Part of preparing for this school year means getting kids organized and ready to learn despite where it takes place – online or in the classroom. To tackle this challenge, Sarah Groves, a mental health therapist at Akron Children’s Hospital, offers organization tips to help parents and kids during an ever-changing school year.
To be productive, kids need a space at home to get their work done. Every house and every family is different so now is the time to start making plans for where that learning space will be.
- Getting kids involved in where and how to setup the space can give them a vested interest in using and maintaining the space. A child’s request may not always be realistic or feasible so finding a compromise is key.
- Select a space that’s free of distractions like noise from the kitchen that may impact your child’s ability to stay focused on learning.
- If there is no set learning space at home, consider purchasing a lap desk to give kids a work surface that can easily move with them from room to room.
It is a good idea to have necessities nearby (pens, pencils, paper) so a child doesn’t have to go far to get items needed to get schoolwork done.
- Try to limit the amount of supplies your child takes to school each day to reduce the likelihood of losing supplies during transport or cluttering up a home learning environment.
- Consider a small, plastic pencil case that can be wiped clean daily to hold the same supplies at home or school.
- Each evening (or a couple times a day depending on your child’s level of organization) ask or assist your child in tidying up his workspace. This will help build a habit of organizing. Kids are also often more productive when a workspace is organized.
Timers, lists and personal reminders are helpful in keeping most children focused, but especially needed when there are new opportunities for distractions with a variety of learning environments.
- Set reminders for breaks, assignments, tests and progress checks to get your child in the rhythm of planning ahead and often to complete tasks.
- Children tend to use reminders more often when they’re part of the decision-making process for creating them. Younger kids may do better with visual queues like picture schedules or post-it notes whereas older kids may want to use technology like phone alarms, smart speaker reminders (i.e., Alexa) or virtual sticky notes.
Breaks – at school or at home – are important for kids to refuel, reset and maintain focus and engagement in learning.
- Schedule short breaks throughout the day that include some kind of movement and a snack/drink when necessary. For snacks, consider using a daily snack basket for each child and let him choose some of the snacks that go in it.
- Frequency of breaks should be based on each child’s age and individual abilities. The length of a break may also depend on the subject matter. Challenging subjects may require a quick break during a lesson to avoid frustration.
- A break from screen time – whether for learning or fun – is also important. Consider setting aside specific time for the whole family to be technology free and get movement and exercise.
“Identify successful strategies for organization with your child and work together to implement behaviors that will help him navigate a new style of learning,” said Groves. “Like any skill, the earlier organization is taught and the more often it’s practiced, the more successful a person will be with it.”
For more information on how parents can prepare for this school year, visit Akron Children’s return to school resource page.