• Inspiring young people to engage with media in
    thoughtful & creative ways that support well-being.

What’s New & Noteworthy at Media Power Youth

Online Learning with Early Elementary Students

We are lucky that we live in a time when access to technology is enabling schools to continue to offer educational opportunities during a health crisis such as COVID-19, but now children as young as 5 are being asked to learn from online learning plans with little preparation. This is putting parents and educators on the spot to quickly switch to a new model of learning for their kids. Here are some ideas for smoother online learning for early elementary students.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screentime to one hour or less per day for children between the ages of 2 and 5. This includes educational videos and games experienced together with a trusted adult. With the new reality of students learning online, this might not always be possible. Here are some helpful tips to continue to manage young children’s screentime and their education.

Not all screentime is created equal

Ideally, the screentime students are experiencing via their online classes is high-quality and educational. Video chatting and calling are also not counted against students’ recommended screentime, which means that live-streaming teacher instructions, read-alouds, and even talking with family are all valued ways to use media. If children are playing video games, make sure they are games kids have to actively participate in (e.g. make some sort of decision like put a puzzle piece in a correct place or problem solve) versus ones where they are passively consuming content. With all screentime for young children, be present with your child while they are using a digital device. Play the game with them, ask them questions, and point things out to them. This encourages them to ask questions themselves as they grow older and to trust you as a source for digital media questions. 

Simulate the Classroom with Movement

Early elementary classes don’t sit in the same place for an hour while learning a lesson. They will go from rug instruction to table work to playtime and change these work environments about every 20 minutes. Work this into your online learning plans by moving around and outside your home for different lessons. Think about what areas of your home could be for certain activities, such as math at the kitchen table and reading on the living room floor. You don’t have to go far to create movement and a change of space. Moving from a couch to a chair could be enough of a reset for your child. 

Consider adding movement breaks between lessons and throughout the day. As kids move from one thing to another, challenge them to jump like a frog, or tiptoe as quietly as they can. Give them five minutes to dance and sing to their favorite song. Also check out GoNoodle, a great resource for educational movement for kids of all ages. https://www.gonoodle.com/good-energy-at-home-kids-games-and-videos/

Create a Routine

Your kids are used to weekdays going a certain way. This is a stressful time for them too, and knowing what will happen day-to-day will help them gain some control over the situation. Maintaining routines like morning wake-up and bed-times will give them a sense of stability and help them learn better. Many school classrooms have a visual schedule for children to follow. Make one of these for your home as an activity with your child. You can make a poster-style chart or small ones out of paper that allow your child to check things off as they complete them. For early readers, use visual cues to differentiate between activities, like a sandwich for lunch and a pencil for writing. You can draw these with your kids or print out black and white pictures for them to color. 

Make stricter screentime rules for after “school”

Now that instruction time involves more screentime, it’s a good idea to cut back on how much screentime kids are accessing once school is “done” for the day. You may be used to giving kids a specific amount of free time on screens when they get home from school to relax. You can choose whether or not to keep this as part of your child’s schedule, but make sure you let them know if any rules have changed. To encourage them to get off their devices, give them timed warnings. Let them know 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, and even 30 seconds before they need to give up the tablet or turn off the video game. This helps to set expectations and can prevent meltdowns. 

Give lots of breaks for exploring and play

Unstructured playtime is extremely important for early childhood learning. Encourage your child to take breaks from instructional time to play with their favorite, non-electronic toys, and join in the fun when you can. Whether it’s cooking fake food, making up a complex plot of doll life, playing dress-up, or building legos, let your child take the reigns when it comes to playing. Also, the outdoors isn’t closed! Taking your kids outside to learn and play will encourage less screen use and give your child an outlet for his or her energy.

Things have changed quickly, and they will keep changing. We can’t be perfect, but we can teach our kids how to be flexible and resilient. Emphasizing family time, exploring the world around us, and adding movement breaks will help homeschooling go more smoothly and will naturally minimize screentime for young learners. By staying engaged with your child and their activities both on and off-line, you’ll be making memories that your kids will be talking about long after this health crisis has passed.