Aug 14 , 2020
Distance learning doesn’t just mean leaving a child in front of a computer for 30 minutes every day. There are tons of unique challenges that parents and teachers have to deal with: lag and connectivity issues, limited social interaction, the hunt for new and improved learning materials…the list just goes on and on!
Balancing screen time with appropriate physical play is perhaps one of the hardest challenges any parent and teacher can face. After all, how do get a 2-year-old to pay attention to a video about shapes? How do you get your 4-year-old to stop switching to funny videos during an online lesson? Here are some terrific tips for parents who need to make remote learning easier and more effective for their kids.
Important Guidelines for Young Kids and Screen Time
Even though media and technology are crucial parts of family life, it’s still important to maintain a healthy balance between the digital and the physical world. Healthy and limited media use is crucial for preschoolers since too much screen time can result in long-lasting consequences for cognitive and socio-emotional development. When it’s time to begin online learning at home, do keep the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP’s) guidelines for responsible media use in mind:
- Children younger than 18 months should avoid any kind of digital media use, except for video chatting. Toddlers learn best from hands-on exploration and meaningful interaction with parents and relatives, not from passive viewing of videos and other digital media. Furthermore, infants and toddlers aren’t capable of transferring knowledge from digital media into the real world.
- Parents should choose high-quality learning apps and educational programs for children aged 18-24 months. Remember to also learn with your toddler instead of leaving him to figure things out for himself. After all, very young kids learn best from doing things together with caregivers instead of simply being left alone.
- Enforce media limits for children aged 2 to 5 years old. Kids at this age should enjoy no more than 1 hour of high-quality educational programming every day. Watch or play media with your kids to achieve meaningful learning and socio-emotional development, and balance TV time with healthy activities such as playtime and reading.
7 Tips For Helping Kids Enjoy Meaningful Remote Learning
1. Be Familiar With How They Learn
Educational researchers like David Kolb and Howard Gardner have helped us realize that not everyone learns the same way. Some kids learn by watching their teachers demonstrate a special skill, while others prefer comprehensive charts and pictures. Preschoolers learn mainly by action, but the kinds of activities and teaching styles they prefer aren’t all the same.
To figure out whether or not remote learning is working out for your child, take time to assess how they learn best. Ask yourself questions like: “Does my child get excited by arts and crafts, or do they prefer song and dance? Is my child really learning from online videos? Do group activities make learning more fun and effective for my kids?”
Once you’ve figured out what does and doesn’t work, reach out to your child’s teachers. That way, they can make lesson plans that really address your child’s needs and achieve great results with fun, effective activities.
2. Appeal To Their Interests
Kids have a better time learning new concepts when they get the chance to discuss and build upon what they already know. A little boy who loves cars and trucks won’t learn much from reading the textbook definition of a “trunk”, but he will have an easier time enhancing his word bank when he reads examples connected to his interests (e.g. “Where’s the trunk? That’s right! It’s on the back of the car!”).
During virtual meetings, encourage teachers and other parents to sing songs or show pictures related to their kids’ interests. Encourage your child to draw, paint, or write anything related to what he loves. Find educational materials that teach new concepts using your child’s favorite songs and cartoon characters. Remember to always connect ideas to what your child already knows so that they have an easier time learning at home.
3. Set Aside Time for Self-Reflection
Your child won’t always be able to tell you whether or not a lesson has worked out well for him. After every lesson, take time to help your child reflect on what he has learned. Your aim should be to figure out what your child has learned, what he has a hard time understanding, and how he could apply brand new concepts to everyday life.
Go over brief questions with your child after every lesson. Don’t ask questions that are too general, but instead use simple questions that your child can provide concrete answers to. Questions like, “Do you know what color this is? What do you call something really big? When it rains outside, what should you do?” If your child is much younger, you can assess their learning by doing activities or games connected to newly introduced concepts.
4. Keep In Touch With Friends Online
Socialization is important at any age. Playdates may be limited right now, but you can still help your child form meaningful friendships and develop their socio-emotional skills with fun group activities done online. Plan games or activities where kids get to work together and have fun, such as round songs or “I Spy”. Allow your child to show off his interests and bond with others through virtual playtime. As much as possible, give your child every opportunity to connect with others in a fun, meaningful way.
5. Don’t Be Scared To Reach Out for Help
No man is an island. Even the biggest and brightest geniuses in the world have to ask for help once in a while. Remote learning may be difficult, but you can make things easier for both you and your child by working together with teachers and other parents. If you have pictures and videos of your child playing or showing off his interests, feel free to share them with trusted teachers. Discuss how you can connect lessons with your child’s interests. Plan group games that everyone is sure to enjoy. Knowing that a friendly and reliable community has got your back will really help you get through tough times.
6. Create A Safe Learning Space
Kids need to learn in a healthy environment. Too many distractions can get in the way of achieving lesson objectives and making the most of remote learning. Set up a safe workspace that your child can use for learning-related activities. You’ll need to choose a spot that’s free from background noise, as well as distractions like toys and video games. If you plan to let your child watch lessons on a screen, make sure to choose a location with a stable internet connection. Finally, pick a room or space where adults can supervise kids very well.
7. Prioritize Hands-On Learning Over Screen Time
Kids learn more from doing things themselves than simply observing. It’s important to balance out virtual lessons with meaningful hands-on activities. When your child isn’t in front of the computer, take the time to do fun and interesting activities together with your child. You can simply play tag in the backyard, or mess around with paint and other finger-friendly materials. Your child is sure to learn a lot about the world and themselves when they get to spend meaningful time with you every day.