5 Unique Ways To Make Virtual School Fun and Engaging

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News flash: It’s not just parents who are burnt out on virtual learning, many kids are sick of it, too. All this time away from their friends and their usual routines have many of them feeling lonely, bored, and fatigued from all that Zooming. This makes keeping them engaged and motivated one of the biggest challenges facing parents right now.

These five tips can help make virtual learning more fun, which is a boon for all kids, but especially those who have fallen behind since the pandemic began. These unique ways to re-engage them may be just the boost they need to catch up, plus make the role of “teacher” a little easier for parents to handle, too.

Build a lunch bunch. 

Just because the kids log off at lunchtime doesn’t mean they have to eat their PB&Js all by themselves. Coordinate with other parents to create a virtual lunch bunch, allowing the children a chance to socialize and goof off with friends while they eat, even if they can’t be together in the school cafeteria. Try moving the phone or laptop to a room where learning doesn’t take place to help shift the mood from school to fun for a little while.  Having a break to decompress can help them focus better on the second half of their virtual school day.

Change their coordinates. 

Who says you can only log on to classes from one location? Help your kiddo make a list of their favorite spots in the house, then select which classes they want to take in each spot. Even if your home has only a couple of rooms, moving from one side of a room to another can make all the difference, especially if the view out of a window changes, or they move from a desk for math to a pile of pillows for music class, for example. Even little tweaks in their surroundings can help them stay alert.

Theme your school weeks. 

Why wait until Homecoming Week to theme your school days? Provided your child doesn’t need to wear a uniform, try planning a different color or theme every day for the coming week together. It can be as simple as celebrating the Monday “blues” with an all-blue outfit or having wacky socks Friday, whatever gets them excited to start the school day. This is especially great for younger children who will love having their classmates see them “dressed up.” If playing dress-up isn’t your child’s thing, themes can pertain to the foods and snacks they’ll eat each day, or the games they’ll get to play after school, instead.

Make a school week scavenger hunt. 

Make a list of items that are easy to find around the house, then let your kiddo search for one item for each class they complete. Provide a reward when they collect all the items, like a special after school treat or a visit to the local playground. 

For older kids, who might find a straightforward list too easy, try placing toys or objects, special notes, or drawings in key spots around the house, then let your child try to figure out one riddle for each class they complete. The riddles should be simple and easy for your child to guess in a few simple seconds. For example:

You see me in the morning
And in the evening, too.
If you keep me clean and free of spots,
I’m a reflection of you!

In this case, the answer would be the mirror and the next riddle would be taped to the mirror they use most every day.  If you Google “scavenger hunt riddles for kids,” a slew of additional ideas pop up.

Dance breaks. 

Take a cue from some of the country’s magnet schools for the performing arts, and play music in between classes. Give kids a chance to create their own playlists for the school week—you may notice they stay more alert when they’re hearing songs they selected, and a quick dance is just the kind of movement break that experts recommend to keep kids focused. Just make sure the tunes they choose are upbeat and set the right tone for the school day. If you need help to get the party started, GoNoodle provides fun, free, kid-friendly movement and mindfulness videos.

Virtual school is hard on everyone, but it won’t be forever, even if it feels like it sometimes. A few simple changes can make all the difference between a child who hates to log on for classes and one who’s energized enough to stay alert through them.

The former Content Director at Parenting, and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.