The online class has only been on for 10 minutes but Sameera’s 6-year-old daughter is already yawning. Her face tilts away from the teacher on her computer screen to the carefree clouds skimming a blue sky beyond the window. Look, ma, it’s shaped like a cat!
Sameera tries to pull her daughter’s attention back, her frown reflecting the worries of a million mums and dads. Parents, take heart. It is true that the pandemic has upended traditional academic routines. But this doesn’t mean that learning will stop or that your child can’t develop theskills necessary to succeed at school. Take some time out to evaluate your goals. Are you trying to replicate school at home or to cultivate an environment in which your child is naturally learning through the day? With a shift in perspective, you might find yourself being grateful for the unexpected opportunities that the pandemic has brought you.
SKILLS FOR SCHOOL
In the early years, all schools look at preparing your child for formal learning by developing fine and gross motor skills, language, numeracy and critical thinking. With a bit of planning and a lot of fun and laughter, these skills are easily accelerated at home by the person best-attuned to the mental and emotional needs of your child: you.
Did you know, for example, that the best way to advance your child’s language skills is to talk to her? Ask her about what she is playing and guide her to think deeper. For example, what are all the things she would need to put on a doll’s dinner plate? Can these be grouped into types of food? Or what is the sequence in which she is cooking her pretend meal. Can she teach you what goes first and what to add second? What if more people arrive to share the meal? In just a few moments of play, you’ve enriched language, math and problem-solving skills, all while strengthening the bond with your child.
CLASSROOM IN THE KITCHEN
Put on your thinking hat and look around. Literally everything you see is a portal for play-based learning. Separating dal from rice helps little fingers prepare to hold a pencil firmly soon. Tumbling and rolling while making the bed releases pent-up energy, gives larger muscles a workout and builds co-ordination. Counting spoons and bowls or folding laundry kickstarts mathematical thinking. And an empty cardboard box is the perfect tool for a burst of unbridled creativity while you get your emails and other tasks out of the way.
THE POWER OF PLAY
Play isn’t just for the little ones. It helps older children too. For example, building and acting out a story with every day props and then writing a play or adding grocery bills are engaging, low-stress ways to build creative writing and numerical skills. Similarly, looking at pictures and talking about what’s happening in the world and what other children may be experiencing in different countries can build empathy and a sense of connectedness even when you are isolated at home. Play is also a good way to inculcate life skills and as children learn to pitch in at home.
THE BEST FOUNDATION IS A HAPPY CHILD
It is easy to forget that children experience stress too. Children are quick at absorbing stress around them and playing it back in ways that appears like they are acting up. To be able to help your child in naming big feelings and make sense of them is to equip him with the ability to hold himself in the face of uncertainty. In fact, educators acknowledge that emotional intelligence is the biggest indicator of success in life. In the hurly-burly of a regular school day, these softer skills are sometimes forgotten. The pandemic has offered parents a rare window to give time and honour the feelings of their children. Even in the face of the adversity that so many of us are currently experiencing, a moment taken to remind a child that her feelings are seen and heard and that her view of the world is just as important as any one else’s, can help her learn the socio-emotional skills needed to navigate both school and life.