By Jerry Kolber
Let’s face it: 2020 was the year when every parent in America realized teachers should be paid six figures and have statues erected in their honor. Whether it was struggling to make sense of “new math,” dealing with Wi-Fi issues for virtual school or consoling a grumpy child bummed out by not seeing their friends, 2020 was definitely the year moms and dads got the home-school blues.
With 2020 now in the rear view mirror, it’s time to shake off the despair and make learning fun again (or, maybe for the first time). We’ve got some great new ideas for you and your elementary school-aged child (and they are all FREE!). Who knows, maybe one day they’ll erect a statue in YOUR honor!
1. Make learning a game. Gamification is the new buzzword for good reason: Everyone loves to play and win! Make a visible scoreboard in your living room or kitchen. Award your kid(s) 10 points for each properly completed school assignment, or doing chores/helping around the house. Give them a treat they love for achieving Bronze (50 points), Silver (100 points) and Gold (150 points). Gamifying learning is surprisingly effective, easy and literally keeps your kids’ eyes on the prize.
2. Give them a fun screen-free break during the day. But don’t let them in on our secret: their fun break is actually going to be good for them. Let them listen to an edutainment podcast that they’ll enjoy while also learning. One new one we love is the free podcast “Who Smarted?” It’s edutainment especially for elementary kids (though to be honest, it made the adults in our house laugh and learn too), and comes from the Parent’s Choice award-winning creative team behind National Geographic’s “Brain Games” and the Netflix series “Brainchild” (from Pharrell Williams) – so you know it’s the real deal!
3. Use an app to remind your kid (and you!) to take stretch breaks. We’ve all heard about the importance of taking breaks from staring at the screen and getting some activity in during the day. But are any of us REALLY doing it? It’s so easy to get caught up on your own work and then suddenly realize no one in the family has stood up for hours. That is a GREAT way to make learning NOT FUN! Experts now recommend taking a short break every 15 to 20 minutes to keep your brain energized and feeling happy. One easy way to remember. Use the free app Stretchly (https://hovancik.net/stretchly/) which works on Mac and Windows and will gently remind you to take a break.
4. Try deschooling. Deschooling is a new research-driven trend in home-schooling. Basically it is the idea of letting your kid tell YOU what they want to learn about. Take a 15 or 20 minute break during the day and ask them to pick a topic they are interested or excited about. Then spend a little time online with them exploring around that keyword. You’ll both learn something new, and you’ll be amazed at how a self-directed, “learning wander” can help make great memories and spark new ideas.
5. Get lucky. This one is the technology-driven flip side of deschooling. You know that little button underneath the Google search bar that you never pressed, and maybe never even noticed? The one that says “I’m Feeling Lucky”? Instead of letting your kid decide where to wander, let Google decide for you. When you hover over this button it will give you various options, click one and see where it takes you. The content is always G-Rated and will often take you to some cool science, history, art or puzzle content.
Please keep in mind, having fun is not just for fun’s sake. Research shows marrying fun and enjoyment to learning and educational material not only makes kids happier but also makes them more likely to retain information and engage with it more deeply! Here’s to a better (and way more fun) 2021!
Biography: Jerry Kolber & Adam “Tex” Davis, Atomic Entertainment
Comedy screenwriter Adam Tex Davis and showrunner Jerry Kolber, creative partners and co-founders of Atomic Entertainment, created the genre-defining neuroscience and informational series “BRAIN GAMES” (National Geographic) and the beloved kids’ educational series “BRAINCHILD” (Netflix).
In addition to Emmy recognition, Atomic has won multiple Imagen Awards for positive portrayals of diversity, multiple Parent’s Choice and Telly Awards for family- friendly and educational series, and in 2019 received the Real Screen “Global 100” List
award in recognition of its significance to the industry.
For its latest project, Atomic has just launched its first podcast, WHO SMARTED? on the Stitcher/Midroll network, a thrice-weekly educational podcast for kids that hides the learning in the fun and helps turn curious kids into smart young adults!