As the uncertainty of living life during the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, parents, caregivers, educators and children have been launched into a new educational adventure- Virtual Preschool. We’re about two weeks into putting out content for our families, and as a Preschool Team, we’d love to share some tips, tricks, advice and insights with all of you to make sure everyone is having the best and uniquely developmentally appropriate Virtual Preschool experience as possible with their child.
Here are some things we’ve learned as a team and from caregiver input so far:
A moving or wiggling body does not mean your child isn’t listening or learning
Sitting in front of a screen for more than a few minutes at a time and staying completely focused is developmentally inappropriate for most children under the age of 5. If your child needs to move around the room, play with a toy, or eat a snack while they are participating in a virtual Circle Time or other type of class, that’s fine! In fact, it can be helpful to provide something else for their hands or body to do right at the start. We don’t expect young children to sit still and listen all day at school, and the same should go for virtual learning at home!
Model participation and listening with enthusiasm
This is a completely new type of engagement for most children, and they might need you to show them how it’s done! Don’t be afraid to get silly, sing, dance and get in touch with your own inner child. After you’ve given yourself and your little one permission to dive right in, it will be easier for them to do so on their own later on if you need to take time to get your own work done while they do their virtual school.
If you find that virtual school just doesn’t seem like the right fit for your child, take some time to watch some of the content provided to you, and implement the activities in real life without any screens. Acting out familiar parts of the school day such as Circle Time, Art Class, or Open Choice can help provide structure, routine, and help your little one retain all of those school skills they were working so hard on before shelter in place went into effect.
Let go of expectations
There are so many different virtual options provided for young children right now, which is great, but can make some parents or caregivers feel overwhelmed. There is no pressure to participate in every single Zoom class, Facebook or Instagram Live, or Pintrest activity. Do what makes sense for you and your family right now. Try to pick a few classes each day to try out, and fill in the time in between with real life. Making a visual schedule of each thing on your plan for the day can help manage your child’s expectations and help build your at-home routine.
Unplug if you need to
All of us are feeling screen fatigue right now, even our little ones. Let your child have plenty of time to play with no expectations from you or other adults in their life. Play is how children learn, and how they process the world around them; I’m sure they have plenty they need to process right now.
Ask for what you need
This is new for us as educators too! We are doing our best to provide meaningful virtual interactions for our students and their families, but there’s bound to be things we miss, so let us know. We’re used to getting immediate feedback from our students’ behavior, so please reach out to teachers and other content creators with your observations.
Although this new normal we’ve found ourselves in can feel overwhelming at times, I am excited by the opportunity to develop a new way of learning together, develop best practices, and further our understanding of how young children learn best. It’s in the times of struggle that we unite and take steps forward as a society, and it is my hope that we are given that same opportunity in the world of Early Learning. Stay home, stay safe, and stay learning!
Samantha Perry is the Director of Bubbles Academy’s Arts-Integrated Preschool Program. She is also the recipient of the Harris Foundation’s Scholarship for Excellence in Leadership and received her Master of Science in Child Development with a specialization in Administration at Erikson Institute. The Harris Excellence Scholarships are awarded annually to a select number of students with excellent academic credentials and a demonstrated commitment to the field of early childhood.
Sam is grateful for the opportunity to use both her theatrical expertise, and broad knowledge of needs of young children at Bubbles Academy’s arts-integrated preschool program. As an educator, Sam strives to inspire confidence, independence, curiosity and creativity in each of her students every day.