Back to school: tips for healthy learning this fall

Back to school: tips for healthy learning this fall

As schools open back up again, there's a lot to think about to help keep our kids safe, healthy and learning optimally, both at school and at home. One way to do that is to set them up with a study area that really allows them to focus - especially now, since they'll be spending a lot (if not all) of their learning time at home.

Here are a few ways to create a learning environment at home that will help your child thrive:

1. Set it up in a quiet spot.

The obvious place is your child's bedroom, where they can close the door if they need to focus. But if they're sharing a bedroom, need a lot of support, or just like to be around people, you may need to find another spot. That could be a quiet corner of the living room (far from the TV, of course) or at the kitchen counter.

For smaller kids, rigging up a “fort” or indoor tent can give them the privacy they need without requiring a separate room. Live in a really small place? A drop-down/floating desk can go anywhere there's a little bit of wall space, and it can be flipped back up when it’s not being used.

Related info: Working from home in a super-small space

Girl on her computer

2. Make their work area more ergonomically-friendly.

If they’re looking up or down at the computer, that can cause neck pain and headaches. Set up the computer monitor so when they're looking straight ahead, their eyes rest on the top third of the screen. It’s an easy fix: just raise the screen to the right height using books or a sturdy box. If they're using a laptop, you can still do that (books or a laptop stand will do the trick) and add a USB or wireless keyboard and mouse so they can type with their elbows at a 45 degree angle (there’s less pressure on arms and shoulders that way).

Read more: Setting up a healthy home office on a budget

An adjustable desk chair can help support their back and ensure their feet are in a good position. If you don’t have an adjustable chair, you can optimize whatever they’re using: have them sit all the way back in the seat (use a pillow behind their back if needed). If their feet aren't flat on the floor in this position, put something under their feet like a stool, a box or a couple of large books.

3. Give them plenty of light.

Ceiling fixtures don’t always get enough light to a work surface. A desk or task lamp helps them see what they’re working on, and makes the space feel warmer and more inviting.

4. Get them outside.

Most kids are getting a lot of screen time these days, and virtual learning has added to that in a big way. Encourage breaks that don’t involve a screen (no moving from your online class to a game on your phone…) and have them head outdoors to run around, walk, ride a bike, or whatever gets them moving.

Mother adjusting son's mask

Keeping ‘em healthy at school

So that covers the time they're at home. But if you haven’t opted for a 100% virtual learning model (over 30% of parents say they will keep their kids at home this fall), what do you do when they're at school? Here are a few ideas from the parents on the team:

  • Pack multiple face masks. If a strap breaks or a mask gets lost, they’ll have a backup. Got a kid who's not a big mask fan? Pick up some kid-friendly coverings like these (our fave is the purple dragon mask from Lil Miss Dress Up). Or try a reward system for mask-wearing and hand-washing: stickers are always a popular option with the younger set.

  • Get hook-on hand sanitizer bottles. There are plenty of options that can be attached to a belt loop or backpack: buy empty ones in cool colours and fill them up from a large larger bottle at home.

  • Send food that can be eaten with a fork. That way, little fingers are less likely to touch their snacks. Stay sustainable with a fun reusable cutlery set - just give it a good wash with soap and hot water each night.

  • Pack a water bottle. A lot of schools have shut down water fountains, so keep kids hydrated with a bottle they can refill in the bathroom sink or at the refilling station.

  • Read through ALL the materials the school sends you. They’ve been sending a ton, and if guidelines change again, they’ll probably send more. But it's important stuff. Schools are assigning students to specific entrances, sending directions about flow through hallways and more. Make sure your child is comfortable with that info before day one.

This fall isn’t exactly ideal, but we do hope your family's return to learning goes smoothly, and that any bumps in the road are small ones. Happy back to school, everyone!

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