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How to Keep Kids Motivated While Schools are Closed

Eight tricks to keep kids learning at home.

Home schooling in Hong Kong will be extended past April 20 until further notice. Keeping students motivated as this unusual state of affairs continues may require some extra magic on the part of parents. Try these tricks to keep kids learning.

  1. Try a change of scenery. Try having different subjects in different rooms. The brain loves novelty and a new setting can be just what some students need to stay motivated to learn. If your family has NOT been travelling in the last few weeks you may consider finding a picnic table or quiet cafe for online study. Of course, observe proper social distancing guidelines when doing so.

  2. Work beside them. It can be lonely doing all that coursework by yourself, especially when you are accustomed to learning with your peers in a busy classroom. School is an incredibly social environment, with children constantly surrounded by their friends and teachers. While you can not replace that, working alongside them at the table will help ease the loneliness and model focus and concentration.

  3. Allow students to work together. When it is possible, and observing necessary precautions, consider setting up small study groups. Social interaction can generate excitement, motivate kids to reach a goal, and keep them interested in learning. Group work also offers much-needed relief from isolation.

  4. Let them listen to music. Music has a well-known mood lifting effect. Make sure the music they choose does not have lyrics as these are distracting to the brain. Classical music or sound recordings, such as ocean waves, or “nature” sounds are good choices. Playing the same music or sounds during study time can help signal to your brain that it now time to focus and concentrate. Then when it’s off, it’s time to relax. Do so on the condition that they must be productive while listening.

  5. Take a break. It goes without saying that kids should be taking regular breaks throughout their online school day to stretch, move, eat, and let their minds roam free. On the weekends, be sure to set school aside completely and do pleasurable activities as a family such as playing boardgames, cooking or baking, making art, or getting outdoors.

  6. Bribery… I mean rewards. Everyone loves rewards, and offering your child the chance to earn something is an excellent source of motivation. These rewards do not have to be big: it can be a sticker on a worksheet, a movie night at the end of the week, pizza night, or a new book or board game. Feel free to use charts to show progress towards longer term rewards – the accumulation of stars or checks will be a strong visual to support continued good work.  Consider using daily, weekly or even monthly rewards that can only be attained by consistent work. Be mindful of the child’s age and their sense of time. For younger kids, a week might as well be a year so they need something more immediate. Older kids or teens can handle longer term.

  7. Praise and encouragement. Everyone responds to praise and encouragement. Even as adults we crave recognition and praise, and students at any age are no exception. Use your praise as a reward to recognise effort and good work. You can also use it to bolster flagging spirits, giving kids the boost they may need to continue.

  8. Negative consequences. Sometimes positive strategies are not effective. If you can’t motivate your child with rewards and praise, it may be time to switch from good cop to bad cop. Loss of privileges or rewards may motivate them to refocus on schoolwork. Save these as a last resort – with school work negative consequences do not work nearly as well as praise and rewards.

Do you need help keeping your children motivated? Contact the BFDC. We can help.