How to Stay Sane During Virtual Learning: 4 Ways to Keep Your Kids Engaged

Posted on August 5, 2020 | by

Parents: we see you, and we feel you! As the world adjusts to a new reality built to help slow the spread of this global pandemic, we’re all having to get a little creative with our daily routines—perhaps none more so than parents of school-aged children.

So, moms and dads, we’re sharing a few ideas to help make virtual learning a little easier for you and your family.

1. Practice the three Rs: Routine, Ritual, Rhythm

We all benefit from maintaining a routine, but kids, in particular, need this kind of structure to flourish. Typically, their weekly routines are played out at school on a fairly regimented basis. With schools closed and virtual learning taking place at home, the primary source of their routine has been greatly shifted—which can lead to frustration, distraction, and meltdowns.

If your space allows, dedicate a specific area to learning, creating a zone that prompts productivity.

While no one expects you to go from zero to seasoned teacher overnight, a manageable first step is setting up a weekday routine. It doesn’t need to follow their school-day routines exactly, but you can mimic times of study, breaks, and lunch. (If you don’t know where to start, ask your child to walk you through their typical school day and show you their Google Classroom setup or other online teaching software.)

Then, you can create rituals around this routine. If your space allows, dedicate a specific area to learning, creating a zone that prompts productivity and is separate from “hang out” areas. Have your young kiddos pack up their bags with what they need for the day, head to their learning space, and get started.

Once the routine and ritual are in place, it’s time to set the rhythm with consistency. After just a few days, your kids and you will begin to anticipate and respond to the set routine without having to think about it.

2. Weigh the pros & cons of reward systems

Ask your child if they have any reward systems at school. Chances are their teachers use stickers, points, or even “brag tags” to help motivate students to pay attention, follow rules, and complete their assignments. While there are both benefits and disadvantages to reward systems, there is no question that they can help keep kiddos on track during a disruptive time.

If you’ve weighed the advantages and feel your child would be more productive and happy with a reward system in place, it’s important to figure out the best options for them. You know your child better than anyone, so consider what makes them feel confident and proud. A reward system should motivate and empower kids to want to do their work well—it is not meant to be used as a negotiation tool. The difference between the two may be subtle, but it can truly change the tone of your interactions.

Here are a few different tactics to get you started:

  • Feature all-star work or great behavior. Whether you dole out “brag tags,” highlight great work on the fridge or corkboard, or hand out a special badge, celebrating accomplishments is great for everyone—especially children who thrive on this type of positive attention.
  • Create a point system. Points can be earned by doing various tasks and then used to “purchase” rewards like stickers, a special snack, or time on their favorite game.
  • Design a “bump it up” display. Bump it up displays are a great way to help kids make and meet goals by visualizing their progress.

3. Don’t miss out on PE

While we’re all staying close to home, it’s easy to miss out on physical movement. Kids aren’t walking the halls between classrooms or the cafeteria, while excursions to the store or park are happening less frequently. In addition to keeping everyone healthy, incorporating physical activity into your child’s day can help maintain energy levels and boost motivation.

If you live in a walkable neighborhood, make daily family walks part of your routine. If weather or circumstances are keeping you indoors, set aside time to do a family dance party or follow a Cosmic Kids Yoga storytime flow.

4. Preach and practice patience, kindness, & understanding

This unprecedented situation is hard for all of us—we weren’t given a COVID-19 handbook to help us deal with a new reality! As humans, we’re going to go through bouts of frustration, exasperation, and misdirected anger. Your kids are going through the same emotions, which means you may clash at times. Remember to be gentle with them and yourself.

We say, lean into it. Be open with your kids about the fact that this is new for you as well and that you’ll need to learn how to cope together. Ask for their input on the routines you’ve set up. Having your kids participate in decision making that impacts them helps build their confidence and can have a positive developmental impact. Make it a conversation that allows room for adjustment to keep everyone happy.

Good luck!

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