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Tips for Making the Most of Online Lessons & Activities for Kids
Even though the state of emergency has officially been lifted for the entirety of Japan, online learning is here to stay. Schools will likely stagger days in the classroom in the months to come and, without medical interventions for COVID-19, many families (understandably!) will be hesitant to invite tutors or babysitters into their homes.
The good news is that online offerings are much better today than they were even a few months ago. Teachers have the hang of corralling kids for storytime. Tutors have found digital tools to help with language learning. While we all hope in-person education and entertainment comes back in full force soon, we're happy to have these resources in the meantime!
As your family continues to take advantage of the wide array of digital content, we've rounded up some tips on how to make the most of online learning opportunities.
1. Interactivity is Key
There is a LOT of content online that you can use to help entertain and educate your kids. But the vast majority of it is one-sided: lessons or activities presented to children that don't require any feedback from them. While these are great "distractions," they aren't great options for helping your children in the long-term. Interaction is key - especially for language learning. Make sure you're finding online resources that allow your children to be part of the action, whether that's one-on-one or within small groups.
2. Eye and Ear Health
Staring at a screen and/or wearing headphones for long periods of time can have lasting effects. Your kids can become physically fatigued in addition to the mental exhaustion online learning can cause. To counteract eye strain, employ the 20-20-20 rule for your children: every 20 minutes, they should spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet (six meters) away. For kids who are wearing headphones for extended time periods, this article from the New York Times has some important considerations. You might also want to think about purchasing noise-canceling headphones, as they help the wearer hear clearly without needing to blast the volume.
If you've had back-to-back-to-back Zoom conference calls, you know what it is to be burnt out from screen time. And your kids are no different! A day of online learning has a uniquely draining effect. Be cognizant of how many digital lessons and activities you have planned, as well as what time of day they're scheduled. For younger children who still nap, late afternoon may be a no-go but earlier in the morning could be prime time.
4. "IRL" Supplementary Activities
As good as the best online sessions may be, you shouldn't treat them as a total replacement for "IRL" (In Real Life) activities. Your kids still need to play and interact with their environment. This extensive list has lots of ideas for things to do, including many that get your kids (and you!) outside and active. You can also ask your child's teacher if there are projects they can do offline that will complement what they're learning online.
5. Reasonable Expectations
The most important thing you can do for your children as they learn and play online is to be realistic! There will be days when they just DO NOT want to Zoom (especially younger kids whose attention spans are iffy in the best of times). Learning new concepts may prove more difficult online, but that doesn't mean they are impossible; you just need to be prepared to give them time. All of us are doing our best to make the best of this situation...remember that means your kids are, too!