Making the Most of the Virtual Learning Experience

The best tips to help prepare your child for learning at home, whether it's a class or summer camp!

When schools closed suddenly back in March due to the coronavirus, kids had to quickly adapt to learning online. As we continue to navigate this pandemic, many summer camps have shifted to a virtual platform. Some kids, who may have fallen a bit behind with their schooling or who simply want to get ahead, will likely continue with some form of an online class this summer. You can bet that this fall, online learning will continue to be a part of our kids' lives.

For many, this is new experience, so we're sharing the best tips to help prepare your child for learning at home, whether it's a class or summer camp!

Create a designate learning space for your child

If your child doesn't already have a special place to do their work, it’s important to set up a quiet, clutter-free area for your child. This dedicated set up will help them focus and learn more effectively. Even at camp, there will be learning activities, art, and maybe even some physical activities planned, and this designate area will allow your child to fully enjoy the experience without any distractions.

Find the right program to keep kids engaged and interested so you have time for yourself

Many parents, now working from home, are faced with a juggling act — making sure their kids are learning and being productive, and having to entertain them — all while managing their own workload, including the household. It's not an easy feat. Find a program that is appealing and that keeps kids interested and engaged, to free up time to get your own things done.

Frank Goldschleger of Mad Science of Toronto, a leading provider of science-based programs, camps and birthday parties that immediately pivoted all of their programs and services online at the onset of the pandemic, shares: "If your goal of booking a virtual program for your child is to ensure that you can have 2-hours to either focus on work, join a meeting, pursue your hobby, or to relax (finally!) make sure that you are dealing with an organization that offers a hands-on approach to virtual programs. Our strategy has been to drop off all of the materials required for the week so that children are engaged and interested throughout our 2-hour block. If possible, eliminate all distractions from the room and discuss your expectations with your child well before the program is to begin."

Make sure your child is familiar with the technology

While most camps are using the Zoom platform, others are running via different video conferencing tools. Christina Kerr, Manager of Creative Learning Program Development at McMichael Canadian Art Collection — a popular Toronto attraction/gallery that is offering their ArtVenture camp online this summer, advises that acquainting your child with the camp's technology platform, is key to a successful session.

She also shares additional tips to prepare your child for the online experience and recommends that to make the most of camp, parents can also reinforce what the child is learning at home, and even expand on the camp's activities. "Familiarize the camper with the zoom platform [or other] and the device the camper will be using. This device should be set aside each day for the camper to use for their virtual class. Review the online code of conduct with your camper - how to demonstrate basic respect to others in a virtual environment. Create a space for creative expression and learning - this should be a space that is quiet and organized with all of the camper's art [or other] materials easily accessible. Encourage further learning when the virtual session is complete - go outside and explore and come back to camp the next day with questions or ready to share new discoveries!"

Prepare ahead and review materials and instructions with your child

Companies are offering many programs for all interests — ranging from art, to coding, cooking and so much more. Whether this is a new hobby for your child, or something they're already familiar with, it's important to review materials and instructions with them ahead of time so they are prepared for the class.

Chef Shai Mandel, Founder and CEO of Rooks to Cooks, a cooking program for kids — currently running its Rooks to Cooks Virtual Cooking Academy advises that: “Many virtual camps, especially cooking and crafting classes, will send you detailed preparation instructions following registration. In order to best prepare your child for the class or camp, it’s very helpful to read through the information (i.e. recipes or craft descriptions) with your children together to help you all prepare for your upcoming program. In the case of our virtual culinary programs, this step is especially important as each student comes with unique skill sets and comfortability working with cooking equipment. As such, it’s a good exercise to prepare all your ingredients and supplies and help plan for any required parental supervision or support that may be required.”

Ask questions and have fun!

Virtual learning shouldn't stop kids from 'raising their hands' and asking questions to clarify any of the materials being presented. All teleconferencing tools allow for opportunities to ask questions via a Q&A box, and the host will repeat and answer the question for everyone's benefit — just like in a live classroom environment.

Says Sheri Allain, founder of Codezilla Kids, a program that introduces kids as young as 4 to coding and STEM using software, apps and award-winning tech toys: "Don't be afraid to talk or to use the chat room, ask questions and have fun! Remember that the instructors are there to help you - they want you to succeed - and the 1st class is always the hardest, just like in real life. But it always gets easier and you get to meet new kids, sometimes from other cities or countries, online!"

Get the kids excited

Another fun aspect of this new learning service is that many companies are sending 'kits' ahead of time to aid with the learning experience or just to make it more fun for the kids. Often, parents can pick up the kits or they are mailed to your home. This can be an exciting aspect for kids and makes them eager to participate. And, you don't have to shop for any required supplies. Glama Gal Kids Spa is sending their GLAMPers a fun kit with all the items they require for camp, based on the week's theme. Same with Camp Tournesol, a provider of French camps and programs who is now offering all their services online. A package arrives prior to their first week of camp and includes an orange Camp Tournesol t-shirt, an awesome Camp T mask, and an envelope with assorted stickers, Camp T tattoos and badges.

Make time for physical activity

The kids are spending an awful lot of time in front of screens right now so make sure you break up their day with some physical activities. Exercise helps everyone think better. When we move and groove, our problem-solving, memory, and attention improve.

In summary, here's how to make the most of your online learning experience:

▪ Create a designed learning space and remove all distractions
▪ Choose an exciting hands-on program which engages your child
▪ Familiarize your child with the technology
▪ Review the online code of conduct
▪ Discuss expectations with your child
▪ Encourage further learning at home to support the activities
▪ Familiarize your child with any special equipment needed for the program
▪ Review all the instructions with your child ahead of the class
▪ Don't be afraid to ask questions
▪ Engage with other students and make new friends
▪ Stay active

Most importantly, kids should have fun while learning!

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