Many kids will head back to school this fall online. Instead of the classrooms and hallways and lunchrooms and lockers they're used to, tweens and teens will suddenly be sitting in bedrooms and at kitchen tables. They're trying to figure out what this new version of school looks like, and most are not particularly excited about it. These 10 things will help put a positive spin on remote learning for the kids in your home.
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1. Ring Light
Online school will involve video. Kids will be on live video chats from all corners of the house. Assignments might incorporate video - kids giving demonstrations or speeches. Phones take great video when the light is right, and we love this affordable ring light as a way to get strong video inside. Kristie says it's easy to use, offers a couple lighting options, and makes good video possible from anywhere in your house.
2. Laptop Desk
Tweens and teens won't be physically changing classes, but they'll still need to switch things up from class to class. This laptop desk lets them work from the couch or the floor for a change of pace.
Many students will start the year using iPads as their primary device. Every freshman at the university where we teach gets a free iPad and training on how to use it. This reliable keyboard doubles as a case and comes in lots of colors. It turns the iPad into a mini-laptop for students, and there are no loose pieces to lose.
If your kids aren't permitted to remove their school-issued covers, this ultra-slim keyboard will do the trick. It comes in a few colors.
4. Strip Lights or Fairy Lights
My 13-year-old son says every kid on Tik Tok knows what these are from the constant ads. Kristie's son loves these, which are in his room, and it's their new go-to gift for older kids. Our tweens and teens will be spending more time than ever in their room, and they can change the color or mood with the click of a remote. This set of fairy lights doesn't change color (some do), but it's 66 feet long for a great price.
The price on these blue noise canceling headphones was so good that I ordered them for two of my kids. They can use them as gaming headphones outside of school hours, but I'm hoping the microphone and noise canceling features will make them feel more focused in their online classrooms. The wireless headphones have a built-in microphone and come in a variety of colors.
I'm surprised these bulletin boards aren't out of stock based on how many parents are telling me they've placed their order. Parents are hanging these in kids' rooms and common areas as a way to see schedules and post reminders. If you want something with a little more style, the grid boards come in gold, black and rose gold.
This is a big ticket item, but I had to include it for parents looking for a solid non-Apple laptop option. It's technically a tablet, but I've had my Surface Pro for several years and use it as my primary laptop (with the magnetic keyboard). I run all of the programs I need on it (including heavier duty programs like Photoshop) and it is so small and light that I put it in the sleeve and it fits in my larger purse. It's what I see my college students using if they don't have an iPad or Apple laptop.
This is the exact magnetic keyboard I have - in my school's color of course. And this is the sleeve. The soft sleeve works great for me, but teens and tweens might want something more durable (based on how I see my tween store his school-issued Chromebook).
We had a debate over what we called these growing up. Gold star to anyone out there who knows them as "husbands" (who's with me on this?!) This reading pillow gives teens a comfortable way to sit on the bed or the floor and it makes for a more appropriate backdrop for video calls than a bed headboard. Kristie's son has the standard size. This one has a removable cover for washing purposes. We mentioned we have tween and teen boys, right?
Our kids are too big for Go Noodle, but they still need a way to burn off extra energy when they're spending lots of hours online or doing homework. A back-of-the-door basketball hoop can be a fun stretch break. Kristie's son received this breakaway-rim hoop and loves it because it can take a beating. It also comes in a glow-in-the-dark or mini foam ball version. A balance board is another great option for a fun way to burn energy and improve focus. Plus, you can use it when they're not!
Tweens and teens (especially the boys) are bottomless pits. Our friend Sally, author of Real Mom Nutrition, posted a printable list of 100+ Healthy Snacks for Kids Who Are Always Hungry. Kristie printed the list and asked her boys to circle everything they would eat. She's stocking up since they'll have access to the pantry all day rather than just after school.
It took about one day of online school to realize there were areas of our house where the Wi-Fi signal was spotty at best, even with high speed internet. Kristie and I both ordered this system - it's ranked #2 and is the best bang for the buck with three towers to place throughout your house to keep the signal strong even in upstairs bedrooms and basements. It also keeps the whole house on one network and Wi-Fi password and gives you control of your Wi-Fi via an app (so you can shut your Wi-Fi down when you want kids to quit playing video games).
My family has tried to live without Amazon Music Unlimited and we just can't. We now have Echo Dots sprinkled throughout our house and expect to hear what we want on demand. If you haven't tried it yet, beware: it's addicting. Try the 30-day free trial if you want to see for yourself.
These are a bonus pick because, let's face it, the chances of these getting lost or misplaced is crazy high. We've helped our college students search for theirs after class and most were never to be found again. So with that word of caution, you can get the Apple Airpods from Amazon, but you might want to start out with the less expensive wireless earbuds that Kristie's son received as a Christmas gift.