Five Ways to Help Young Kids with Online Learning
How many snacks can a three and six-year-old eat while doing online learning? A lot. Like, a LOT. Since the pandemic began, my kids have been going through 20 pounds of apples, every two weeks. That is just apples. I’m not even going to get into my ridiculous Pop Tart, Dum-Dum (for when Mommy needs quiet during a Zoom meeting), and yogurt budget.
Struggling to Adapt
I can’t blame them, though. They, like me, are struggling to adapt to this new working and learning environment. There are only so many pictures you can paint, educational videos you can watch (Disney+ counts, right?), games you can play with your little sister (especially the one where you pretend that you are a zombie and make her run screaming through Dad’s online meeting), and times you can look for the family pet.
Working and learning from home isn’t easy. It is, dare I say, “virtually” impossible. Luckily, I have a secret weapon. I happen to have a close friend, Chasidy Anderson, who has answers. Maybe not all the answers, but compared to my coping strategy that basically concludes with my finding apples cores literally everywhere around my home, I am feeling pretty lucky to have her. You might know Chasidy from our wonderful and wise Legacy Campus Kidzone team, but she is also an experienced elementary school teacher, school counselor, and mother of two.
Chasidy and I sat down via Zoom to chat about our struggles. We ended up creating an entire interview series about helping kids adapt to online/virtual learning. Some of her best tips are summarized below.
Include the Littles
Let the preschool kiddos participate in school with their older siblings. We know that sounds like chaos in the making but give it a try. "Asynchronous" class day? Let the little sibling watch an older sibling’s (age-appropriate) school video. We all know the hypnotic power a screen has on children, and the little one may even learn a few things.
Also consider letting all the kids take part in the fun stuff, like art projects and music. While one child is practicing penmanship, the others can be working on holding a pencil or doodling at the table. One of my favorite tips from Chasidy is to have your child practice reading aloud to their younger sibling. The older child gets to show off and the younger gets special attention, and hopefully mom or dad gets a little quiet. It’s a win-win-win!
Keep Learning Blocks Age-Appropriate
Kids can’t maintain focus on a task for an indefinite amount of time. A two-year-old may only be able to focus for a couple of minutes, while your six-year-old may be able to maintain focus for 15 minutes. Knowing how long your child can focus on a task will save everyone a whole lot of frustration. For sample attention span recommendations, look here.
Between learning blocks, give your child (and yourself) a “brain break.” This might be physical movement, a few minutes outdoors, or exploring something new online. Chasidy highly recommends these digital resources:
Create a Learning Space (or Spaces)
We don’t all have a ton of space at home, as it is. Add a couple of remote learners and maybe an adult working-from-home, and your home or apartment seems to suddenly shrink. I’m not a super organized person, but since Chasidy promised that these tips don’t involve laundry, I was willing to give them a try:
- Work with your child to create a schedule and display it where they can see it.
- While you should have designated learning spaces, don’t feel confined to one area. Some rooms can multi-task throughout the day; you can have a reading nook one room, an art area at the kitchen table, a math area outside, etc..
- Keep materials and school supplies close at hand. A caddy from the dollar store works great. You don’t want to run to the other end of the house every time your child breaks their pencil.
- Try to keep things as visually distraction-free as possible.
- Invest in noise-cancelling or over-the-ear headphones.
Balance and Flexibility
We know that it isn’t easy to balance all of the things that are going on in your home. Simultaneous Zoom meetings are not easy to orchestrate. Add multiple children working on different curricula, and you have a very chaotic one-room-schoolhouse! Chasidy insists that the key to navigating all of this is flexibility, and she hasn’t been wrong, so far. Give these tips a try:
- Allow your children to have autonomy over the order they choose to do their lessons (between live video instruction), and don’t forget those “brain breaks.”
- Allow your kids to work together, when they can.
- Watch for cues from your children. Do they need alone time? Do they need community or time to connect with live human beings?
- Don’t feel guilty about putting your little one on their device while you are in a meeting (or need a few moments alone).
Lower Your Expectations
Yes, you read that correctly: lower them. Chasidy insists that we are all holding ourselves to too high a standard in a time that is anything but “usual” (obviously, she hasn’t seen the colossal pile of laundry lurking in my home). Extend grace to your child’s teachers and to your child, but while you are at it, extend a huge helping of grace to yourself. While it’s important to have expectations, be flexible and realistic. This is new territory for all of us.
Remember, some days you just aren’t going to get everything done. Some days you aren’t going to get anything done. It’s okay. Take a deep breath, remind yourself that you are doing a great job, and if all else fails, invest in a few pounds of apples.
To watch Rachel and Chasidy’s entire Zoom interview series, click here.