IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

10 products to help your child make the adjustment to virtual learning

You can't go wrong with a fun science experiment kit!
Mother and young daughter doing science experiment at home
AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

In the understatement of the year, school is going to look very different this fall. Your kitchen isn’t just your kitchen, it’s your child’s art studio. The living room now doubles as a geometry classroom and a gymnasium. In anticipation of P.E., my son has already constructed an obstacle course in our living room. I have to give him some credit, he’s built something pretty physically and logistically challenging in the matter of 300 square feet.

As parents, we are learning a lot from this pandemic, especially when it comes to teaching our kids. With school and home merging into one residential think tank, back to school shopping will feel like it’s going from the beta version to 2.0.

As parents, we obviously want our children to learn at the highest level, but we also want to fill that in-person school-sized void that their little hearts and minds can’t fully understand.

As we fill up our online shopping carts with school supplies in the next few weeks, it won’t be as easy as picking out a totally cute pencil case or a super cool backpack. This year we are on the hunt for not only the tangible supplies, but also for the supplies that can provide intangible benefits for our homebound students.

According to Dr. David Rusbsasan, associate professor of psychology at Marian University, understanding how the mind of the young learner works may be helpful in building this year’s shopping list.

“One of the biggest issues to consider with virtual learning is the potential distractions in a child's work area,” Rusbasan told us. “As you can imagine, the most interesting thing in the room will also be a constant source of temptation."

Brian Galvin, chief academic officer at online tutoring service Varsity Tutors, knows a lot when it comes to virtual learning, kids, and distractions. In his experience, one way parents can help their kids find focus is by identifying ways to make school look less like home, and home look less like school.

“Have a delineation between home and school,” suggests Galvin. “Physical elements in the room may lend some routine and help draw boundaries between school and home. Things that feel like school visually, as well as tactile things, will be good for introducing a routine and helping draw boundaries between school and home."

In an effort to keep virtual learning fresh and interesting, Rusbasan agrees that structured flexibility will also be important this year. “Consider alternating workspaces by study topic or school day,” suggests Rusbasan. “Changing workspace can help with creativity and protect against possible loss in motivation from the monotony.”

As we all know, this school year isn’t just about books and lessons, it’s about finding ways to supplement the fun and excitement that in-person school brings to our kids. As we build out our shopping lists, Galvin encourages us to think about opportunities to make learning fun and hands-on. Look for items that will spur curiosity and imagination, as well as activities that will be great runners up to an actual field trip.

We have our work cut out for us, but we can do this. So grab your debit card, it’s time to start molding some young minds!

1. Discovery Kids Extreme Weather Stem Science Kit

It’s extreme weather in a box! This science kit is great for middle school learners. It incorporates hands-on experience, fun and STEM into one activity. Any science kit that lets you create a tornado vortex and make s'mores with solar heat gets my vote. Educational and delicious!

2. Yellow Scope Foundation Chemistry Kit

This kit is super cool and was created by moms who are also scientists. Talk about thinking with both sides of the brain.

Winner of the Parents' Choice Gold Award, this kit was purposefully designed for young girls to get them excited about STEM. The kit includes lab equipment, beakers, two types of thermometers, safety goggles and chemical reagents for more than 19 experiments.

3. MegaChess 8" Tall Oversized Chess and Checker Set

My son may have to fight with me to see who gets to play with this first. Strategy games like checkers and chess are great for keeping young minds working and adds some game time to school time. This duo chess/checker set is good for indoor and outdoor play.

4. ThinkFun Zingo!

Winner of the ASTRA Best Toys for Kids Award, Zingo! takes bingo and sight words and mixes them together. Good for ages 4 to 7, this game will help your kids develop their early reading skills and prepare them for domination during the next bingo night. It’s a win, win!

5. Flack Kids Study Desk and Chair Set

Pretty sure this desk is better than my desk at home, especially for the price point. I really like this piece because it is a one-stop-shop with a desk and chair all in one purchase. Both the chair and desk are adjustable, so I love how it takes posture into consideration. It also features a pull-out storage drawer for pencils, papers and crayons. Currently this desk is out of stock, but will be available for purchase on September 1.

6. The Carrel Store Three-Panel Desk Privacy Panel

Your kid may look like he or she is casting their first vote, but really they are exercising their right to privacy. Simple, lightweight and portable, this privacy panel not only screams school, it may also assist in warding off distractions and harnessing focus. Good for kids from ages 3 to 12, these privacy panels come in a variety of colors and are sold in packs of five or more.

7. Seisso Kids Outdoor Explorer Catching Kits

Turn your neighborhood into a field trip adventure! These catching kits encourage kids to be active, curious and to explore. Kids can burn off some energy and learn about the monarch butterfly as they chase them around the yard. Kit includes three nets for catching and one mesh bug hamper to show off your family’s new winged pet at Zoom show and tell.

8. World Map Coloring Tablecloth

For those who will be working at the kitchen table this semester, this table cloth might be a big help for the fidgety learner. Coloring is great for focus and stress relief, and as an added bonus, your child will learn where the Taj Mahal is. This cloth includes 10 washable markers, fun facts about various locations around the globe and is even machine-washable. Just throw it in the laundry and you can start coloring in your masterpiece all over again.

9. Zoomie Kids Multi-Functional Children Map Tapestry

Make home look like school with this tapestry that's easy to hang anywhere. Its colorful and simple design identifies the world’s continents and the animals that live there. Plus, it's designed to be durable and easy to clean.

10. iRoller Screen Cleaner

Smudgy fingers on devices are a real thing. Not only can smudges be annoying, but they can also be distracting. This handy little device can be used multiple times a day to clear off any smudgy screen residue. While not a disinfectant, it will help keep the screen clear to view. It's great for the at-home classroom, or to throw in your bag for road trips.

For more stories like this, check out:

To discover more deals, shopping tips and budget-friendly product recommendations, download the new TODAY app and subscribe to our Stuff We Love newsletter!