Bring Learning Home: 5 Tips for Successful At-Home Learning
With the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, educating children at home is more important now than ever. Experiencing day-to-day uncertainty isn’t easy for any of us, especially kids.
Many parents and teachers are finding themselves asking, “What now?” While we can’t answer that question directly, we can offer ideas to help make the most of your time and your child’s at-home learning.
Not only do engaging games, puzzles, crafts, and activities bring comfort – and joy – during difficult times like these, they are also great for reinforcing distance learning and homeschool lessons in FUN ways. Follow along for 5 ideas for how to make learning at home easier, from playing games to setting goals, to help make learning at home a success.
1. Find screen-free fun!
Bring laughter and learning to family time with games. Playing games is great for building essential social and emotional skills. While there may be many ways to teach kids to take turns, practice patience, read social cues, and follow rules, playing games makes building all of these skills interactive, intuitive, and FUN!
The exciting themes in our new Card Games keep kids’ attention round after round. The games are simple to learn, yet have enough strategy and challenge to entertain older siblings and adults right along with the youngest of the bunch.
Want to target more specific learning skills for math and language arts? Check out our educational learning games for friendly competition and challenging practice the whole family will enjoy.
Turn playtime into practice time with matching puzzles. Fun-to-Know® Puzzles for young children are one of our favorite screen-free ways to tackle lots of subjects and encourage independent play. The pictures relate to real life and the vocabulary words encourage early reading.
Looking for playful activities for quiet times? Reusable Wipe-Off® Books are perfect for keeping preschoolers and kindergarteners happy and engaged with loveable characters and game-like activities (mazes, matching, dot-to-dot, and more).
Match Me® Games are matching and memory games for kids that focus on young-learner basics. Plus, they play three ways for lots of worthwhile fun.
You know it by name: BINGO! Our games can be played with just two players, with luck-of-the-draw excitement and unique topics to interest a variety of ages.
Creative Play & Crafts
While some days may call for a little more TV time than others, it’s important to balance screen time, study time, and creative play. Crafts and homemade learning aids give kids valuable, open-ended play options and inspire creativity.
Celebrate seasonal changes and holidays with DIY craft decorations to keep kids busy and foster their creative sides. Decorate flower pots and have fun watching the plants grow. Give the activity a science-spin by starting with a seed and monitoring the life cycle of the plant. Learn the stages, and then label the flower pot during each stage and record its growth.
Create handmade books and encourage kids to write their own. Use our Thankful Things Book as inspiration. It’s uplifting to see all the things kids are thankful for, even with life’s current challenges.
Puppets are always fun! Create your own puppets to role-play scenarios, make your own plays, and reenact events in a book you are reading.
Take Learning Outside
Screens off, brains on! As long as your health and the weather allow for it, take some time each day to get outside to enjoy the fresh air. Use these activity ideas as starters to creating your own outdoor FUN:
- Turn a walk into a scavenger hunt! Use this free printable for ideas or create your own hunt specific to your region and season.
- Craft a nifty pair of magnifying glasses by rolling strips of trimmer, borders, or paper to help with the search!
- Take notes and when you’re back inside, continue your research so you can tell teach your family about your flying friend.
- If the weather allows, find a bench or quiet spot to log some reading time.
2. Make each day count.
Healthy habits and learning progress continue even when schools are closed. Keep up with (and track) important daily activities from reading to hygiene and physical exercise with incentive trackers.
Creating daily goals for kids to work on not only gives them opportunities for success, but also brings added purpose to each day. Hang your tracker/tracking system where kids will see it and can refer to it often.
Choose the tracking type that works best for you!
- Incentive Charts: work well with many goals and students; great for showing everyone their progress and are a handy visual reminder for kids. They will love adding a sticker to check off each accomplishment too.
- Success Charts & Incentive Pads: tracking sheets on handy tear-off pads make it easy to track one or many individual goals each week.
- Print-at-Home Sheets: use digital papers to create your own tracking worksheets to encourage individuals to set goals and build good habits.
- Choose learning-focused goals for kids to work toward. Goals can include practicing skills they were working on in school or learning about new subjects they find interesting, are excited to learn, and will be proud to share.
- Be sure to name goals that are trackable and realistic.
- Ideas include: tracking reading hours each week, memorizing 15 states, capitals, or countries, learning about the first 10 U.S. presidents, memorizing multiplication facts to 12, recognizing and spelling 25 sight words, and so on.
- Your daily routine has a whole new look – help kids remember and prioritize tasks that used to be “automatic” by setting personal goals.
- Divide and conquer! If you're looking to track chores, household, and self-care for each child, we recommend Success Charts. The categories (Myself, My Room, My Home, and so on) encourage kids and parents to think of a wide range of tasks. Bonus: Stickers included to celebrate success!
- Practicing self-care is a top priority today. Remember to include hygiene tasks to build healthy habits for kids.
- Make sure positive reinforcement continues while kids are away from school. Kids’ “regular” treat/rewards may not be an option these days, but it’s still exciting for them to choose the Friday night movie, a special dessert after dinner, and so on.
- Design a reward crown out of paper trimmers, letters, and stickers for kids to wear to celebrate a big accomplishment!
- Use small stickers to mark tasks complete as daily rewards on incentives – buy stickers in bulk value packs to track lots of tasks.
- Create a reward system where kids “buy” large reward stickers once they have earned a certain number of small stickers.
- DIY a reward system for kids to collect stickers! Invite them to “buy” large reward stickers once they have earned a certain number of small stickers or make these Collect and Reward Sticker Rings to personalize your tracking system.
3. Schedule your days.
It’s true that kids are resilient, but they are also often dependent on routines. Creating a schedule helps shape at-home days and provides structure, which can be comforting for kids (and a lifesaver for parents).
Create a Daily Schedule:
Use a large reusable chart to write the day’s schedule on it. Here are some tips for the schedule:
- Give each activity a start and end time. This timeline will keep kids accountable and on task. You can even set an alarm/alert to let them know when time is up.
- Include “assumed” tasks like clean up (after breakfast, playtime, and so on) for different activities. This helps kids remember to finish one item before moving on to the next and will help keep spaces orderly.
Work together to create the schedule. This is a great way to get them to understand (and agree to!) limits for screen time, important chores, and so on. This also gives kids opportunities to volunteer in helping which makes them feel valued (and helps you out – win-win!).
For parents with younger children, it may be helpful for you to make the schedule for the coming day after kids are in bed. This allows plans to remain flexible during uncertain times, without breaking promises for agreed-upon activities.
Include “The Big Picture”:
It’s great to look to the future, even if we aren’t certain what it holds. Parties or events might have been canceled, but the dates of birthdays and holidays can still be recognized on a family calendar.
Wipe-Off® Calendars are handy for creating a visual of the month as a whole to show special events, appointments, and so on. The easily erasable surface makes changing plans simple and easy. Use different colored markers to color-code by event type or person.
4. Create spaces for learning.
Dedicate spaces & organize supplies
If you have several kids/parents at home, dedicate a space for each person to set up where they can stay focused, whether working or schooling. If the areas you’re using are dual-purpose, like the dining room, use supply boxes for easy setup and cleanup each day.
Label a storage bin (this can even be a shoebox!) to organize homeschool supplies. This is where kids can store items (crayons, markers, notepaper, calculator, etc.,) they’ll need for schoolwork that's unique to their tasks. When the day starts, each person takes their supply bin to their dedicated space. When it’s time for everyone to use the space, simply tidy the items in the bin and store it out of the way. Easy!
Get kids excited about their bins by letting them choose items to keep in them. These do not have to be new items – they can add a special pencil they normally keep in their backpack or desk, a book for free reading, and so on. Label the bins for each person and decorate if you like.
Decorate for learning
If you’re teaching remotely, homeschooling, or are operating a day-care center, you can replicate the learning atmosphere of schools, even if your space is small. Decorating your non-traditional space with learning materials and charts to support lessons can make a BIG difference.
Decorations, like educational posters and charts, set the tone for learning, engage kids, introduce new concepts, and bring learning to life with photos and visuals.
Reinforce topics with Bulletin Board and Learning Sets. The three formats bring many opportunities to teach kids of different ages in spaces of any size. The sturdy paper can be held up in hand without flopping over and can also withstand being pinned up and taken down again and again (making quick changeovers a breeze).
Need a quick manners reminder? Create a "class rules" poster for home! Kids are used to having the rules displayed. Work together to create a custom homeschool rules poster.
5. Incorporate learning in everyday tasks.
There are lots of learning opportunities in daily activities, it just might take a little practice to recognize them. Let these ideas spark some of your own!
Math Practice At Home:
A simple twist of each task can turn most chores into valuable math practice! Putting away dishes? Count them or categorize them. If you’re baking a lasagna or cake, cut it into 12 pieces and ask kids how many pieces each family member gets. Split or double ingredients in a recipe for fraction practice, stack reusable storage bowls by shape and size, sort laundry by color, and so on.
Reading Practice At Home:
Decide on one (or two) periodical subscriptions to receive as a family. Not only will this give everyone something to anticipate (you can mark it on your calendar!), it’ll also be a source of fresh reading materials. It might be a good idea to choose a newspaper (local or national) as well as a topic-focused magazine.
Daily newspapers provide lots of opportunities for learning. From the article topic to the vocabulary used, there’s likely something for everyone to learn! Reading current events together also gives kids the chance to ask questions about what’s in the news (COVID-19, election debates, recalls, and so on), and it lets parents respond and provide context for events that are confusing or even scary. Consider choosing different newspaper sections to read together so kids get a full picture of current events and also do not become overwhelmed or bored by repeating topics.
Topic-focused magazines are also a fun periodical to receive. If you have a less-than-enthused reader, choose a topic that especially interests him or her. You’ll be amazed to see how excited they get for each new issue! Bookmark articles you’ll read together and ones for them to read on their own and tell you about.