The new school year has begun for many, and it looks very different than past years. SPARK’s OTs wanted to offer a few tips for the kids tackling learning from home! We have compiled a list of occupational therapy-based strategies to promote distance learning success for your child.
*Please note: the following are general recommendations that may or may not directly apply to your child. If you have specific concerns, or are interested in more personalized recommendations for your child, please reach out to us!
Your child should be sitting in a 90/90/90 position (meaning ankles, hips, and knees should be bent to a 90-degree angle for appropriate sitting posture).
A child's feet should be flat on the floor and the desktop should be right under a 90 degree bent elbow.
If table is too high, elbows will be incorrectly positioned (up and out to sides). If table is too low, the child will slump in their chair or rest their head on their hand.
If you do not have a child size chair/desk set up, you can use the following suggestion to adjust adult size furniture:
Use a footstool to support feet if the child's feet do not rest flat on the floor.
Put a pillow behind your child’s back to help provide back support and help them sit upright.
Allow different seating options to be used throughout the day to avoid sitting fatigue. Check out point 2 for more details!
2. Varied Seating
In order to remain better engaged throughout the school day, your child might benefit from exploring alternatives to traditional sitting:
Lying in prone (on your tummy) allows a child to stretch out of the flexion sitting pattern when using a chair. This position is a great way for working on upper body strengthening and also provides a ton of sensory (proprioceptive) input, which can help improve focus.
If your child prefers to rock or wiggle, there are different movement cushions (that can be purchased from therapy supply stores) which may help your child keep their attention during activities. Alternatively, you can try to place two tennis balls on opposing legs of the chair. This will provide a ‘wobble’ that may provide your child with the movement input they are looking for.
Sitting on a peanut or therapy ball is a great option if your child is getting restless/tired of sitting still. It allows them to gently bounce, while still maintaining a seated position.
3. Computer Placement
The computer should be at eye level in order to maintain a neutral neck position.
If the computer is not high enough, your child will be flexing their neck the entire time they are using the computer.
Raise/elevate the computer to achieve a neutral neck position.
This can be done with commercial laptop/computer stands, or more simply, by using a correctly sized box to achieve the necessary height.
Provide your child with fidgets! It is normal for children to move as they work – it helps them focus. Fidgets provide an organizing effect to the nervous system, as electronics can be tiring on the eyes and brain.
There are a number of commercially available fidget products from therapy supply stores, but items from the dollar store can be just as effective.
Try filling a balloon with flour or a few marbles
Stretchy or squishy toys that can be manipulated
Rings that have a spinning top or bracelets that can be moved around the wrist
Putty/play doh that can be pulled, stretched, squished
Even a paper clip or dice can be fiddled with!
5. Movement Breaks
Kids need to move - movement breaks are a powerful and effective way to address regulation needs and help refocus attention.
Learning can be exhausting and online learning is not the same as being in the classroom (where kids frequently get out of their seats to sharpen pencils, switch seats for circle time/small groups, hand in a paper, get supplies, walk to music class, lunch, etc.).
Build mini-movement breaks into your child’s schedule even more frequently when they are learning online.
Before the learning day begins, do warm-up activities to provide kinesthetic input to large and small muscles groups.
· Jumping jacks
· Dancing Finger songs
· Simon Says
· Animal walks (e.g. donkey kicks, crab walk)
Throughout the day, encourage movement by having a dance party or doing exercises, such as safely jumping from the kitchen to their desk or squatting while brushing their teeth.
You can create movement break cards by writing different activities such as “plank for 30 seconds while doing simple math problems” or “crab walk while listing 5 things you learned today”. Keep the cards at your child’s desk so they can be easily accessed during their breaks.