How to Prepare Preschoolers for Online Learning

Recently, the HK Education Bureau has announced the latest arrangement for Nursery and kindergartens, it seems like online learning will be going on for a while. A lot of parents are concerned when their children do not seem to be able to learn effectively through online learning.

Here are some of the training that you may work on to help your child prepare for online learning.


Sitting nicely

Normally, each lesson lasts for about 15-20 minute. During the lesson, children are required to sit in front of the computer without touching the computer or playing toys. Hence, it is very important for them to be able to sit nicely.

Sitting nicely means the child has to remain at his chair with a still body. As you could imagine, the longer the lesson/duration, the more challenging it is for the child. To prepare him/her to sit nicely throughout the lesson, we want to start off with having him/her to sit for a short period of time and gradually increase the duration:

a. Prior to teaching, prepare strong reinforcers (i.e., toys/ activities that the child highly prefers).
b. Decide the contingency that you are going to use (such as the token economy).
c. Vary the duration that the child has to practice based on the child’s performance. For example, at the beginning, if the child can only sit nicely for 3 seconds, we will then start off with having him to sit for 1-2 seconds in each trial. The duration can be extended or shortened based on the child’s performance.

Another factor to consider is the structure of the lesson. At the beginning of the teaching, we can simply teach the child to sit nicely. When the child understands the expectation, we can then gradually simulate the setting of an online lesson. However, the target behavior remains to be siting nicely as opposed to others (e.g. responding correctly, recalling learning contents, etc.).



Waiting is a very important learning skill. When having online lessons, children need to wait till the class ends to leave the seat and do the things that they want, or wait for the teacher to call their name to answer questions, etc.

a. Similar to the sitting practice, we need to find strong reinforcers.
b. Start the training with a short duration and gradually extend the time.

At the beginning, you may practice with a waiting card. This is effective in helping the child visualize the concept of waiting. Also, you may start from pure waiting, and gradually add tasks/activities that the child needs to complete while waiting.



Besides sitting nicely, we also want to increase children’s engagement in the lesson. Some common instruction types in a kindergarten classroom may include

  • – Non-Verbal Imitation (e.g. singing or dancing in music class; exercising in PE class, etc.);
  • – Verbal Imitation (e.g. repeating words and sentences);
  • – Receptive instructions (e.g. taking things out, pointing to an object, etc.);
  • – Expressive instructions (e.g. “What is this?”, etc.)

Same as other skill training, make sure we prepare strong reinforcers prior to the training. When the child responses to you, you should immediately reward him with a token, and once the token board is filled, provide a reinforcer to your child.

Based on the child’s performance, you may increase the number of responses the child needs to give. If speech delay hinders your child’s understanding of the lessons, individualized language program s are recommended to help the child to understand and comprehend the content in class.


Sustaining Attention

In addition to paying attention and responding during lessons, teacher will sometimes assign assignment or worksheets after lessons. These assignment could be e.g. joining the dots, coloring or writing etc., and these could be boring and dull to young children. Therefore, they may not be as cooperative.

Establishing a completion contingency can be helpful in helping children understand the relationship between finishing the task and the access to reinforcement. Based on the child’s performance, we may gradually increase the number of questions or tasks that they need to complete.

The above are some of the training that we usually do to prepare our children for all kinds of learning. You may also refer to the related teaching videos in our resource website, APSPARKS.COM.

In early teaching phases, we recommend parents to practice with your child outside the actual online lessons. Practice makes perfect, most of the children with ASD usually require repetitive practice opportunity to establish good learning-how-to-learn skills and habits. Also, practicing outside the actual lesson allows us to adjust the length and difficulty level of the practice more flexibly, which will increase the effectiveness and efficiency in learning.

I hope the above information is helpful to parents and children during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Information provided by

Christy Lai
Autism Partnership Case supervisor
Ms. Christy Lai is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis from St. Cloud State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Ms. Lai joined Autism Partnership (AP) in 2011 and she has extensive experience in working with children with ASD. Ms. Christy Lai currently take lead of the case supervision in the new established AP Beijing center. At the same time, she oversees the Little Learners program in Hong Kong and Shanghai and consults families in Asia. She directs overseas training to staff in the Train the Trainer program and provides parent education to families with children with ASD. She also conducts Jumpstart and PIIP programs locally and internationally. In additions, she is keen to take part in overseas ASD conferences and take lead of the design and production of AP teaching materials. Moreover, she helps with producing ABA training videos and articles in the APSPARKS website for public education.

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