Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions of schoolchildren still learning remotely as the weather turns colder, some might benefit from a few investments in their at-home experience.
The following items, all under $15, can help make distance learning more appealing to even the youngest learners.
1. New background decorations
When your child is on screen all day, sprucing up their background with a wall decal or two can help keep them in school mode, especially when virtual backgrounds are prohibited by school systems. Consider shopping for a school-themed wall decal like crayons, pencils, numbers or books. A quick search on Amazon or Etsy pulls up dozens of choices for under $15.
2. A clip-on selfie light
Small selfie lights that attach to the side of a screen can help light up your child’s face and ensure the teacher can see them, too. This light is especially useful if your student is sitting in a dark room or has a light or window behind them. You’ll want to make sure it’s not too bright for their eyes, but selfie lights generally allow you to adjust the brightness.
3. A paper planner
Even though distance learning largely takes place on a computer, it’s nice for kids to get some practice staying organized on paper. To keep track of homework assignments, due dates and even online classes, consider buying a small paper planner for your student. A pack of fine-tip colorful pens can also be a nice bonus.
4. Online programs to boost learning
After checking which free online programs are available through your child's school, you might want to supplement your child's learning with some relatively inexpensive academic games. Prodigy, a math game for students in grades one through eight, offers a free version and a premium version, which costs $8.95 a month (or less if you purchase a longer subscription). Scholastic offers a “Learn at Home” program that costs $5.99 a month. There are countless other options, so you might want to search online for educational games related to the subjects your child wants to practice.
5. A stress ball to squeeze
Kids of all ages (and even some adults) can struggle with sitting still and remaining on video for class all day. If your child likes to fidget, you might want to consider buying a large stress ball for them to squeeze with their hands or feet off screen. It can help get out some of their energy so they can stay focused on class. If you search online for “giant stress ball,” you'll find plenty of options for under $15.
6. Blue-light glasses
You’ve probably heard about the blue light being emitted from computer screens that can irritate eyes and even keep you up at night. To protect your child’s eyes from that stress, or just to make a fashion statement, you might want to invest in some blue-light glasses. They filter out the blue light and also look pretty cool. While some are pricier, plenty of colorful kids’ models are available for $15 or less.
7. Fine-tip dry-erase markers
Teachers often ask students to hold up their work on dry-erase boards or paper to help keep them on task. Using a fine-tip marker with an eraser tip can make it easier for small hands to fit more numbers or words on their dry-erase board; buying different colors can make it more fun, too. You can find multipacks for under $10 online.
8. Trifold poster board
If your child is easily distracted or working in a room with other people — including other children attending school on different computers — then surrounding their front and side views with a trifold poster board can help them stay focused on class. They can even decorate the poster board with photos and drawings.
9. Kid-size headphones
Headphones can also help cut out distractions, and there are plenty of kids’ headphones on the market for under $15. If you're willing to spend a few dollars more for wireless headphones, that can help reduce the temptation to fidget with the wires.