As tough as this year has been on a family like ours, my heart goes out to those with little kids. Parents can groan about older kids having to learn online, but for the most part my kids are self-sufficient. They can read, manage deadlines, and they can connect to a video call without help most of the time. In talking with friends who have younger children learning at home, I wanted to know what they are doing to stay sane. More importantly, I wanted to know how they are keeping little minds engaged. Here are their best online learning tips:
Tip #1: Whiteboard Your Daily To-Dos
My friend and her husband have been making an effort the night before (or early in the morning with their coffee) to scan their school’s Google Classroom and make a list. In their temporarily converted dining room, they have a whiteboard where they are able to write tasks by child. This serves two purposes: 1) Since they switch off in the middle of the day, it is easy for the other parent to see what their children need to do, and 2) It gives their kids a sense of accomplishment to check off the items themselves as they finish them. You can also put reminders on the list for physical activity or helping out around the house. (Hey if it’s on the list, you have to do it.)
Tip #2: DIY Your Own Ergonomics
It’s hard to know how long this temporary normal will last, and some of my friends can’t justify expensive chairs and desks for their already wiggly children. But you can actually make your existing chairs ergonomically correct for little bodies with things around your house. Make sure they have good back support by placing a throw pillow or two behind their back. The pillow can also be secured with some string or a shoelace if needed. It’s also important to make sure their legs create a 90 degree angle. To avoid dangling legs, place a step stool or an empty bin upside-down at their feet. (And if you do splurge for a chair, we got this one and we love it.)
Tip #3: Get Microphone Headphones
Most of the friends I spoke with have more than one child at home. As crazy as it sounds, it’s easier to manage their chaos when all the kids are in the same area of the house. That means noise levels may be too loud for learning. One friend got partially noise-canceling headphones with a built-in microphone to help with this. It’s not perfect, but it greatly cuts down on background noise in the event her children forget to use their inside voice. That way her virtual teacher and class can hear her instead of her siblings. The partial noise-cancelling also helps her little student concentrate on what is being taught.
Tip #4: Create a Pretend School Station
Splitting time and concentration can be a challenge for a parent who has a school-aged child as well as a toddler. One friend created a play school station similar to what she set-up for her older children. Get some old tech like a calculator and a flip phone, along with crayons, paper, and books. You can even incorporate a to-do list on the whiteboard for your younger child as well so they think they also have tasks to accomplish. If anything, it will keep them busy for a few moments while you help connect to a video lesson.
Tip #5: Make It Personal
Penn and I have agreed that academic achievements are not the only thing we hope our children learn this year. To keep younger kids motivated, ask them what they hope to learn this school year or what they want to learn more about. Once you have their answer, search for books, activities, or age-appropriate videos that will help them engage with that topic. Inspiring curiosity young can help learning be a lifelong process. It can also help if you need to distract them or if they get their work done early for the day.
Do you have younger children who are learning remotely? What online learning tips and tricks do you have that can help others? I would love to hear your ideas!