#parent | #kids | How To Help Keep Your Kids Focused During Virtual Classes

My 4-year-old boy just slammed my laptop shut in the middle of his Zoom preschool class. Right before that, he was running around in his underwear on camera and then yelling into the screen, trying to tell everyone about his new Legos. Luckily, he was muted. Zoom classes might not be working for him.

According to parents on online forums and through socially distant conversation, kids of all ages are struggling through virtual classes during this pandemic. Hopefully, their kids are keeping their clothing on, though!

To get her child through Zoom classes, mom Janelle resorts to giving her daughter a steady stream of M&Ms. “It’s probably equa[ting] to one M&M every three minutes. I’m not proud of myself, but it’s getting the job done,” she says. That is a desperate-yet-clever mom measure.

My friend and local hairdresser Daphne has a 12-year-old boy who does not like being on camera because it makes him feel self-conscious. She’s been struggling with getting him to sit through his classes, though, and she says he does better with the teachers he likes.

In a recent Huffington Post piece, author Catherine Pearson suggests that kids might just be missing their in-person social lives. She says, “Instead of trying to fix their sadness by setting up more online play dates, help give them the vocabulary they need to express their feelings — and be open to hearing about what they’re going through.”

The last time we had an online play date, my child wanted the other kid to endlessly watch him dance on the couch to the song “Gangnam Style.” Not sure the other kid was as thrilled to comply, so we’ve been taking Zoom play date breaks here.

Play dates are one thing. But when it comes to school classes, participation is less of a choice. I asked some moms to share how they are making their children’s online classes work better, and here’s what they said:

Mom Sandra says her 7-year-old does much better with smaller groups. She says, “His teacher tried doing a class with all 24 kids, and he hated it, but calls with five to six kids at a time work well.”

Keep it Short

Sandra also says that 15 to 20 minutes of class is her son’s limit, and after that he’s not able to focus. Our preschool classes are 30 minutes long.

Keep Them Busy

Mom Rachel gets out some props, which she says makes a big difference. She says, “My kindergartner keeps a Rubik’s Cube and a couple other small trinkets to keep his hands and mind busy, while the rest of him has to sit still. Also, doing 5 to 10 minutes of silly wiggle time before the class starts can help.” Mom Melissa gives her kid clay to work with during classes, too.

Keep Them Active

Mom Melissa has aerial silks suspended from her daughter’s bedroom ceiling, and an hour before class she lets her swing and practice her “circus act.”

Keep Them Fed

Mom Emma also makes sure her kids are fed and in a room by themselves, rather than in a big living room where they are distracted.

Vlada Lotkinda is the CEO of ClassTag, an online classroom events management and parent involvement tool for teachers. She offered some tips on how to help your kids optimize their Zoom learning:

  1. Prepare ahead of time. Make sure your child goes to the bathroom and isn’t hungry before hopping on Zoom sessions. Also, set them up with any supplies they might need such as writing utensils and paper. A comfortable environment, and meeting needs beforehand, can help children retain information.
  2. Talk about digital etiquette. The digital world, just like the real world, comes with a set of social expectations. Children might need to learn how to mute themselves or be appropriately dressed for Zoom sessions. It is important to set children up for success and tell them what to expect and how to act during Zoom sessions.
  3. Help with technology. Check the internet connection and set up microphones or cameras beforehand. Learning new technology can be hard on students, so it is essential to help them adjust to their new learning environment.
  4. Reflect and Encourage. Take time to reflect with your child after Zoom sessions. Zoom sessions can be lively and interactive. Connect with your child and ask them questions about what they learned. This is also a great time to positively reinforce any digital etiquette skills they successfully used.

For my next step, I think I’ll take some of this advice and start a Lego Zoom with a few other kids and see how that goes. And when it comes to virtual school, as long as our children are feeling heard and being set up for success (and keeping their pants on), we might have a chance at helping them learn a little better.

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