For Cay Adams<3
During COVID-19, parents with school-aged children may have children working through workbooks, on web-based platforms, self-directed learning, or helping with younger children and housework. Families with younger children are likely unsure of how to fill so much open time, and want to honor the potential for learning that children under 5 can access because of this critical time of brain development.
High quality early learning centers (once called “day care” or “child care”) fully take advantage of this time, and have curriculum for infants through preschoolers. These curricula focus on children’s learning in key areas or standards, and can be costly. However, with a little research, you can effectively plan for your time with your young child.
YOU ARE YOUR CHILD’S FIRST TEACHER.
We all loved this popular video on “serve and return” interactions between a father and his young child. You don’t need to suddenly become a teacher to have engaging learning experiences with your child. In fact, you’ve been your child’s first teacher all along. Here are some resources to help you remember what you’ve always known:
- Relationships are the foundation of it all. You want your interactions to be rich and enjoyable, and not a source of tension. Vanderbilt’s Center for the Social and Emotional Learning has long been a go-to place to learn how to lovingly support young children. And they have this amazing page full of resources, just for families to support learning, interactions, and behavior challenges.
- Create a language-rich environment with young children is a key to learning. This resource focuses on talking, singing, and reading activities you can easily add into your day. If your child is stressed, use books as vehicles to discuss the issues. This is an incredible book list from Vanderbilt’s CSEFEL for many of the stressors your child may experience.
- Be present and recognize that children pick up on your emotional state. This is especially challenging as we all navigate our own stress. This website includes tips on how to build meaningful interactions with infants and toddlers. There’s also a great reflective activity to guide you in thinking about how to be more present and engaged with your young child.
- Keep a relatively predictable routine. Parent of two young ones, Michelle Lopez, shared her school’s schedule. While you don’t want to try to recreate a formal structure, this will help create a flow for the day that you can stretch out if your child is highly engaged or change if they are not. Notice activities change every thirty minutes, and routines like eating, resting, and bathroom is built into the schedule. Also notice that more structured activities take place in the morning.
- Learning is everywhere. You can make every day experiences, like cooking, cleaning, gardening, and laundry, into learning opportunities. This resource from the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center focuses on zeroing in on higher level questions that build strong brains.
What Teachers Do.
Strong early learning teachers do a lot of planning. If you are getting serious, and want to create a similar experience at home, here’s a picture of what goes into the effective teaching of young children in formal care.
- Early learning teachers track children’s growth in 38 areas using an online platform. Teaching Strategies is the company that manages this platform and they have developed a page for families dealing with COVID-19.
- Strong teachers focus on “what they want to learn instead of what they want to do.” If you want to dig in, Louisiana’s Standards for children Birth to Five describe learning goals in early childhood.
- Louisiana developed Early Learning Guidelines for children birth to three. These describe children’s growth and development as well as provide suggested activities for your time with them.
Teachers then use curriculum to meet those standards. So much and preparation goes into it. You don’t need to become an early childhood educator to be a great teacher to your child.
This is a challenging time, and we don’t need to be perfect. We need to be present and gentle with each other. And most of all, loving with our little ones.