box or other sturdy object for support. If the seat is too deep for them to sit with their back against the backrest, use a lumbar support pillow to help them maintain good posture.