By Jennifer Waddle, Crosswalk.com
Is there any real way to help your kid’s attention span while doing school online? Or is it a hopeless endeavor for parents and teachers everywhere?
I think we’ve all seen the funny gifs of kids hanging upside down at the dining room table, or making faces at the computer screen when they are supposed to be listening to their teacher. And while it’s laughable at first, it can quickly become exasperating for parents, teachers, and kids.
If you’re at your wits’ end trying to navigate a new season of virtual schooling, be encouraged today. We’ve compiled a list of 5 ways you can help you kid’s attention span and get the most out of online learning.
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1. Fuel Their Brains with the Right Kind of Fuel
Making sure kids eat breakfast before school has been a long-touted piece of advice, but making sure they get the right kind of fuel for their brains is a topic worth emphasizing.
While most families struggle to get everyone “up and at em” on time, it’s important to slow down long enough to ensure your child is getting a nutritious meal that will help their brains wake up and prepare them to learn.
According to this post, “Never skip breakfast! Having a healthy meal first thing in the morning is what gets your neurons firing.”
We can liken our children’s brains to a car that requires upgraded fuel to run properly. When filled with sub-par gasoline, a car’s engine will sputter, miss out, and even fail to run. So it is with kids. If they start the day with high doses of sugar, or no breakfast at all, they, too, will sputter, miss out, and even fail to retain what they are learning.
If you want to help your kid’s attention span, fuel their brains with right kind of fuel. Here are some easy, kid-friendly options:
- Chocolate peanut butter protein oatmeal
- Whole-grain toast with nut butter and honey drizzle
- Scrambled eggs with cheese
- Protein pancakes
- Breakfast sandwiches
Most nutritious breakfasts can be prepared ahead of time. Try to make three days worth of breakfasts to help keep your family on track.
Fueling your children’s brains with the right kind of fuel will only help their learning potential soar. This is one of the most important steps you can implement to ensure their attention span is running on all cylinders!
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2. Set Up Their Environment for Success
Kids need to have a learning environment that is set up for success. After all, one of the fun things about school is getting to have your own desk with your own personal supplies.
Set up an environment for your child that gives them both a personal workspace and the supplies they will need for every virtual class. Even if you’re using the dining room table, you can create distance between each child and set them up for distraction-free learning.
Here are a few small ways you can set up your child’s environment for success:
- Provide a small desk or table that is personalized just for them.
- Have all school supplies ready to go—preferably in a fun school box or zippered bag.
- Allow soft music to be played as your child works.
- Hang a calming piece of artwork above your child’s desk—perhaps a watercolor painting.
- Keep young children in sight, and avoid secluded work areas where they will be tempted to play.
- Be sure to have plenty of soft lighting to enhance your child’s learning environment.
One helpful tip from this post is, “Don’t stress if your child’s workspace isn’t as perfectly organized or as meticulously set up as a proper homeschooling classroom. If you engage your kids in the process and give them a place to sit, think, and learn, your family will be one step ahead this school year.”
By making a few small changes to your child’s virtual school environment, you might be surprised at their boost in attention span. Also, your efforts in making their space warm and inviting will let your child know how important learning is.
Here’s another article about creating portable workstations for your kids!
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3. Offer Them Incentives
Most kids light up when offered fun incentives to learn. Incentives give them something to look forward to and help them want to finish their work. Offering small rewards can help encourage children to pay attention, do what they’re supposed to do, and feel a sense of accomplishment.
The thing is, incentives can be as simple as filling up a sticker chart, or as complex as an outing on the weekend. Parents can brainstorm and come up with their own reward system to help motivate their kids to stay focused.
Here are a few easy ideas for incorporating incentives into your virtual school program:
1. Drop a few coins in a jar each time your child successfully participates in a virtual school session. When the jar is full, they get to cash it in for a trip to the dollar store.
2. Create “time tokens” for your child to earn extra T.V. or video game time. Time tokens can also be used to allow your child to stay up a bit later than usual.
3. Fill a prize box with inexpensive toys and gadgets. At the end of each successful week, they get a trip to the prize box.
Keep in mind, incentives don’t always have to be tangible prizes. Field trips, date nights, and outings to the ice-cream parlor can also be used as incentives to help boost your child’s attention span. The important thing is to give them something to look forward to at the end of each week.
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4. Incorporate Physical Breaks
As children are required to sit still for long periods of time, it’s crucial for parents to incorporate plenty of physical breaks away from the computer. Even adults in the workplace are given regular breaks to step away from work and decompress.
The best, most beneficial kind of break is something to get your child moving—preferably in the fresh air and sunshine. Even dancing in the living room or doing a set of jumping jacks can help stimulate blood flow and help with concentration. According to this article, “for many kids and teens, these mini-breaks make it easier to focus when it’s time to sit back down and do academic work.”
Allow your child to take much-needed breaks between classes and encourage creative activities that will help give their minds a rest. Consider these physical activities to incorporate into your virtual school day:
- Jumping rope
- Playing hopscotch
- Shooting baskets
- Having relay races in the backyard
- Setting up an obstacle course in the living room
- Homemade bowling
- Quick bike rides around the block
Another fun idea for incorporating more physical activity comes from this virtual-learning article: “Our school is only offering P.E. once each week so our children set up a video call with their friends. During this call, they all exercise to their favorite Go Noodle video or even appropriate music videos. It’s keeping our kids connected with their classmates and friends AND keeping them moving.”
As you begin incorporating regular physical breaks into your virtual school, it’s likely you’ll notice a much happier, focused child when it’s time to learn. After all, kids need to be kids, and offering physical outlets for pent-up energy is one of the best ways to balance school and free time.
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5. Encourage Your Children Every Chance You Get
A little bit of encouragement goes a long way. Just as adults like to hear the words, “well done,” kids like to hear words of affirmation as well. Encourage your children with frequent hugs and words of affirmation.
Here are a few phrases of encouragement you can offer your child:
- “I appreciate how you tried your best today.”
- “I noticed you didn’t give up, even when you felt frustrated.”
- “I’m sure your teacher is very proud of how well you paid attention.”
- “You are a good example to your friends who are also doing virtual school.”
- “I know it isn’t the same as being in the classroom, but you are really hanging in there!”
Another great way to encourage your kids is to post Bible verses around the house. Here are a few key verses to consider:
- “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid!” Joshua 1:9
- “With God, all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” Colossians 3:23
As you seek to encourage your kids each day, don’t forget to pray for them. Ask God to surround your family with peace and provision. Pray for wisdom and direction as your family navigates virtual schooling.
And as God gives you new mercies each and every morning, don’t forget be gracious to yourself.
You will get through this.
Your children will see that you are doing your best to help them succeed. And together, you will find ways to increase their attention span and give them what they need to succeed in virtual school.
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