Normally around now most families are buying lists of supplies for their kids’ classes. This year, many schools are starting the year virtually in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. That change may have big implications for your back-to-school shopping.

We reached out to parents just like you to find out what supplies worked for them in the spring or what they’re gathering to help make virtual school successful:

A dedicated workspace. It could be an actual desk, a card table, a piece of scrap wood sitting on some bricks, or lap desk on a favorite chair. The important thing is that it’s their spot for doing work so it will help them change gears from a home to school headspace. Just make sure it’s comfortable and a place where they can focus.

  • Parent tip: Michelle, mom of two, is using small, laptop desks for each of her kids because, “they’re young enough I want them stationed near me for when they need help and to make sure they’re not getting off track.”

Customization options. Stacy, a mom who has home schooled her three kids for the last 17 years says that buy-in on the new work area is important. “Snazzy pens, nerdy school supplies, a new water bottle, a mug, a poster, etc.—anything they can think of to make it a special and comfortable, comforting place,” says Stacy.

  • Parent tip: Stacy also suggests letting your child think outside the box. For example, if they want to create a cozy corner by tenting their workspace with a sheet hung from the ceiling, consider letting them do that. If it means they’ll do their work, it’s worth being a bit flexible.

Spare charging bricks and cables. Many districts provide a laptop or tablet for students to use but having some spare cords or charging bricks is always a good idea. Things always seem to mysteriously happen to cords, and you don’t want to have a battery emergency right when they need to take a test or turn in an assignment.

Blue light glasses. Preschool teacher and mom of three, Betsy, suggests these and it’s a great idea you probably never thought of. Blue light—emitted by electronic devices—can interfere with melatonin production, the hormone responsible for helping us fall asleep. Blue light can also contribute to eyestrain (and headaches, which is why Betsy got some for her son). Theoretically, if you can block that light, you’ll reduce headaches, and increase the odds your kids will fall asleep faster with some blue light blocking glasses. The added bonus? They can become part of the home school routine, helping your child get in work mode. Glasses on, work follows.

Headphones with a microphone. If your child isn’t home alone, headphones could be really handy so they can have a conversation, watch a video, or hear their teacher over Zoom without you hearing all of it too.

  • Parent tip: Matt, dad of twins says, “Trexz Air Aftershokz for the win!” Admittedly, he isn’t getting these for his girls—but he loves them for the video meetings he has all day and, because they’re bone induction, he can still hear what’s going on around him.

Mindfulness apps. Shelly, a mental health therapist and mom of two teens says that you need to consider not just school time, but also break time and what that might look like. This expert mom suggests trying some mindfulness apps such as Simple Habit. She says, “It has lots of short—even just 5 minutes—mindfulness exercises for kids who are just trying it out.” Other app ideas from Shelly? Calm App (which has stories), Smiling Mind, and Happify, just to name a few.

School clothes … pandemic style. Colleen, mom of two says, “Extra PJs, sweatpants, soft clothes—they might as well be comfortable.” If they’re fresh comfy clothes that are only worn during school time, they can be their pandemic school clothes they associate with getting things done. And honestly, it’s not worth buying too many good things they could outgrow, and who needs the daily battle?

Shoes. Yes, parents are focused on letting their kids be comfortable during the discomfort of virtual learning—but shoes are on the list for a reason. Shelly, the mental health therapist, says, “Finding ways to get out in nature, get some fresh air and a change of scenery every day, even if just for a few minutes, will be very helpful to their mental health returning to this virtual world of learning.”

Exercise stuff. The younger your kids are, the more they need to get up and move—as you well know. Consider carving out a dedicated area/wiggle zone for your kids to be active to help replace their normal school gym class and playground time.

  • Parent tip: Ellen, mom of one, said, “I have a mini trampoline in our living room next to our desks. It’s great diversion from screen time or along with screen time—I use it too!”

A whiteboard. This is a frequent suggestion for grown-up home offices, but it makes just as much sense (or more) for kids. Your kids are used to going to a classroom with chalkboards or white boards—why not echo that at home? Whether it’s big or small, a whiteboard by their work space could provide a fun alternative to paper and give them another way to do work.

Schoolwork monitoring apps. This is for you, parents. Many districts are using apps or online platforms that have parent portals. These give you some insight into what assignments are due and how your child is progressing. This author recently discovered that Canvas, one of the programs our district uses, has a parent portal and it’s a gamechanger. Find out what programs are being used in your district and be sure to download and connect now so you’re ready to go.

The usuals. Just because school will be mostly online, your kids will probably also need some traditional supplies like pens, paper, folders, printer paper, calculators—and yes, maybe even a backpack or tote bag (maybe even a cheesy Scholastic poster of the “hang in there” cat?). This author is not going to go wild or buy many new things but is gathering a basket with spares ready to grab as they need them. Why some kind of school bag? There could be socially distanced in-person study groups or your older kids may just want to move their work somewhere else in the house for a change of pace.

 A single glass. This suggestion comes from Amy, mom of one, who made the blog contributors laugh on social media so we couldn’t resist adding it for the chuckle.

In all seriousness though, self-care is important right now. Parents and teachers are in uncharted territory so, although you’ve likely heard it before it’s worth saying again: cut yourself some slack as you navigate into this brave new world—you’ve got this!



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