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I’m feeling mega anxiety about the school year and apprehensive about the distance learning situation. My kids are set to be online for at least the first 9 weeks of school and while I’m not feeling great about it, I’m putting on a SMILING face and an enthusiastic voice for my kids that this will be an adventure! (it will be). We will get through it! (we really will). And the kids will do GREAT! (they truly will!). I need all the tips for online learning I can get!
One way I cope with anxiety and not being able to control what’s happening is to TRY to control something, so I went full speed ahead to transform the playroom/junk room/office into a cozy, kid-first ‘classroom’ for distance learning.
Today I’m sharing the tips for online learning I’ve gotten from my amazing Instagram community, as well as sharing all the (hopefully thoughtful!) details I considered when putting together the room.
Your Tips for Online Learning
- take LOTS of breaks!
- get our for a walk before school starts – gets the blood pumping!
- get headphones with microphones – helps them focus and they won’t hear everyone else’s stuff – and you won’t hear theirs 🙂 // I ordered these in rose gold + red/black – they have a mic built-in and work with Bluetooth so no wires required
- be patient with the teachers! They’re building the plane as they’re flying it.
- create a ‘display’ board or station for highlighting great work! I used a chain with clips for this 🙂 // something similar here, super cute for displaying Christmas cards, family photos, etc.
- show a visual schedule
- don’t underestimate the power of popping bubble wrap (or any other sensory things!)
- grab some putty or play doh or a stress ball for kids to fidget with while zooming – if that’s too messy, try specific fidget toys – I’m ordering this one for the kids
- have snacks on-hand – snack-basket style
- really treat it like a classroom
- have their water bottles nearby – my fave kids’ water bottles are in this post
- have a ‘take a break’ spot with coloring/other calm options
- have a cozy reading nook/fort
- if you’re not able to supervise 24/7, use a baby monitor to eavesdrop/keep an eye out
- REALLY dial up the positive reinforcement!
- have stuff ready for younger siblings – Busy Toddler is a fab resource for that!
- make sure seating is allowing proper posture for learning – speak easy community on FB or this is a great resource, free with code “teach2020”
- use cushions and stools to help – we used an overturned basket as a footrest! get creative 🙂
- set timers/reminders via Alexa to let kids know when they should be logging on – try setting the reminder for 10 minutes pre-login to get them in the right headspace // if you don’t have an Alexa, there’s a reminder app for Chromebooks + iPads
- pre-pack lunches – more time to play at lunch/recess! my fave lunch supplies here
- set up a non-distracting virtual background on Zoom to hide any in-home mishaps
- try NOT to micromanage it – let them learn!
- blue light glasses – SO much screen time! need to protect their little eyes – I ordered these and they’re awesome!
- your attitude is your kids’ attitude! You set the tone – stay calm & serve the freaking peanuts!
- use a stool for their little feet if they’re using full-sized chairs. their feet need to be flat on the ground or surface
- put all their supplies in a basket or caddy // our school district gave us supplies and I’ll be putting each child’s in a separate caddy – these are PERFECT for the job and so affordable!
- get the wiggles out with GoNoodle during breaks
- LOTS OF GRACE!
- visual schedule with pictures and words + the ability to ‘cross things off’
- consider buying a room divider if you think it will help create a special learning place
- stick with it! Takes at least 2-3 weeks to form a routine
- try streaming virtual lessons on a TV or larger monitor vs an iPad
- if your kids’ teacher is doing a good job, TELL THEM! And email the principal. If you’re not satisfied, don’t hesitate to reach out to the teacher directly to work together to figure out something that works for your child.
- opt outside as much as possible! (we will totally be doing this!)
- read ‘A Little Spot Learns Online’ – 100% doing this! So smart. // book linked here
- be sure you have a trash can in there! So many paper scraps!
- of you have multiple kids, try having them work in different rooms if they’re getting distracted by each other. If that’s not an option, maybe try trifold project boards to give them their own space. Or headphones.
- the iPad/Chromebook/whatever device is used for ONLY school stuff!
- whatever you get done is enough! the kids will be ok.
- use a variety of seating if you can… wobble cushions, yoga ball chairs, and Bilibo balance seats all require lots of core strength and balance, which are great for young kids’ overall development
- play Jingle Punks Hipster Radio for easy background music
- Pinterest idea: duct tape all the marker caps together in a row so they’re not falling all over the place – did this and it’s genius!
- make sure their computer is eye level and they’re not looking down at it – strains their necks
- have passwords and Zoom links printed out and ready to go – I plan to do this on laminated colored paper so I’m not constantly searching for them
- consider getting each child a BIG binder with organizers for them to organize their own work
- turn off WiFi devices in the house that aren’t being used for learning during school hours – we also bought this WiFi booster and it was SO easy to install
- if your kids are really young, try having them use ‘talk to text’ (depends on the assignment!)
- Emotional well being > academics – I couldn’t agree more! I just want my kids to be happy, healthy, and enjoy learning.
With all of these things in mind, this is what I came up with! I have NO idea how well it will work. Fingers crossed it’s a space where the kids can feel safe and supported and able to learn and have fun.
play kitchen // we’ve had this for years and it’s ‘lived’ in the playroom for all of that time. definitely not a ‘school’ thing but might be a welcome distraction for kindergarten + Emmy
art table // this is another piece we’ve had for years. it’s seen better days and hasn’t held up great (I honestly don’t really recommend it! sold out anyway) but it’ll be great as a seating option for kindergarten – similar linked here
balance ball seats // I’m hoping that these are used (properly!) but who knows?! balance balls are great for core strength and balance which are important to overall development. I thought they were pretty affordable, too, and they come with a pump. I bought the 52″ size
bilibo balance seats // these are super cool for kids 2+ – I bought them for my kids as Christmas gifts last year and they’re great for imagination, balance, and core strength.
bookcase // we’ve also had this for years – it’s STUNNING and so inexpensive – legit looks like PBK
aloe plant // the only succulent I haven’t killed over the years – I wanted something ‘living’ in this room and getting a class pet didn’t seem like the best move, so aloe it is
framed art print // here’s a secret about art prints… I almost always buy a $6 piece of wrapping paper and frame it in an inexpensive poster frame. If you have an IKEA around, this frame is fabulous. If you don’t, this black frame from Michael’s can easily be spray painted white. // my FAVE place to get super inexpensive (3 for $10) whimsical prints (including the one I have framed here)
monitor // this was leftover from Chris’s work-from-home days. we have a fire stick plugged in for some internet access when the kids need a brain break!
Nugget // I’m hoping this gives a space to spread out and get comfy throughout the day
desks // I wanted a dedicated work space, so desks seemed like the way to go. I’m not sure if this setup will be ideal, so I’m definitely open to changing it – right now I have 2 desks facing each other // exact desks // similar
white bookcases – these are NOT built in but they fit perfectly in the space! when we renovated, they quoted us something outrageous for actual built-ins so we went with these and I actually love them!
vintage pull-down map // ok, it’s only from 1991 so not super vintage, but I bought this at an antique shop years ago and it’s been sitting in our basement just waiting for this very moment
charging station // ain’t nobody got time for a dead device! I’m impressed with this charging station – makes it easy to keep everything in one place and juiced up
quiet toys/books // I think its important (especially for kindergarten!) to have lots to PLAY with throughout the day. blocks // magnetic tiles
Chalk Board // honestly not sure how much this will be used but my intention is for the kids to be able to use it for themselves to color/create on
Trash Can // this is a must for all the paper scraps from the day
Ghost Chairs // I just pulled them from the dining room – I might add little sheepskin seats from IKEA to amp up the comfort level. I also added an overturned basket as a footrest – I didn’t realize kids’ feet should be flat on a surface to allow them to best focus. Literally anything – a stool, a cardboard box, and overturned laundry bin – could help this happen.
I also had someone ask ‘what do I do if I can’t afford all this stuff?’ – and it’s a valid question. Just set up a space for your child where they can sit and focus. If it’s the kitchen table, just make sure their feet can sit flat – use a stool or a box or whatever! – and that their computer or iPad is eye-level. Our district supplies devices. Headphones aren’t mandatory, fancy chairs aren’t mandatory, wall decorations aren’t mandatory. A positive attitude and an effort to make it work is all your child needs!