Using Routines to Support Virtual Learning

Guest Blogger and Founder of Rooted in Routine, Jessica Rapp Irwin

Let’s face it - virtual learning is HARD. Between the lack of structure, distractions that abound at home (constant snack requests, anyone?), and the expectation that parents are now teachers (like what?!), it sure is a wild time we’re living in. Here are some tips to help make virtual learning run a bit more smoothly by leveraging the power of ROUTINES:

  1. Create a visual schedule. This is where you write down, in order, exactly what your child is going to do, and then have them mark it off as they complete each step. You can create a schedule for the entire day or make one for the span of an hour or two. For example, your child’s morning schedule might be “eat breakfast, get dressed, online learning with teacher, eat snack.” Writing this down will help your child understand what is happening next and know what to expect, which is one of the most important factors in reducing tantrums or refusal behaviors (those “I don’t want to!!” moments). If you prefer not to write your own, Rewardums makes reusable sticker routine charts - they stick to any surface and kids LOVE them. Click here to purchase with my affiliate code!

  2. Set up a consistent “learning space” with limited distractions. Try to have your child sit in the same spot each day when they are logged into virtual learning. Help promote better focus by removing any toys or objects nearby that could cause distractions. If your child is sitting in a chair, make sure your child’s feet can touch flat on the ground (if not, use a stool or stack of books!), which helps your child’s body feel more supported. However, don’t be afraid to try alternate positions, such as having your child lay on their belly or even stand up while completing school work. Sometimes these alternate positions can actually help with better attention!

  3. Use a visual timer. This can be a sand timer, a kitchen timer, the Time Timer, or even an app (there are many free ones, just be mindful if having another screen nearby will be even more distracting for your child). Visual timers help children understand the concept of time because they can SEE how much time is left to complete a task and transition to the next. Give your child the “job” of setting the timer before they begin their virtual learning session. This helps give them some control over the task.

  4. Include movement breaks and/or outdoor time within the day. This is VERY important! All children need to move their bodies, especially when expected to sit in one place for very long. Build these breaks into the schedule rather than using them as a reward or something that only happens if they get “X” amount done. Movement can actually HELP your child pay better attention to school work if done as a preventive measure. Getting outside for even 5-10 minutes can do wonders, but if that’s not possible, there are plenty of ways to move inside. Put on music and have a 5-minute dance party, do 100 jumping jacks, or play a GoNoodle video on YouTube… all great ways for your child to move his or her body!

Jessica is a childhood routine expert, pediatric occupational therapist, and lover of all things child development. She founded Rooted in Routine to help parents learn simple, easy to implement routines for optimal child development starting at age one. She is passionate about educating parents on NORMAL, HEALTHY development, which is often simpler than we think. Her approach is largely rooted in going back to the basics to help you establish solid, age-appropriate routines for your child for things like eating, play, and sleep. She believes this is the most important foundation you can provide for your child - and she wants to help you do just that!

To learn more about Jessica, visit her website at or follow her on Instagram at @rootedinroutine.

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