Most schools started the school year out differently this year due to COVID-19. While some are e-learning exclusively, others are using a hybrid schedule, and some are in school but with a shorter day. So as a parent, guardian, or nanny, how do you supplement the school day with learning activities that keep your children’s interest?
Here are 10 ideas that are both educational and fun to keep the learning going in a way that gets kids engaged after the school day is done, without feeling like more of the same!
1. Listen to audiobooks or podcasts
If your kids are reading during the school day, audiobooks or podcasts are an easy, screen-free way to keep this learning going using a different format. It’s also a great way for kids to practice attentive listening. There are so many high-quality audio books featuring popular children’s stories available these days, as well as a variety of excellent podcasts for kids that appeal to different interests, from storytelling to debate to science. They’re all presented in such a way as to keep young minds engaged and interested for the length of the program.
2. Create a spelling bee challenge
Spelling bees aren’t just reserved for school; they can also be carried out at home! Gather 10 or so new words throughout the week, make flashcards, and have your child memorize these words. You can use themes like colors or animals, or look up sight words that your child is not currently studying for school. For kids learning another language, you could also support their learning with a spelling bee that reinforces vocabulary that they are currently learning in the language.
3. Participate in a family book club
Although kids will likely be reading books assigned by their teachers, reading is an important enough skill to practice and encourage regularly, including outside of school. A fun way to support lifelong readers is by starting a family book club. Gather the family and take turns choosing a book to read together, either independently or out loud. Once you have read it, come together over a family dinner or special activity to discuss. You can vary the format of the book club to fit your family’s needs, such as reading out loud, using audio books, or creating a buddy system to help one another with the reading. While fun at any age, it’s an especially great family activity as kids start to get a little older. A number of great books for middle schoolers are just as interesting for mom and dad too!
4. Watch an educational video
Since COVID-19 hit, there has been an explosion of free online videos and seminars made specifically to engage and teach kids at home. These can range from cooking lessons to virtual zoo visits to art tutorials and so much more. Kids can even listen to stories being read by astronauts in space! And of course, there are a number of excellent documentaries made specifically with kids in mind to educate them on any number of topics, including the environment, science, and timely social justice issues.
5. Improve typing skills
More and more schools are incorporating Chromebooks and computer lab time into their curriculum. When kids are at home, they can work on their keyboarding skills by playing free typing games that are both educational and fun!
6. Work on penmanship
On the other end of the spectrum, with all the computer work kids do each day, working on penmanship offers a nice balance and time away from screens. Have kids write letters to their friends or family members, or encourage them to start a journal or diary to express their feelings or reflect on their day. Either way, writing by hand works those fine motor skills, teaches letter formation and how to hold a pencil properly, and offers a creative outlet.
7. Become a mini scientist
Science may be part of the school curriculum, but it can also be an entertaining at-home activity. Easy science experiments for kids can be quickly put together using materials you probably already have at home, and they can offer a fun way to keep kids busy while exploring scientific concepts from everyday life. For example, have your kids ever wondered how lava lamps work? They can use kitchen staples like water, food coloring, and oil to create their own DIY lava lamp, getting a quick lesson in density and polarity while also creating a fun bedroom accessory!
8. Volunteer from home
Families looking for ways to contribute to their communities while maintaining a safe distance can incorporate a number of at-home volunteer opportunities into their days, including some with a direct educational component. For example, Zooniverse is a website that makes it possible for anyone to contribute to real scientific research from home. Choose from different science projects, answer questions, and help real-life scientists evaluate and use data to solve a problem. For example, there are projects that help track animals in the wild or explore new research in space.
9. Play games over video chat
With social distancing being practiced and many children learning from home this year, socialization has taken a backseat. But, kids can still enjoy time with their friends and supplement their schooling by playing strategy games over video chat. Games like Battleship and chess can be easily adapted for play over video platforms and are a great way to exercise young minds through play.
10. Incorporate diversity education
E-learning or hybrid learning can be isolating, especially as current events highlight racial tensions and inequalities in our communities. This means that it’s important and timely to make an effort to teach our kids to appreciate and respect the many cultures, races, families, and abilities that make up our world. Incorporate diversity education into your child's home routine by purposefully reading children's books about diversity and inclusion or simply making sure to expose them to books or movies with diverse characters. Another idea is to follow the Library of Congress for their monthly commemorative observations, highlighting and celebrating different underrepresented groups in our nation.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to learning at home with family or through self-directed pathways. Now that there’s a blurred line between home and school, why not continue their education at other opportunities within the home? It keeps the kids busy while helping to supplement the gaps that may occur from COVID learning loss.