Young girl on couch learning on computer for school.

Preparing Your Kids for Back to School During the Pandemic

Updated August 3, 2020 . AmFam Team

This school year may look a little different for many, but with a little preparation you can get your kiddos in the back-to-school mindset. We’ve got some tips to help.

The school year is quickly approaching, which normally means you’re shopping for school supplies and first-day outfits. But this year, the pandemic has likely caused your focus to shift. Whether you’re preparing your kids for virtual learning at home, deciding how to manage a mix of online and in-person schooling or anticipating whatever unexpected circumstances the school year will bring, things will certainly be different this year for you and your kiddos — and it’ll take some time to get used to the changes.

But stay positive! During these times, it’s important to remain flexible, keep as much normalcy as possible and talk with your kids about what’s going on. And don’t forget — you’re not alone! We’re here to help with five tips to get your astute little scholars in the back-to-school mindset.

1. Create Conversation

Whatever your situation, heading back to school will take some adjusting for both you and your kids. Start by having a conversation about what going back to school will look like this fall. Be open and honest with your kids while remaining positive. Let them ask questions and remind them that they aren’t alone in this — you’re here for them if they feel sad or stressed. Continue the conversation daily so you know where their head is at and if you need to make improvements to their day.

2. Create a Dedicated Workspace

Since your kids may be spending much of their time learning at home this year, create a dedicated space for their schoolwork. Here are some tips to put your pseudo classroom together and spark your kid’s curiosity and creativity:

  • Let them pick out fun school supplies for their desk, like colorful markers and pens, funky pencils and erasers, and other supplies to make their space irresistible.
  • Keep their workspace organized with bins, baskets and shelves for storage. Do you have an old tackle box laying around? Here’s your kids first at-home art project! Get out the stickers and let your kiddo give it some color. Once complete, they can keep their art supplies organized inside.
  • Create a wall calendar with a whiteboard or poster board that you can update each week with their school schedule. Include lunchtime and other breaks in the day, like recess, where they can look forward to getting up to give their brains a break.
  • Put up some fun posters and display the artwork they create. The more their space looks like a classroom, the more they’ll be in the school mindset.

There are countless things you can do to create a fun workspace for your kiddo. The best part? It’s a space that you and your kid can customize to fit their learning style! Just make sure they know that, when they enter this space, their focus should be on school as if they’re in the classroom.

3. Create a Daily Checklist

Most children thrive on routine, so having a daily agenda is key to keeping your kid in the school mindset. A schedule is bound to flex here and there, but consistency will help them stay on track and help working parents manage their time, too.

Sit down with your kid to create a daily checklist that they can follow and cross off each day. Here are a few things to include:

  • Break the day into morning, lunch, afternoon and evening so they can create expectations throughout the day.
  • Regardless what time their virtual class starts, have them up and ready for school at the same time each day.
  • Give their brain time to wake up. Whether it’s fifteen minutes of reading before their class officially begins online or giving them time to play, get their wheels turning before jumping into the school day.
  • Their morning routine should consist of similar things they would do if they were going to physical school — like making their bed and getting dressed.
  • Have planned check ins with them throughout the day, especially for younger kiddos, to see how their day is going. Are they struggling with something? Did they learn something exciting? Keep the communication going!
  • Once the school day is done, make sure they have their desk tidied up and ready for the next day.
  • Have an after-school activity on the agenda as well! Kids need something to look forward to as a reward from a day of learning. Whether that be a virtual play date or running around outside with their siblings, make sure they have something to keep them motivated to finish the day strong.
  • Establish a bedtime and have them get ready for bed at the same time each night. After a full day of learning and activities, they’ll need a good night’s rest!

You can personalize your checklist based on your unique situation at home. Even after they’ve settled into their routine, keep the checklist to continue instilling good habits, like accomplishing daily goals and staying on top of projects.

4. Create Social Time

School is a great way for kids to interact, develop social skills and — simply put — have fun! As this unconventional school year begins, it might be difficult for them to adjust to the inaccessibility of their peers, which could show in negative ways throughout the day. Try out these tips to keep kids connected when schooling from home:

  • Schedule virtual play dates with a group of friends or just one-on-one time. Students may already see each other virtually throughout the day at school, but this is time set aside for fun!
  • On a similar note, have virtual lunch with friends from school. Find another family(s) and schedule lunch at the same time. Your kids can enjoy the social time together during the school day — without the smelly cafeteria!
  • Get out the stationary and have them write a handwritten letter. Sure, it’s an old-school way of staying connected, but it’ll teach your kiddo better writing skills as well as how to address and mail an envelope. They can become pen pals with a friend or send a letter to a loved one.
  • Sometimes you just can’t beat in-person connection. Plan a meetup at a park — even a front yard will do — where you can bring lawn chairs and social distance by staying six feet apart and wearing masks. Get creative with different games, like charades, BINGO or Simon Says.

By scheduling social time for your kid to interact with others, you’re nurturing the stimulation that naturally comes from being around peers during the school day. This can help keep them focused and on track when it comes time for learning!

5. Create Motivation

As your child adjusts to the virtual school year, it might be difficult for them to stay motivated all day long — and that’s okay! Give them support by being understanding of their situation and coming up with solutions together. Here are a few things you can do to keep them driven:

  • Give them incentives throughout the day. Whether it be a fun treat for being a good sport during their least favorite class or letting them have an extra “recess” for finishing a test, giving them something to look forward to can help them stay focused.
  • Many classrooms have reward systems that help kids remember classroom rules and empower good behavior. They also motivate students to be more productive because they create a feeling of pride and achievement, boosting their self-esteem. Work with your child to come up with a reward system of your own with prizes that motivate them, like extra screen time or movie night.
  • Is the middle of the week especially difficult for them? Support some local businesses and surprise them for lunch with carryout from their favorite restaurant. Or maybe a family pizza party for dinner is the perfect mid-week pick me up they can look forward to. Layering in fun into learning will go a long way this school year.
  • Help your kid let go of some built up pressure by trying mindful meditation throughout the day. Between balancing online learning, homework and the changes brought on by the pandemic, giving them time to really tune into themselves and block out the outside world can be super beneficial. Make time during the day for them to reset, refresh and ready to focus.

This school year will undoubtedly have its challenges, but you can do this! There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for how to transition to the new normal, so go easy on yourself. Once the year gets started, talk with other families to see if there are any tips and tricks that have worked for them. Above all else, be patient with your child or children as you all adjust. We’ll be here to help you along the way.

Looking for more resource to help prepare for school during COVID-19? Head to our back-to-school hub.

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