Sure, we’d love to see our children excited about their return to remote learning, but the reality is the prospect of sitting through a regular-length school day from the comfort of their own room or living room can be daunting. Going back to school is hard enough for most children, but doing so without many of the perks they used to enjoy – face-to-face time with friends, some mild flirtations with their crushes, playing tag at recess, after-school sports or any of the other of hundreds of fun things that come with in-person schooling – can be downright disheartening.
Part of your job as a good parent is taking less than ideal circumstances and making the best of them. That means inspiring your kids to do the best they can during this new normal of remote school learning, but it also means adding some fun to their lives, wherever you can find it.
Nobody knows your kids better than you. Take some time to figure out how you can pepper their every day with fun and joy. And if you are short of ideas, here are seven to help get you started thinking about good times for your children.
Laboring Your Way to Good Times
Nothing brings more joy to children during the school year than a day off from school. This year, Labor Day falls on the second Monday of the school year, meaning the first weekend is a three-day weekend. Play it up. Go to the park, plan a barbecue or get your kids together with their friends (in person if possible or virtually). Sit with your kids and map out all the holidays, teacher planning days and other school breaks and come up with things to do in each. Remind them that the new normal still includes special days, and to cherish them even more than usual.
Good Old Fashioned Materialism
You can’t buy happiness or your kid’s affection. Well, not over the long run, anyway. But that doesn’t mean that some shopping won’t ease their return to school. Just because learning will be done remotely initially, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get some new clothes, shoes and accessories for the school year. If you are not yet comfortable venturing out to your local mall or department store, do the shopping online. Here’s a tip, wait until the school year actually starts – during regular years you need to get your shopping done before school starts, but this year there is less urgency – and take advantage of mark downs. Make your kids active participants in their school shopping during the first week or two of school as it will provide a welcome break to the reality of school work.
Set Goals with a Vision Board
For preteens and younger children, encourage them to think about goals and priorities for the upcoming year with a good old fashioned arts and crafts project – a vision board. It’s like a poster with pictures, drawings, stencils, stickers and other things pasted on it that will be fun to create while also helping them focus on the upcoming year. Display the finished product in their study/school space so they can reference it often and keep those priorities fresh in mind.
Take Advantage of Surroundings
Though it’s important to create a regular and consistent school learning, don’t be afraid to experiment with different settings when they log on. If you have a patio, backyard, balcony or other area that might break up the monotony of looking at a monitor, don’t be afraid to experiment with it. It’s important to make sure your child is focused on his teacher and the teaching software used, but putting them in a non-standard setting might serve as an incentive to keep focused.
Play the High Low Game
It’s always a good idea to nurture the relationship with your kids, but it is particularly important at the beginning of this school year. The High Low Game involves asking your children to tell them the best (high) and worst (low) parts of their day. It works best if discussed at dinner time and during the first week of school. Focus on things they liked or didn’t like about remote learning or what is new with their classmates. For more conversation starters, follow this link.
Encourage Appropriate Social-izing
Considering many of our older children’s obsession with social media already, you might not have to push too hard to get them active on social media. Still, being involved in their social media – to the extent that you are welcome – could help you direct their social media interactions, make sure they are safe and appropriate, and, hopefully, add to the fun.
Though kids are typically more attuned to what is trending and popular than parents, a couple of suggestions never hurt. For example, you can encourage your kids to take a photo of themselves all dressed up with nowhere to go for the first day of school and post it on Instagram, along with a funny caption (leave that to them, they’ll know what to write much better than you!). They then should encourage their friends to do the same. It’s a simple enough idea, but one that could make those first days of school more bearable and also let them see what’s new with classmates. Navigating our children’s social media use is tricky, so if you want some helpful tips check out this guide.
Find More Resources for Fun
The start of remote schooling this year will be filled with challenges and not all of them can be easily overcome. So don’t be afraid to look for help. Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) is instituting a new remote learning platform, My School Online, so expect some hiccups, but also ask your children to approach it with an open mind and enjoy the ride.
The M-DCPS also offers The Parent Academy that has a whole page of Virtual Family Fun. Teachers are sure to try and liven up your kids school days so don’t be afraid to reach out to them to ask for ideas or offer assistance. Remember, The Children’s Trust has www.StayHome.Miami with a whole slew of engaging, physical and mental activities to keep your kids entertained, while The Children’s Trust Parent Club has workshops that help build your parenting skills and share your experiences, including how to make back-to-school fun, with other parents.