Tips to help your kids adapt — and thrive — in a virtual learning environment

MADISON, Wis. — With school starting virtually for many kids in Madison on Tuesday, local health experts are offering parents some advice on how best to handle another round of learning from home.

Pediatric occupational therapists at UnityPoint Health-Meriter say kids’ brains are highly adaptable, and there are a few things parents can do to help them adjust and succeed in a virtual environment.

Here’s what they recommend:

  1. Keep a consistent schedule similar to school schedules.
    a. Make avisual schedule with pictures, post-its or a chalk board. Review the schedule each morning so children know what to expect and can help manage the flow of events.
  2. Take purposeful breaks
    a. This is important for kids and parents working from home. For each 25 minutes of consecutive screen time, work in a 5-minute break away from the screen. Ideally you can get outside, but if that’s not possible, find other ways to move your body.
  3. Create a dedicated school space
    a. Even if it’s just a small corner, having dedicated space will help your child focus on the task at hand. Keep all school-related materials and supplies in the “school zone.”
  4. Consider blue-light reducing glasses
    a. If your child already has prescription glasses, you may want to have blue-light reduction added to your next lens order. If they don’t normally need glasses, you can find affordable blue-light glasses at many retailers without a prescription. These are effective in reducing stimulation in your child’s brain while they are actively completing work.
  5. Quality interaction time
    a. Spend time together at the end of each ‘school day’ to discuss what went well and what you can work on to do better tomorrow. This focus on the present and what we can control is helpful during such uncertain times. Try to plan one or two exciting activities to look forward to each week.
  6. Discover sensory experiences around you.
    a. Your child’s senses may be deprived when sitting at a computer all day. Add in sensory activities, like gardening, bike riding, leaf raking or playing I Spy. Outdoor activities specifically can help improve sleep quality.
  7. Make a “chill corner”
    a. Similar to designating a school zone, create quiet space for when your child needs a break. Include pillows, blankets, books or stuff animals. Visually interesting objects like lava lamps or glow in the dark stars are also helpful. Classical music or nature sounds are an added bonus.