As Australian schools, kinders and early learning centres contemplate how to take education online, parental involvement in learning has never been more important. But for young children, play must remain at the heart of any home-based learning.
Here Monash Education’s Sarika Kewalramani offers some advice for parents.
Parenting in the time of a pandemic is tough. We need to maintain our children's health and wellbeing while managing our own fears. It is also tough to manage stretches of home-schooling, and potentially juggling work and balancing the use of screens.
When it comes to young children, the key to doing this well, is to understand the importance of play. Research is showing that the virus has actually become a natural part of children’s play, so it’s up to us, both educators and parents, to help them adapt, adjust and learn in this changed world.
Finding the balance between working from home and educating at home
Play is the child’s tool for understanding and processing information about themselves, and their environment. Outdoor play and physical activity, within the confines of government restrictions is important. Equally screen time, which involves safe apps, appropriate content and connection with teachers is valuable.
Children do hear and see what is around them, so it’s important to talk to them in age appropriate ways and help them process what is going on.
Remaining connected with virtual activities
Parents will need to support virtual schooling experiences for children. It helps children have a sense of continuity and belonging with their school.
Scheduling short work breaks, and lunch away from the desk can help this.
Seeing and hearing the educators online saying good morning each day, reading stories, doing role-plays or playing music lessons will help children remain connected to their teacher and peers.
Sharing children’s artefacts or experiences that they might have completed on a shared online platform helps children share their learning and display their achievements. While teamwork is more difficult online, this virtual engagement will be crucial to children’s ongoing development and sense of purpose.
Children enjoy a sense of leadership and creative home-based play: ideas for non-screen time
- Role-playing librarians, and selecting the books to read. Conduct a story-time for teddies or their favourite toys: This allows for children to use their imagination and curiosity as they build a ‘tool kit’ of skills and processes to support hypothesising of events in their role play.
- Becoming authors and illustrators: create a simple story book with your children, and publish it.
- Baking and cooking: a perfect chance to direct an activity, and be involved in numbers, researching the recipe and experimenting. Involves a focus on literacy as children observe visuals and text in following recipes. Children learn about mathematics as they explore measurements with portion control.
- Gardening and outdoor activities: it’s science education in disguise. Allows children to ‘think aloud’ and discuss ways to look after plants, watering them. Thinking, doing and being outside all at once.
- Set the table for lunch or dinner: Children love being the centre of attraction while helping doing chores. Following a series of structured tasks such as this allows for ‘sensible’ decision making while setting up the table.
- Folding – fold five tea towels and five bath towels. Show children a video to demonstrate this. An opportunity for fine motor skills and following a set of instructions, enables them to explore shapes at their own pace and in their own time. And at the same time, getting chores done is a bonus.
Independent child-led hands-on activities
- Tip out an entire tub of Lego and sort them into colours.
- Build your favourite Lego models
- Adventure outside and create a picnic for either morning tea or lunch. On your own gather some fruit, vegetables and a special treat and share them with your toys.
- Imagine and create a nature picture using a collection of found materials. Children can use small stones, sticks, leaves, flowers or bark – whatever inspires them. They can combine these with textas, pencils, crayons or chalk. Encourage the children to spend time with this and experiment with different ideas.
- Go on a listening walk. Draw 5 different things you heard in your special scrap book.
- Write the first letter of your name in your scrap book. Then, go on a hunt around your house to see all the funny places you might find it. Can you look inside your favourite story book? On the back of your cereal pack?
- Connecting with community: Share some joy by creating a rainbow and place it in your window for others to see. Maybe someone will walk by, or drive by and see it?
- Consider scheduling some virtual play dates with your children’s friends. The children can chat together and work on a collective project.
Screen based free apps/activities:
- Scholastic has created a free Learn-at-Home site with 20+ days of learning and activities
- Free science apps
- Apps for 2 to 5 year olds
- Education companies offering free subscriptions due to school closings
- Change4Life and Disney have teamed up again to bring you new Shake Up games
- Physical play activities for young children’s active movement
- Thinking games and puzzles by grade
- Showing children in age appropriate ways what a virus can do
- Reading eggs free one month access for school closures
Guðrún, A., & Dyrfjord, K. (2020). Virus has become a natural part of children.
Hadani, H. S. (2020). Time to talk, play, and create: Supporting children’s learning at home. Education Development.