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  • Amy Neel

Filling the Virtual Gap

A parents guide to keeping kids engaged all day without fatigue, boredom or burnout.


We are officially into the Fall semester of the 20/21 school year and many schools have yet to reopen, forcing teachers, parents and students to embark upon another virtual learning adventure. Further complicating things, many parents are having to juggle how to manage their children's zoom schedules, assignment due dates, helping with school work all while working from home.


This is a recipe for frustration and

burnout on all fronts.


In the Neel house, we're just two weeks into our virtual learning and we're already facing the 'The Virtual Gap'. You know, it's that moment when the kids have done all their zooms for the day and all of their google classroom assignments for the week, but it's only 10am on Tuesday. You start hearing the dreaded, "I'm bored". You are tempted to sit them in front of the TV or let them play Minecraft all day just so you can get some work done. You aren't alone. These are difficult times. But fight that urge. There is another solution.


Our kids need to be enriching their minds and bodies during the school day. But that doesn't mean they need more busy work. It means they need to be engaged.


Let's use this unique time to help our kids become more responsible and independent. Let's empower them to take ownership of their own learning. Encourage them to explore things that peak their curiosity. Give them the resources they need to choose enriching activities to fill their day. Doing this will expand their minds and improve their physical and emotional wellbeing.


Want to know the best part?

Parents don't need to spend hours on additional lesson planning or a lot of money to keep kids engaged.


Below are some of our favorite resources, many that are free or low cost, that can supplement your current virtual/hybrid or homeschool program. You and your child can explore these options together. Let them decide what sounds most exciting. As soon as you hit 'The Virtual Gap', let the fun begin!


Physical & Emotional Development:

If students have been stationary and staring at a screen all day, this is a great place to start. Encourage them to move their bodies or quiet their minds. Try any of the following:


Play outside

Get a little vitamin D. Even just 15 minutes of sun can make a world of difference in kids' energy levels and attitudes. It sounds simple, but it's often overlooked. When kids were in school, they typically got outside time each day. Strive to make it a part of your schedule daily whenever the weather permits.


Dance

Of course you can throw on some music for an impromptu dance party but if you are looking for something more structured to fill the school day, search for a 'Kids Dance Class' on YouTube. Get specific with your search and you'll find some awesome options like these free options:


Free Hula Hoop Tutorials

kids hip hop class

kids Bollywood dance class

Kids Zumba Class

Beginner Ballet



Home Workouts

Encourage kiddos to move their bodies a few times a week at least. Try these fun and free at home workouts for kids and family.


Fun Family Cardio Workout

Beginner Kids Workout

Fun Jungle Exercise for Kids

Video Game Workout For kids

PE with Joe



Stretching & Yoga


Our all time favorite online kids yoga is Cosmic Kids. The lessons are made into stories with fun graphics that are perfect for keeping the Kinder - early elementary kids engaged for the whole lesson. If your looking for a more traditional yoga that is kids friendly, try these free YouTube videos:


Yoga for kids with Alo Yoga

Yoga for kids wiht Storyhive

Rainbow Yoga with Adriene


Meditation and Mindfulness & Emotional Development:

These are great skills to introduce your kids to at an early age and the internet has no shortage of free resources. Here are a few of our favorites:


Breathing Exercises for kids

Secret Treehouse Meditation

5 minute mindfulness mediation for kids

5 minute meditation: the gratitude tree

Be the pod: Cosmic kids Mindfulness meditation


In addition to free meditation videos, you can also purchase a few workbooks that are geared at young kids and teens to help them better manage their emotions, better articulate their feelings and become all around more happy, and confident kids. There are tons of options out there, but these are the ones we use regularly in our home.


Just Breathe and Just Feel are laid out with a quick lesson to read followed by an activity to help them better understand and apply it to their lives. Both of these books normalize difficult emotions and teach a variety of stress management techniques that are applicable to young children and teens.


Big Life Journal's are filled with fun journal prompts and activities that help deepen self love and gratitude while also teaching the importance or dreaming big, facing fears, working hard and giving back to our communities.


Music & Art


Kids are natural artists. Let them use their down time to explore and improve those abilities.

Try a free youtube tutorial for drawing a cartoon character or how to draw a cute ice cream cone. The options for kids art tutorials are limitless and free on youtube!


Same goes for music and voice lessons. If you have an old keyboard or guitar laying around, search up a lesson and you're kids will be learning an instrument while you work - so you may want to put some headphones on first!


If they are into drama, have them print up a free playscript or monologue and act it out for you. Bonus points if they want to create a costume or design a set for their big show!


STEM


Supplement core subjects by adding in some fun STEM activities. Khanacademy.org has tons of free resources and free classes for kids to explore.


For science, we love the 'Crash Course Kids' youtube channel. They have a plethora of videos about all things science that might interest your kids like gravity, engineering, space and more! If your kids like to get their hand dirty, there are so many free resources for fun at home science experiments.


10 easy at home science experiements

Brilliant Brains & Nervous System, Experiments for kids

25 cool science experiments to do at home

9 awesome static electricity tricks


Math isn't typically kids favorite subject, but it can be fun if you're playing a game. Check out prodigy. It's a fun and free Math game that my kids absolutely love. Cooking is another great way to make math fun. Let them peruse Pinterest for their favorite recipes. They will not only enjoy the lesson, but they will learn how math has real life applications. Check out these math/cooking activities:


Fractions and food for 5th grade

Numbers and letters with pretzels

Single serving cooking projects for kids


Also consider letting the kids explore technology. Have them try build their own website for free using wix.com. They can also try out coding with one of the following free games:


Bitsbox - coding for children

Scratch - an MIT coding program for kids

Code.org


TAKE A CLASS VIA ZOOM:

Lastly, if you know you're child has a regular gap in their weekly schedule, consider signing them up for a virtual class to fill it up. These virtual enrichment classes are a great way for kids to connect with other kids all over the world who share in their interests. The best part of this for work-from-home parents is that you know you'll have 45 minutes to an hour of uninterrupted work while the zoom instructor keeps your child engaged. Be sure to check reviews and make sure it's a high quality program. Not all classes translate well into a virtual setting, so do a bit of due-diligence before enrolling. Check out this blog post to learn more about choosing the right online classes.



Here are a few of our favorite online class options that are fun and affordable with classes starting soon!


Hula Hoop Dance and Hula Hoop Fitness

Yoga & Mindfulness + Hula Hoops

Circus Arts + Hula Hoops

Coder Kids

Little Birdies Golf

Language Kids World


I hope you found these resources helpful in bridging the virtual gap for your kids. This is in no way an all inclusive list, so I encourage you to subscribe to our mailing list for more helpful tips and activities surrounding charity, community, entrepreneurship, and more!







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