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How to Survive Online Learning in Elementary School

The new school year is here and many kids will begin this year with some form of online learning. For our youngest learners, online learning can be difficult. This is a critical time for social-emotional development as well as academics. How can we survive online learning while still instilling a love for learning and striving to meet rigorous academic standards as we begin this school year?

Here are some things to include in your family’s day that will help keep the kids busy, creative, and happy during online learning this year.

1. Create a Routine

Your child’s teacher will have a set routine that they will follow during the morning meeting and throughout the day online. It is important to extend this into your at-home learning environment. Here are a few things you can do to establish a routine at home and set your child up for success as they begin the new school year:

alarm clock lying on multicolored surface

New Routines For a New School Year

  • Set an alarm and begin the day as you would if you were getting ready to leave for school – It is easy to stay in pajamas all day, but children thrive with routine. Remember, we hope to return to traditional schooling later in the year, so if you have this routine already in place your transition will be much easier!
  • Create a space for learning – Make a desk next to your desk, create a classroom in your play area, or designate your kitchen table as the official learning spot.
  • Have a set (yet flexible) time for learning activities, lunch, and recess – Having a schedule is an important part of the school day. Making the switch from the carefree days of summer to a more structured day can be difficult for kids. As many of us hope to transition back to traditional school days in the future, it is important to structure our days while doing online learning at home.
  • Use timers to indicate when it is time to transition to the next activity – This is especially helpful to break-up the day and gives kids a break from electronics. Set the timer for 20-30 minutes so kids can take a brain break and do a movement activity.
  • Make time for art, music and independent play

Print your copy of the School Day Checklist and Daily Schedule

2. Foster Independence

In a classroom setting, children are encouraged to develop self-help skills and do more things independently. Through daily classroom jobs and developmentally appropriate expectations, teachers help children develop a sense of responsibility and help them strive for independence.

Here are a few activities that your child can start doing at home to foster independence and create a sense of responsibility:

small kid attentively dishwashing at kitchen
  • Dress independently – Kids can learn how to do zippers and buttons but we have to resist the urge to rush over and do it ourselves because it is quicker.
  • Help Cook and Clean-up after meals – Check out my Kids Cooking Challenge to learn more about the different activities kids can do in the kitchen.
  • Encourage problem-solving – instead of immediately telling kids how to fix something, help them develop the skills to work it out on their own. Ask questions instead of giving answers:
    • How could you do to solve that problem?
    • What is the hardest part?
    • Can we break this up into smaller steps to help us solve the problem?
  • Encourage patience – Our kids often expect our undivided attention, but in a classroom setting they must learn patience.
    • If they ask you to do something do not drop what you are doing – set a timer and have them wait or have a red light green light system in place that let’s them know if it is a time that you can talk.

Cube Timers are perfect for teaching time management.

3. Schedule Playtime

Giving children time to play isn’t just for fun, it is an opportunity to develop critical thinking skills, problem solving skills and social-emotional skills. Below are some important play/learning areas that you will see in a typical classroom that you can also provide at home.

Pretend Play

three children wearing face masks

Children learn about the world around them through pretend play. It gives kids the opportunity to control the environment and provides a time where they can work through feelings, expand their creativity and problem-solving skills. Here are a few ways to add pretend play into your child’s day.

  • Offer pots, pans and some cooking utensils – perhaps they will be a chef or start a band
  • Provide menus, aprons, coffee cups, and dishes to create a restaurant. You can even let them create their own snack to serve.
  • Having a basic Kids Science Lab Kit to use for pretend play will provide hours of fun.

Open-Ended Play

Open-ended play is an unstructured playtime that allows children to play independently and use their imagination to make decisions about how the materials will be used. By adding these open-ended activities into your day, you will find that your child will become more independent, creative, and self-directed which will give you more time to focus on work or have some much-needed me-time.

Learn more about the benefits of open-ended play.

Sensory Play

Sensory play stimulates children’s senses through touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste and is an integral part of brain development in children. It is how young children learn about the world. As children get older, adding sensory experiences throughout the day still has many benefits. Sensory play improves fine motor skills, helps children retain information, and can be very calming for children who are upset or overstimulated.

Sensory Play Ideas

Physical Play

When kids spend a large part of their day learning online, we cannot forget to balance that time with physical activity. Kids need fresh air and brain breaks throughout the day.

According to the CDC school-aged children should get 60 minutes of physical activity each day!

  • Whenever possible, send the kids outside! According to this article from Today’s Parent, when kids spend time outdoors it boosts their academic performance, improves sleep and increases happiness!
  • Learn some new dance moves or try a kids yoga class online – here’s a great list of online PE classes for kids.
  • Make time to get fit as a family and do these activities together!
child in green jacket and blue denim jeans standing on snow covered ground

4. Make Time for For Screen-free Activities

Online learning puts kids in front of a screen for hours each day. It is important to give their developing brains time to away from screens.

  • Podcasts and Audiobooks

It can be challenging to keep kids motivated to play independently day after day. Podcasts and audiobooks are a great way to keep kids busy while developing listening skills while learning new things.

Check out this list of great podcasts for kids from Classroom Nook.

My kids use their Echo Dot to decompress throughout the day. They listen to music, podcasts and stories and it has really helped them stay busy. They love to draw or build with Legos while listening to their Echo Dot.

You Got This!

We don’t know what to expect this year, but we can to do our best to provide a fun and engaging learning environment at home. Remember to stay flexible, have fun, and show love because there’s a lot of big things for our little ones to deal with right now!

If you liked How to Survive Online Learning, check out my post
Parenting in a time of Social Distancing for more great tips!

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