Distance Learning for Lower School Kids: Fun Activities and Resources to Keep Them Busy and Engaged

March 17, 2020 Danielle Wood

With so many schools going “virtual," school administrations have been ramping up their remote learning plans. While some of these are applicable to younger learners, lower school students are likely to need a different approach. Here are some recommendations and suggestions that can be used by both schools and parents to keep the learning going during those days at home.

1. Establish a schedule.

Create a visual schedule: During the “school week” post a visual schedule, if your child can read and tell time, write it out. If they can’t read, draw pictures or print clip art. Establish some way to show when an activity is completed. Today’s activity: make a schedule together. 

2. Play the long game.

Pick a theme for the day/week but don’t reveal it until that day, and then try to build activities around it. For example, if the theme is camping, read books about camping, build a “campsite” to play in, watch related shows, and make s'mores (this can be done in the microwave) or ants on a log for a snack. Make a daily journal with space for pictures and words and have your child draw or write about the day’s adventure. 

3. Get festive!

Last week was St. Patrick’s Day. Who doesn’t love a little Leprechaun trap building with Irish music in the background, which you can probably do with the stuff you have in recycling—leftover boxes and containers—partnered with scotch tape, paint, glue, glitter, string, etc. 

Get a box of Lucky Charms and if your children are old enough, have them guess how many is in each pile and then check by counting (by 2s, 5s, 10s). For younger kids, sort them into piles to see how many different patterns they can make. Have them draw them. Then yes, they get to eat them. Clearly this then means “recess” to run off all that sugar!

4. Create your own puzzle.

Color a picture in a coloring book and cut it up into odd shapes. Want to buy more time? Have them tape it back together. 

5. Break out the arts and crafts.

We’re taking it old school. Pull out all the magazines you have around the house, give your child a glue stick and some kid-friendly scissors. Create a collage that follows the “theme” of the day/week and/or a certain letter or sound. Remember pen pals?  Yep, let’s bring those back, too. Writing letters, drawing pictures, addressing envelopes, and practicing your home address are all valuable skills and there’s still nothing quite like receiving mail. 

6. Make your own memory.

Precut papers for your child and have him or her draw shapes, word wall words, spelling words, etc., to create an educational game of memory.  

7. Rainbow writing.

For spelling words or word wall words, write the word in pencil and pick 4 colors in crayons/markers/colored pencils and “rainbow write” your words. 

8. X marks the spot.

Have your child make a “map” of a room (on paper, a large piece of cardboard, you name it). They (or you) can write a set of clues to find the hidden treasure. 

9. Label it. 

Post-it notes are your best friend. Have your child label items around a room. Inventive spelling, or spelling the word like it sounds, is the name of the game. 

10. Record it.

Record yourself reading a book on your phone (remember the “beep” sound to turn the page?) so your child can “read along” by him or herself. Have them record themselves and then listen back to it!  

11. Make your own whiteboard.

Create your whiteboard using dry erase markers and windows or mirrors. This is a great way to practice writing “word wall” words, spelling words, and math facts. And it’s far more fun than paper. Another option is to grab a cookie tray and some sugar or salt. Practice writing words, drawing shapes, numbers, etc. It’s a great tactile option. Note: test this out on a small area first and be sure to wipe it down when you’re finished for the day.

12. Schedule related arts time.

Think of all the “specials” your child attends: art, music, computer, science, PE, library and more.  Build these into your day at home, especially the PE portion. Movement is so important! Do yoga together, go for a nature walk, ride bikes, create an obstacle course, crank some music and play freeze dance. The options are truly endless.

13. Flip the script.

Let your child be the teacher and teach you one “subject” each day.  They’ll love it.   

14. Build-in quiet/independent time.

Your child is used to being in a class with others and working independently.  Naturally, being at home is different, but don’t feel like you need to fill every minute of the day. 

15. Take it day by day.

Many of the activities above require some degree of adult participation/supervision, which might not always be possible as you try to balance your job, your child(ren), potential illness, and a lot of uncertainty.

There’s a lot of educational content out there via websites, apps, YouTube, and even television shows. And it’s absolutely okay to use it. We've gathered some additional resources from reading and writing to math and science below.

Free online resources:

Reading and Writing

  • Storyline Online: Stream videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. 

  • Books to Enjoy: We Are One World: Collection of read alouds, drawing activities, and writing activities.

  • Scholastic Learn at Home: Includes four separate learning experiences, each built around a thrilling, meaningful story or video.
  • Storytime from Space: Watch astronauts on the Space Station read children’s books and perform science demonstrations.

Math

  • Education.com: Word Study, Math, Reading and Writing worksheets, lesson plans, and interactive games. You can sign up for a free account. Preschool through 5th.   
  • Khan Academy: Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom.  

Social Studies and Science

Arts and Creativity

  • Wonderopolis: A question of the day blog that provides answers to frequently asked student questions.  Includes texts with a read-to-me function and a paired video. 
  • STEM Maker Station Activity Packet: three weeks of activities by Brooke Brown using materials from around the home. 
  • Mo Willems - Lunch doodles everyday at 1pm ET. 

About the Author

Danielle Wood

Danielle Wood is a content marketing manager for Blackbaud K-12. Experienced in multimedia and marketing, Danielle has an eye for design and a passion to create meaningful communication.

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