My kids–starting second, fifth, and seventh grades this fall–are all learning from home right now. And while I’m in love with some of the cute home learning workspaces I’ve seen shared online (Kelle Hampton and Erica Ladd are a couple of favorites), we just moved into this house in July and I don’t even have it decorated from a baseline yet, let alone a refresh for my kids’ distance learning.
So instead of cute decor, my focus has been on pure function. We’ve seen how a few small purchases can make a BIG difference in kids’ ability to sit, focus, and attempt to learn in this crazy environment. Here are a few things we’ve learned so far:
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Chairs at school are sized for little bottoms; the chairs in my home are not. Finding a seating situation that was comfortable for each of my kids has been an ongoing process, but the more they’re able to sit with good posture, comfortably, the easier it is for them to stay focused in class.
I didn’t want to purchase a whole new desk chair (although I have two of these and love them), so instead I bought these Gorilla Grip Memory Foam Chair Cushions in a 6-pack for our dining room chairs.
If you have a really little one (preschool, kinder, or a petite little learner), try this Prince Lionhart Soft Booster Seat. We loved ours for the preschool age range.
We also have this Gaiam Kids Stay-N-Play Balance Ball, which is like a yoga ball with flexible legs so that it stays put like a chair. (Fair warning: some kids do great sitting on a yoga ball; others do not.)
Desks + Devices
It took exactly one day to realize that our school-provided devices placed on a desk surface made for a terrible camera angle on Zoom. The kids don’t care, of course, but I noticed that it appeared to the teacher as though their eyes were half-closed because the camera was lower than their face–by a lot. That made it seem like they weren’t engaged or paying attention, even if they were. Plus, looking down at the camera led to posture issues.
We’ve been so happy with these AmazonBasics Laptop Desk Stands–every member of our family now has one! It’s sturdy, non-slip/stick, and elevates the whole laptop so that the kids can sit up straight and look into the camera. (If you have older kids who are doing a lot of typing while zooming, you may want to grab a bluetooth keyboard so that they don’t have to type while laptop is on the stand. This hasn’t been an issue for my elementary school kids, who are mostly watching/listening/talking on Zoom.)
It took another few days to realize that my second-grader’s earnest penciling and mindless doodling were actually wearing grooves into my dining room table! We got this TOWWI Dual Sided Desk Pad and LOVE IT. It’s like a yoga mat for your desk area, smooth and soft but not so squishy that it doesn’t make a good writing surface. AND my table is protected. (This would also be a great solution if your table has grooves that create a funky writing surface!)
I also highly recommend comfortable headphones with a built-in mic. When kids can hear their teacher well, and when the teacher can hear them, they’re much more engaged in the lesson. Our school provided headphones by Egghead, but these PeohZarr Kids Headphones with Mic are similar.
To keep our devices charged and organized, we bought this Fast Charging Station for Multiple Devices, which works great for our iPads and iPad Minis. The kit only comes with three lightning cables and we needed more, so we picked up these Short iPhone Cable Chargers.
Fitgeting + Clock-Watching
It’s not easy for kids to sit still and listen, even during normal times. At home, without the visual classroom cues around them, it can really be a struggle. I have one child who chews on her fingernails, draws on her arms, and generally needs to keep her hands busy in order to focus. With a teacher’s blessing, having fidget toys a part of your learn-at-home setup can help with this.
These Silicone Sensory Chewing Beads are basically a teething toy for older kids. I give it to my second grader when she needs to chew on something.
We also love these POKONBOY Jumbo Squishy Toys; they make a cute desk mascot and are fun to squish when you need to fidget.
Finally, we all remember watching the clock at school and counting down the minutes to recess, right? School at home is no different. Even though our devices have clocks built in, they’re not always visible when Zoom is at full screen. A small, battery-operated (because nobody needs more cords!) bedside clock can help kids know how much longer until lunch.
Remember: Nobody is nailing this right now. Everybody’s kids are struggling. Cute home workstations might help energize you, but they’re not required. Your child’s teacher is your ally, and wants to hear what’s working for your kid. And, as always: it’s going to be OK.