Online Learning And Preschoolers
As COVID-19 continues to surge throughout the US, many preschool and child care programs are working hard to meet the needs of children and families, whether they’re able to see them in person or need to switch to remote interactions for a period of time. On the whole, child care settings have been shown to be minimal transmission environments of COVID-19 as long as appropriate health and safety practices are rigorously followed. But sometimes, a program does need to close temporarily, perhaps due to exposure or illness or local shelter-in-place regulations. In these cases, you may be anxious to continue your daily routine and connection with the children in your program as much as possible. Knowing how to interact appropriately with young children online is a skill you can develop and add to your repertoire of tools as an early childhood educator.
Virtual Circle Time
Any seasoned early childhood educator knows that children learn best through play. We also know that learning is not meant to be one-dimensional, particularly for young children. So how to connect, engage, and keep those connections alive? Here are some suggestions to create a fun, dynamic, engaging set of activities for the kids in your program:
- Use an online eBook library to expand your personal library by the thousands
The benefit of using an eBook library is that it allows you to enter full-screen mode, giving your kiddos a much larger view of the pictures while you read. You can also create accounts for your kids so they can re-read books on their own.
- Create a virtual museum visit
Select one piece of art you think will catch your children’s attention and use screen share to show it during circle time. Ask questions like: What do you notice? What do you wonder? What does it make you think about? A food painting can be a perfect painting to pair with a cooking project, a birthday celebration, a rendition of Pat-A-Cake, a playdough activity, or all of the above!
- Make use of live cameras at zoos and national parks
For example, you can share a panda live cam from the National Zoo during the virtual circle time and discuss what you’re seeing. Read them a book about pandas and let them point out if they can observe any of their natural behaviors on the live cam.
- Use a digital storytelling app to create a collaborative story
There are tons of options available online. Work together to create a story, or invite children to make their own story to share with the class later.
- Create a story about your class
Use photos from a special project or field trip to write a story about your kids to read aloud during circle time.
Case Study From The Field
Meredith Bunyard is the director of P.LA.Y. Preschool, a Reggio-inspired in-home program in San Francisco, CA.
Continuing The Learning
On Thursdays, Meredith Bunyard sends out a plan for the next week. It includes tips and ideas for families to do with their children and what to expect during their virtual time together. Then, on Friday, Meredith drives around, dropping off packets at the homes of her families. The packets are filled with the materials needed for the next week’s activities.
They are staying connected almost every day. Monday–Thursday she gathers everyone for a Zoom circle time, where they greet each other, sing songs, and read stories. In addition to this, Monday–Wednesday, Bunyard and her co-teacher, Olivia, lead the children in specific activities. Last week they made paper plate bunnies, bird feeders and did yoga together.
Bringing the community together has been helpful, but the kids still miss each other. Bunyard sent home pictures of all of the kids in her program and has heard from parents that their children are really missing their friends and taking time to look through the pictures every day.
And it’s not just about bringing the kid-community together either, Bunyard wants to make sure the parents feel connected and supported. Most of her parents work in tech, so she created a Slack workspace for her parents to communicate. She posts articles and shares tips for how the parents can talk through COVID-19 with their children and offers ideas to work through any behavior issues.
Learning At Home
When you can’t be in-person with the children in your program, it means they’re at home with someone else, and that someone else may be juggling work, other kids, and a myriad of other considerations. One great way to support your families when they have to be remote is by sharing resources with them to help them find fun, educational, simple activities to do with their children.
Anyone who has young children has probably been bombarded with daily emails with different activity ideas, and those can be overwhelming. But if you send them a collection of activities, perhaps one set per week, and ask how they’re faring along the way, you could end up providing some much-needed support and engagement for both the children and their parents. Need inspiration? Check out these “learn from home” ideas.