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Calming Activities to Destress: For Elementary Schoolers

Finding a sense of calm is likely difficult for kids right now, no matter their age. Our world as we know it has halted. It’s been replaced by what seems like one long, continuous day where there are few happenings that distinguish today from yesterday. It is disconcerting, to say the least. For children and teens, who typically find comfort in normalcy and routines, today’s upended society is even more jarring. Stress is inevitable right now, but there are ways to address it. Read on to browse our list of therapeutic and calming activities for children and teens.

 

Stress-relieving ideas for younger children

  • Cursive writing is sadly a thing of the past—most elementary curricula do not include cursive writing or penmanship anymore. However, this downtime could be a blessing in disguise for children who are eager to learn to write in cursive. A quick Google search will provide parents with countless tracing templates, letter formation practice sheets, and lined handwriting pages for young kids to begin their work with cursive writing. Also, since cursive writing is not typically part of the elementary curriculum anymore, children won’t feel as though they are doing homework or schoolwork. Instead, they will see it as an optional “new” form of writing that they can practice as they please. Additionally, for students with various issues involving fine motor control, some parents find that cursive writing is actually easier for their child. The unbreaking, continuous movement of the pen or pencil connecting the letters is often less labor-intensive.
  • Coloring books have experienced a major revival right now, especially since people are finding themselves with more leisure time. Coloring while listening to soothing music, like instrumental Disney songs, can be a great way for youngsters to pass the time and calm their minds. Better yet, there seems to be a coloring book for every interest, hobby, character, and theme! Coloring is something that the whole family can participate in together. When finished, display your children’s work around the house to showcase their artistic accomplishments!
  • Jump roping and hula hooping are great rhythmic options for kids to embed some cardio into their day. These activities require coordination, concentration, and focus, so they are great for banishing stressful thoughts. You can also turn this practice into a challenge by setting a timer and having your child track his or her hula hoop skills! Just remember, the point of this activity is for your child to take his mind off of stressful thoughts, so if you notice him getting frustrated with the jump rope, it’s time to take a break!
  • Blow bubbles as a mindful moment to practice deep, rhythmic breathing. Bubbles are an outdoor childhood favorite. Not only will young children admire the bubbles’ colorful iridescence, but watching them slowly float away is a calming activity while enjoying some fresh air. Blowing bubbles also provides an opportunity for children to practice mindful, meditative, deep breathing, which helps to reduce stress and bring peace of mind.

Read a book or listen to an audiobook on a rocking chair or porch swing. The consistent rocking back and forth helps to ease stress and relieve tension with soothing motion. There is something comforting about listening to an engaging story while gently rocking that can help center young children if they’re feeling exceptionally distressed.

Following Directions

Since distance learning and online instruction has rapidly become the new normal for students all over the map, navigating this new forum has presented both teachers and students with learning curves. Through just the first few weeks of digital/virtual instruction, I personally have recognized an increased need for concise, explicit, and thorough directions on assignments. What I initially thought were clear instructions have often been met with various questions.

 

It sounds obvious—of course students need to be provided with specific directions on any given task. However, we teachers have been relying on face-to-face explanations, visual models and examples, and chunked verbal guidance without ever realizing what it would be like to take all of those supports away. Well, now we know. Even with video platforms like Zoom, Screencastify, etc., the ability to fully instruct, explain, and clarify is somewhat muddled. As beneficial as these tools can be for distance learning, these platforms simply do not provide the same level of guidance that face-to-face classroom instruction provides.

 

Now that teachers have begun to anticipate the various (numerous!) questions that students pose while distance learning ramps up, we can certainly recognize the importance of modifying our way of providing written directions.

 

  • For tasks that are going to require multiple steps, teachers need to present students with each individual step separately. This also means that each step will likely require its own set of directions. For example, an English teacher chunking a five-paragraph essay for students should provide specific instructions and requirements for each paragraph, separately.
  • This could mean creating a unit checklist; drafting a week-by-week calendar with steps labeled for certain days; or creating a sample of each separate paragraph with each sentence highlighted to demonstrate key components.
  • Introducing an assignment in steps also allows students to ask more specific questions when necessary. Instead of receiving a bunch of emails saying, “I’m confused about the essay,” students can specify exactly which step they need clarification on.
  • This level of micromanaging an assignment might seem excessive, especially for older students. However, providing step-by-step instructions while chunking a multi-step task will be crucial for student success during distance learning. This is especially true for students with different learning needs or executive functioning deficits.
  • It would also be helpful for teachers to include suggested time management tips for assignments as well. A top complaint that parents are voicing is the amount of time their children are spending trying to decipher their assignments.
  • Teachers should consider including the amount of time that each task should take in the instructions. That way, students who may plan on taking an hour to complete a 20-minute assignment can adjust their workload appropriately.
  • Use specific language in the directions that you would like students to use in their assignment. For instance, directions for analyzing a videotaped science lab should include content-specific language that students need to know as part of the unit. For example, teachers should bold or italicize the terms hypothesis or variable so that students key in on important aspects of the task.
  • Add specificity to your standard rubrics. What teachers thought was a clear rubric is likely lacking since we are unable to verbally explain grading as we typically would in class. If the history essay rubric requires “mastery in voice and structure,” teachers should clarify what that should look like.
  • For instance, the rubric might need to include guiding questions for each category. Do you maintain present tense throughout? Do you introduce your body paragraphs with sound claim statements? Do you utilize unit vocabulary throughout?
  • This level of specified directions may seem tedious at first, compared to our normal way of orally explaining tasks in the classroom. However, front loading assignments with ultra-clear directives will allow your students to not only comprehend the task, but also regain a sense of confidence in this new method of teaching and learning.

Making Remote Education Work for Students with Special Education Needs

It is increasingly remarkable to think that just a few weeks ago, students and teachers were still in class, working towards end-of-quarter goals. So much has changed as Covid-19 has spread across the nation, shuttering schools indefinitely and leading students, parents, teachers and administrators to ask: What do we do now?

 

Learning never stops—it just changes course.

Many students were sent home with assignments to complete and deadlines to meet. Others are accessing online materials and connecting remotely with instructors. In some places, students are even taking a short break from the standard curriculum to explore educational videos, podcasts, interactive games and virtual museum tours.

 

The remote education opportunities are seemingly endless—that is, until special learning needs are added to the mix. Then navigating this “new normal” can seem downright impossible.

Although federal law mandates that school systems provide equal access to education for students with learning disabilities, no one seems to know what that means in our current situation. Across the nation, school districts are grappling with how to provide remote education to as many of the seven million impacted students as possible, without defying the law and potentially losing critical funding. Yet, with mere weeks to prepare, how can schools possibly replicate the services of diverse therapists—occupational, learning, behavioral, speech, physical and vision—as well as adaptive specialists and aides? It is not feasible.

 

Learning Essentials is here to help.

With our team of certified, advanced-degreed tutors, Learning Essentials is the premier special education tutoring company in the DC Metro area. We “get” these students and their diverse needs. We have the education and experience to assist students with learning disabilities and differences during this massive transition. Our learning strategies and multi-sensory methods are proven, and our team is equipped to offer fully online support for all learners.

 

As administrators, teachers, and parents struggle to create and implement in-home supports for special needs students, Learning Essentials is ready to step in with solutions. We can suggest modifications to learning content, accommodations for optimal learning environments, and techniques that can guide parents and support students in accessing the curriculum in these unprecedented circumstances.

 

Ready for help? Contact Learning Essentials today for a free consultation. Let us set the best course to keep special needs students on the path to learning.

Building Resilience in Trying Times

The current Coronavirus pandemic is like nothing we have seen before. We as a society are essentially constructing the track as this train barrels along, which can be unnerving, to say the least. For families with children, the burden may fall even harder in the midst of this global crisis. One tinge of a silver lining, however, is the resilience that will come as a result of persevering through these difficult circumstances.

 

Instead of ruminating on the issues…

Try free writing for 10-15 minutes every day. This form of expression is proven to alleviate stress and anxiety, much like meditation. Expressive writing gives us the opportunity to sit with our thoughts and work through our emotions on paper. Additionally, this process encourages us to work through a difficult time by reclaiming some sense of power—writing allows us to feel a sense of control over how we choose to react in written form.

 

Expressive writing is also a platform for reflection. Through writing, we are able to take time to come to grips with the struggles around us and consider how we can enact change, even if it’s just change within our own attitude or outlook. Finally, expressive writing provides a record of trials and tribulations—later on, if another crisis arises, it provides a resource of strength for us to refer back to for guidance.

 

Instead of wallowing in despair or perseverating over what we’re missing…

Acknowledge the current circumstances and practice acceptance of what we cannot control. It is easy for children and teens to feel as though this health crisis is single handedly ruining many aspects of their lives—socially, emotionally, academically, romantically, psychologically, etc. They may feel as though life is on hold during this pandemic. However, resilience comes from confronting and overcoming hardships. Therefore, learning to accept the hardships or obstacles is the first step in building this level of grit and resilience. As the saying goes, “We must accept the things we cannot change and find courage to change whatever is within our control.”

 

Instead of focusing on the negative…

Help children build resilience by emphasizing gratitude. It is easy to become bogged down in trying times, especially when an unparalleled global crisis is occurring. However, by prioritizing the positive and examining all of the good happening around us, we begin to recognize our strength.

 

Are playdates out of the question? Yes. Is graduation up in the air? Yes. Is prom likely cancelled? Yes. But is your family taken care of? Do you have your immediate needs met? Are you healthy? Are there other people suffering more right now? YES. Resilience and gratitude tend to go hand in hand because, through this crisis, we will learn that we’re stronger than we thought, and we have this strength to be thankful for.

 

Instead of falling into a rut…

Use this difficult time as an opportunity to do things there was not time for in the past. Parents can help bolster a new sense of discovery for their children by encouraging new or abandoned hobbies. Learn a new language, help work on the car, explore which vegetables would thrive in the yard, write poetry, watch cooking competitions, pick up an old guitar, foster a pet. The list continues as far as we can imagine. It is up to parents to encourage new ways of learning, engaging, and experiencing the world during this time of great uncertainty. Resilience can be cultivated by keeping busy—but it is up to us to choose how we use this time.

 

Providing Realistic Reassurance

Whether you are an educator, a parent, or a family member, you are likely fielding a lot of questions regarding the “what ifs” of the current state of things. The more complicated side of these questions is that we ourselves don’t have many answers to these questions—in fact, we’ve got questions of our own! One thing we can do for children and teens is to talk through their concerns as a family. The conversation may not always result in complete understanding or resolute answers. However, the importance is to ease fears and mediate concerns.

 

Missing milestones 

A major concern for today’s high school students is the fact that this unplanned, mid-school-year hiatus jeopardizes way more than just instruction and learning. Testing centers have been shut down; colleges and universities have sent students home, closed campuses, and moved to online learning for the second semester. For students who have been planning to tour campuses, take entrance exams, and narrow their final college search this spring, the current state of things makes those plans nearly impossible. Furthermore, the typical high school rites of passage that students look forward to throughout their entire education, such as spring break trips, prom, graduation and graduation parties, are more of an impossibility now because of COVID-19. How can parents begin to soften this blow?

  • Put things into perspective for your teens by showing them the realities that other people are living. If kids are preoccupied with the notion that they’re missing out on major high school events, we need to give them a reality check. By reading up on the death tolls, financial struggles, and hunger and homelessness that this pandemic is causing around the world, our teenagers are able to see that, despite these cancelled events, their lives are extremely blessed. Discuss the importance of gratitude and how, while it’s okay to be disappointed about missing these milestones, it should not become all consuming considering how much we have to be thankful for right now. Furthermore, remind teens that sulking about does nothing to change the outcome—happiness is a mindset.
  • Talk about how, even though the events themselves may be up in the air, the meaning behind these special rites of passage can never be lost. For instance, the importance of graduation is what it represents, not the ceremony itself. As a family, focus on the achievements and how, regardless of formal celebrations, the accomplishments still remain.
  • When high school students get upset over these missed opportunities, parents can also provide comfort by stating the obvious—everyone is going through these same losses, too. Your teen needs to remember that she isn’t the only one missing out on prom or not getting her driver’s license right away. While most adolescents find it difficult to see beyond themselves, they can find comfort in the fact that these circumstances are not unique to them—thousands of other high schoolers are experiencing these same feelings of disappointment.
  • When in doubt, highlight the great things that your teen has ahead of him. Yes, this is a largely confusing and disappointing time. However, this is going to pass. We can help ourselves get through these trying times by remaining positive and always looking for the silver lining.