As we move from full virtual learning to hybrid learning that will likely still be part of the 2021-2022 school year, all parents need structure and routine for themselves and their children. Balancing home and work has been overwhelming and I have spent a lot of my time talking to parents and the press about balancing remote learning and work.At-home learning is difficult, but pre-K and early elementary-aged children need a lot more parental support than older kids and teens. While all children need routine, young children need others to create the routine for them and need hands-on, tactile ways of managing their routine. Although it might seem like a lot of up-front work for parents, getting the schedule and routine right for at-home learning can actually make the experience easier for everyone.
Create a Daily Schedule
For little kids, setting a weekly schedule won’t work. Their brains can only process one day at a time, or even one hour at a time. To keep your child on track, you need to create a schedule for each day of the week that your child is in “school.”
For those kids and teens where virtual learning is continuing in some way shape or form, you want to check out my virtual learning checklist for kids and if you have older kids, check out my virtual learning checklist for teens.
Use Bright Colors and Pictures
Since young children may not be able to read a schedule, you need to think like they do. Use a bright color for each activity or find a picture that represents each activity. If you can do both at the same time, go for it!
For example, you might make reading time “red” (r is for “reading” and “red”) and cut out a picture of a book. Paste the picture of the book to a red sticky note. This visual signals to your child that the color stands for reading and gives an image that is relatable as well. You can do this for any subjects, although not all will have a first letter that matches a color.
Make It Hands-On
Little kids learn and remember things best when they can use their hands. A manipulable schedule does two things. First, children feel they have control over their actions. Second, they can see and touch their way through the day. Since children don’t have a good sense of time, checking off an activity gives them a way to see how many items are completed and how many they still need to do.
There are a lot of ways to create a hands-on schedule. The easiest and cheapest way is to print out a daily list, slide it into a plastic sleeve, and mark off tasks with a dry erase marker. If you want to do something a little more durable, you can buy a magnetic whiteboard, attach your daily visuals to magnets, and let your child take them off the whiteboard as they complete the tasks.
Kids learn best through play, and if remote learning has an upside for everyone, it’s that you can give your child more time to play than might happen in a traditional classroom. That doesn’t mean more technology play time either. There is an impact of too much technology on your child’s brain and body, so it is important for parents to have healthy technology boundaries too.
If possible, schedule times to play at reasonable intervals. Since most children lose focus after 15-20 minutes, try to schedule a “brain break” or physical activity that matches their ability to focus.
Some kids have a hard time transitioning between activities, so keep that in mind when making the schedule. If you know that your child doesn’t move between activities easily, build that time into the plan. For example, if you have a playtime scheduled at 10 am, schedule a “transition time” at 9:57 am and set a timer for yourself. Then, make sure to schedule another 2-3 minute “transition time” at the end of playtime before heading back to schoolwork.
Use an Alarm Clock
It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that children will listen to a timer or alarm before they listen to their parents. Since you can set alarms on repeat, this can be a big help to you, since you don’t have to pay attention to the time as diligently.
Set an alarm for the beginning and end of each scheduled activity, including transition times and playtimes. When the alarm goes off, it signals to your child that it’s time to change to a new activity.
If your child has sensory issues, you can use a light-only no noise alarm clock to reduce noise pollution and still give your child the notice that they need to change tasks.
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She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
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