The “secrets” to setting your child up for success with virtual learning: Executive Functioning

Parents are not getting enough credit for all that they are doing right now. The multi-tasking that is required for our world of virtual learning has become nothing short of an Olympic sport. However, there is no podium or medal to be received. What if there were a way to set up your child’s home learning space in a way that would reduce clutter, promote independence, and help with time-management? Wouldn’t you want to consider this for your child?

There is a way to maximize your child’s ability to learn and pay attention when doing on-line learning. It’s called Executive Functioning and it is all about the “hows” of doing things. These are teachable skills that help kids manage themselves, remember details, and get things done.

Let’s go over some of the “secrets” (hows) from the world of executive functioning that will help you maximize your family’s success with virtual learning.

Here are four key areas to consider:

  1. How will your child track time? Is there a daily schedule available to your child? Can s/he make a check next to completed activities? A daily schedule that allows your child to “do” something promotes independence and gives your child moments of control over their busy day.
  2. How will your child keep track of his or her stuff? Are there containers for supplies? A place to put completed work? A spot for school-issued material? It is useful if all of these items are within reach of your child.  Having an organized, labeled workspace allows for access to all that is needed and frees up mental space for the most important activity–learning.
  3. Does the furniture in your child’s learning space “fit” your child? Office chairs that swivel are not helpful to the learning process for children. Instead, use a chair that is sturdy. Can his or her feet touch the ground? If not put a stool below their feet so your child can touch something. This is an important sensation for a child to have. Is there a way for your child to have a “standing” workspace? Learning does not only occur sitting down.  A standing desk is ideal, however, a portable folding podium stand can work equally well.
  4. What is the plan for fidgeting/movement? Let’s face it–MOST children, even MANY adults fidget especially when there is nothing to do with one’s hands. So instead of trying to stop the fidgeting–invite the fidgeting and help your child learn how to do it in a way that helps him or her control the extra energy in a way that does not disrupt others. Here are my favorites.
  • Fidget chair bands are a low-cost investment that allows for legs to move in a way that is helpful to kids.
  • A cushion to sit on. Some children need to “sink in” to their seats so they can be still. Sometimes a house cushion works just fine and other times buying a “wiggle” cushion does the job better. 
  • A weighted lap pad. Weighted blankets are all the rage right now and there is a good reason for this–they calm the nervous system. A smaller weighted pad or a cushion does the same thing for many children. It sits on their lap and helps the legs to be calm. You can buy one or make your own by filling any empty pillow or even a tube sock with uncooked rice or beans.
  • Fidget strips on dots keep hands and fingers busy just like the fidget bands do for the legs and feet. Simply attach a piece of velcro loop strip that has an adhesive to the underpart of a desk or table. This provides an inexpensive tactile tool for children who need a little bit of sensory input to stay focused.

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