Published Date: 04/22/20
The unfortunate and unexpected spread of COVID-19 and the resulting change to our daily routines is proving challenging for everyone -- parents, teachers, employers, medical professionals, law enforcement agents -- the list goes on. We’re all learning to adapt to this strange new world we find ourselves in, wondering if or when we’ll be able to go back to life as we knew it before the virus appeared.
Living with the uncertainty is hard, but it can be especially difficult for young children who thrive on consistency and routine. While some preschools and childcare centers have remained open during the pandemic, many have temporarily closed their doors, forcing parents to take on childcare and teaching duties themselves, in addition to holding down jobs and other responsibilities. For many, those added tasks seem daunting, as they introduce further questions laden with uncertainty: What exactly do young children need in their daily routines? How can I, as a parent, support that? Will I have the time or resources to do it?
One solution? Remote learning. While it can’t completely replace the experience children receive from being physically present in a classroom or care center, it’s the next best thing given current circumstances.
For elementary and middle school students, making the transition to remote learning is somewhat alleviated by the fact that many students are able to access online learning resources that were also available in their classrooms. This was the case for Concordia Lutheran School, who made the move to a remote learning system within just a few days of the order to close schools in the state of Washington. “Our preschool, elementary, and middle school teachers transitioned to remote learning extremely well and have continued to improve practices to support individual student and family needs. It’s not just about the academics but the social and emotional needs right now too,” said administrator Christine Malone. The school’s transition to remote learning has been a success so far, with one student’s family writing to the teachers after the first two weeks to say, “It feels as though my child hasn’t missed a day!”
Still, younger students can’t necessarily engage in online learning the same ways their older counterparts can, which makes addressing their needs in a remote setting a bit more challenging. Younger children follow a mostly play-based learning model, which works wonderfully in classroom settings or care center environments where there are safe spaces to explore the world and socialize with children who are of similar age. But with current social distancing and sheltering in-place mandates, this is harder to achieve. Concordia’s preschool teachers have worked to provide students with these opportunities by making videos that can be viewed on-demand, and scheduling social interaction events through Zoom meetings.
Concordia certainly isn’t alone in facing this dilemma, but the good news is that there are lots of ways to keep young children engaged socially, emotionally, and academically from home.
First, begin with the basics. In general, children ages 2 through 5 thrive when they:
- Have routines - Decide on a routine that works for you and your family and do what you can to stick to it.
- Example for the morning: Phase 1: Get up, clothes on, eat breakfast, brush teeth/hair Phase 2: Story/Learning time Phase 3: Independent play Phase 4: Snack Phase 5: Outside time Phase 6: Building time- puzzles, blocks, etc
- Know what to expect - You might be working from home and/or still have chores and “life” to do. Tell them ahead of time that there will be times that you can play with them or help them and there will be other times when you are “off limits.” Try to give them your full attention periodically throughout the day, even if it is 10-15 minutes at a time.
- Have their emotional needs met - They are anxious too. They may not be able to express it. It may show up in clingliness, less self-regulation, tiredness, or phrases like “I feel left out” or “my stomach hurts.” Talk through these feelings with your child and reassure them of what you know.
- Can be social - Use Zoom, Facetime, letter writing, and phone calls to connect with others!
- Engage in these things everyday or every other (but don’t stress too much, parents!):
- large motor skills (running, jumping, using a YouTube video to do so)
- sensory play (fill the sink with water, fill a tub with beans, buy kinetic sand)
- fine motor skills (coloring, playdough sculpting, gluing, etc.)
- imaginative play (pretend to be in a restaurant, or build a construction site, role play with dinosaurs or cars and trucks, etc.)
- physical activity or outside time
- connecting with friends and family (Zoom or Facetime)
- Their parents are taken care of, too - Your kids do better when you are also well. It’s okay to put yourself in “thinking time” and to model emotions and self-regulation for your child. Do what you can and let go of what you can’t. It may not be the time to be a “Pinterest Mom or Dad.” Keep it simple.
Next, look for resources that can be used to support your child’s needs. Many of these are available online. Consider websites like YouTube, Go Noodle, Khan Academy, etc.
Concordia is one of many resources incorporating some of the elements listed above into the remote learning routine for its students via its COVID Connections webpage, social media, and newsletter. Review our full list of online learning resources here.
In closing, remote learning may not be a fit for everyone, but for anxious parents looking for academic answers during this difficult time, it can serve as a much-need source of connection and consistency for children of all ages.
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