A lot of things have changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year. One major change for teachers, parents and caregivers has been the transition from a regular classroom to online learning. This has come with several challenges, including juggling schedules, parents taking a more active role in teaching, digitizing educational materials, reduced structure, social opportunities, as well as trying to get kids to focus in their home environment.
Joel Desotelle, a licensed pediatric occupational therapist and program director of Keystone Pediatric Developmental Center in Chambersburg, gives some tips for adjusting to online learning in today’s Take Care article.
The key to a successful home learning environment starts with structure. Developing a daily schedule will help organize your day and set expectations for your child. Most teachers have their learning content available for you to review. Take time before each session to review this material and if possible, look it over it with your child – kids tend to pay better attention when they are familiar with the topic.
Environment and Rewards
Having a consistent time and place to learn will help your child get ready for learning. Designate a quiet space in your home that is free from distractions. Remember, your home environment is where your kids play, unwind and relax. They have been programmed to associate home with these activities and so it can be challenging to get your child to focus when the television, toys and video games are nearby. Set specific limits on these activities and include them on your child’s schedule, preferably after schoolwork is done. If you try and “reward” your child with these activities during school time, it may be difficult to get them to come back, leading to a potential argument. Using a “reward system” can alleviate unwanted behaviors and help you get more buy-in. There are numerous apps for your phone or tablet that can help you manage your reward system, which include earning points for good behaviors and taking away points for unwanted behaviors.
Physical activity and breaks are extremely important to learning. Movement readies the brain and reduces stress. Sitting in front of a computer can be very stressful, especially if your child is having difficulty with the learning material. Offering breaks to go outside or integrating structured physical activity (ex. 10 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups, 10 wall squats, etc.) can help to reduce these effects and improve your child’s performance.
Another helpful strategy to improve attention is to have your child stand during some of his classes (or alternate). You can also use a wiggle seat or have your child sit on a yoga ball to help get a little movement in. Hand fidgets can also be helpful as long as they do not become a distraction.
Lastly, make sure your child is practicing healthy habits. This includes getting a good night’s sleep, starting the day with a healthy breakfast, drinking water regularly and having a healthy snack during breaks to keep his body fed and ready to go.
While online learning is a new situation for many people, by taking steps to establish a consistent routine including regular breaks, movement and healthy habits, the transition to virtual education can be eased for students and parents alike.
This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or care by a qualified health care provider.