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10 tips from a teacher for making distance learning work

And they're all totally doable. For real.

distance learning tips
Photability/Twenty20

Parents are on edge this school year, not knowing what to expect with distance learning—or perhaps we're just remembering all too well the many challenges of distance learning last spring.

The nature of the COVID beast means that information is changing rapidly, and so are all the plans guided by that information... including school. This wait-until-the-last-minute way of living has been nerve-wracking to say the least, especially for those of us parents who rely on a color-coded schedule for each day to keep things moving smoothly.

As an educator and a mom of three, I knew I needed to try something different this fall to help set all of us up for a better experience with distance learning.

Here are a few tips that can help make the start of virtual school go a little smoother.


1. Check your attitude.

I know this is hard. Big time hard. Trust me. I have been in the house with three very active kids since March, and if I could safely send my kids to school, I would love nothing more than a day of peace and silence. But until it's safe to go back, make sure you project a positive attitude in front of your kids. This is a great opportunity to model how your family deals with difficult situations and overcomes challenges. I am not saying pretend everything is fine, but do try to keep your frustrations and anxieties from influencing your child's view of distance learning. Remember they are always listening and watching.

2. Create workstations.

I definitely went down the Pinterest rabbit hole with this one, but then I remembered my new life mantra: simplify, simplify, simplify. The best remote-school work space is a desk or table, preferably near natural sunlight, with a few sheets of paper and plenty of sharpened pencils. We know that our rising fourth grader can work independently in his room so our dilemma was figuring out where to set up our rising first grader. While he could work next to dad in the office, we all know that means nobody would get much of anything done. If we set him up at the dining room table, I would have to keep the toddler away from him all day so that's a big not-gonna-happen. We decided that he would be able to focus best if he also works in his room at his own desk where I can still check on him without the toddler making a surprise Zoom appearance.

3. Set your kids up for success.

Is your child a little wiggle worm who struggles to sit still for longer periods of time? Consider getting an exercise ball or a wiggle pillow. (We set clear expectations for these two items.) Make sure to allow for time before school starts for kids to be able to get used to these new "toys." Losing some of the novelty will hopefully keep kids from bouncing on the ball too much (wishful thinking?). Since our boys are very, very active, setting them up for success also involves being physical before classes start. We live in a neighborhood that spans an .8 mile circle, which is just the right amount for my kids to jog twice. Though they complain about having to do this, they always return in a better mood and more awake than when they left.

4. Ask kids what they think will help them.

My boys requested play-doh, fidget spinners and a zen garden. They know that they need something in their hands and these are ways that they can engage in sensory work while still paying attention to their teacher. As a teacher, it was difficult for me watching my kindergartener build Lego during his Zoom session. He didn't "look" like he was paying attention—but he was. He even cried on the last day of his summer class. It was an important reminder for me that paying attention looks different for each kid.

5. Teach kids how to get (and stay) organized.

Pin passwords and Zoom log-in information right on their desk where they can see it. This will alleviate the frustration of trying to log into various Zooms and not remembering each teacher's information. Then, show your kids that when classes are done for the day, they need to have a spot for their homework and folders for their various subjects. Everything needs to have a spot and their space should be tidied up each day. I have found that my kids often don't know what I mean when I say "tidy" so I try to be as specific as possible. "Pencils and pens belong in the pencil holder" or "Homework goes in this folder so it doesn't get lost" is clear and specific.

6. Post individualized positive affirmations.

I have seen sheets of affirmations that can easily be printed offline but the best ones are the ones made with your child. At the beginning of each baseball training session, my husband asks my boys to yell "I CAN DO THIS!" Though it took me some getting used to this yelling, I quickly saw the benefits and effects. My 6-year-old's confidence was increasing session after session and missed hits did not lead to melt-downs anymore. Create a sheet of positive statements with your child that they will read daily and start to internalize.

7. Use emojis for quick check-ins.

Communicating feelings can be tricky, especially when the feeling is not straightforward. Especially when it comes to things like Zoom fatigue, I know I need to equip my kids with new terminology so they can express themselves. Putting a piece of paper with a variety of emojis in a clear sheet allows kids to circle the picture of how they are feeling. This can be wiped down daily (or hourly) and used again the following day. Even if my kids don't know what they need and can't put a name to the feeling, it's helpful for me to see what they have circled.

8. Involve the neighborhood in outdoor time.

I am thrilled that our local elementary school decided on a long lunch break, from 11:30 am to 1 pm. That gives kids enough time to eat and then play outside from 12-1 pm. We are hoping to set up some kind of neighborhood rotations that would allow kids to play safely outdoors in different yards during this "recess" time. If that idea doesn't come to fruition, I know my kids will be riding bikes and playing outside during this hour.

9. Establish clear expectations for screen time.

In order to avoid melt-downs in regards to screen time, we have been up front with our kids that things will change once the school year gets started. Since the majority of the day will be spent in front of screens, video games will have to wait until the weekend. Of course, they balked at this change of their routine, but at least now they have a few more days to get used to this change.

10. Communicate with the teacher.

Although I have been a teacher for over a decade, I still get nervous about how my kids will do in other classes. As if my kids will be the only ones who struggle with distance learning. I know better. Yet, talking to my friend who teaches elementary school made me feel so much better. I just needed to hear what I already knew from another teacher. Of course the teachers will be understanding, of course the teachers will work with my kids, of course my kids aren't the only ones who will get off track. Teachers are super nervous and I know from my various online teacher groups that they, as always, just want to be the very best for your child. Partner with your child's teacher. And let's all remember to go into this bizarre school year ready to show our kids, our teachers and selves some grace.

Tackling distance learning at your house this fall? We've got some products that can help.

Dough Parlour fruit set

Dough Parlour fruit set

These fruity play doughs are scented with 100% food-based scents and combine unmatched textures and gorgeous hues to create the ultimate sensory experience.

$22

Plan Toys child's round table

Plan Toys child's round table

Little learners will love this table designed with kids in mind. The surface doubles as a chalkboard, while the storage space in the middle is an ideal place to store toys or art supplies.

$120

Plan Toys natural wooden chair

Plan Toys natural wooden chair

Pairs perfectly with the round table and provides littles with a kid-sized place to learn and focus.

$65

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

$159.99

Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

$29.99

Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

$14.99

Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

$24.99

Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

$8.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

$7.99


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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