Most of you have had your little guys at home for quite some time now. Many parents are worrying that their children are not learning during this pandemic. In today’s world, we know that preschool really is not a luxury, but is a necessity. Kids are expected to have many skills in place prior to kindergarten nowadays. We know that children’s brains grow up to ninety percent of their adult capacity during these early childhood years. Their brains need to be stimulated and exposed to certain experiences now for this growth to happen. I want to congratulate all of you for being moms and teachers and therapists and more now! I also want to reassure you that your kids are learning more than you think they are! Finally, I want to share some ways to keep those little brains engaged and thriving!
What does your child do all day in an actual preschool classroom? A typical preschooler’s schedule is pretty structured. There are times for free play and open-ended experiences as well as more structured, content-driven learning. These little people thrive on routines and are not big fans of being bored as you know. They love to learn, and they love to try new things. They especially want to be able to do what their older siblings and parents can do. You can use these natural desires to your advantage by letting them help and thereby learn at the same time. And, hopefully, I can help you fill in some gaps!
A preschool routine usually includes some free play where kids can choose between different “centers” such as dramatic play, building areas, art centers, books and puzzles, and sensory based stations. This free “play” is stimulating brain connections necessary for future learning. When Johnny builds a block tower too high and it topples over, he is learning about gravity in science, geometric shapes, size, and weight properties in math, and developing both fine motor and visual-motor skills! As Suzy plays in the housekeeping area, she is learning vocabulary, practicing self-care skills, and socializing. Your children are likely playing in areas like these at your house now when they are playing with their toys. If they are playing with an older sibling, they are benefiting and learning even more.
It is true that a classroom will also have certain activities incorporated into these areas that are addressing certain skill sets. For example, a housekeeping area may contain outfits to dress baby that provides fine motor development with buttons and zippers. A typical library in the spring may contain books and puzzles that teach concepts related to life cycles and growing. Art areas will likely have watercolors to relate to Eric Carle books. You may not have access to all these materials, but you can and may be addressing these skills already. If you let your preschooler help you with meal prep, they are working on fine motor development by opening and shutting jars and using utensils. If they are outside helping you plant or weed, they are learning about science and growing.
How about those structured learning concepts? You may be teaching those as well! Preschoolers learn about same and different, properties of objects, and classification among other skills. They may do papers and activities involving matching pictures, letter and number identification, comparing sizes, and putting things in order. They may make art projects related to spring, growing and animals now. When you allow your preschoolers to help with the laundry or dishes, you are teaching some of these skills! They are practicing same and different, size concepts, and classification skills by sorting colors to wash, matching socks, and pairing clothes with the correct owners. Loading and unloading dishes and setting the table provides practice with sorting and matching, one to one correspondence, counting, same and difference and more.
You can and may be providing those sensory-based experiences as well. For example, if your child helps with washing dishes, giving the dog or baby sibling a bath, planting or weeding a garden, shucking corn, or baking, he or she is learning about textures, properties, sights and smells. You are likely being awesome by teaching related math concepts too, such as math through measuring while baking and planting! If you are discussing stories and pictures while you read to your child, letting them help you find and cut out coupons to shop with, praising their homemade art creations or singing and dancing performances, you are teaching prereading skills, math and nutrition concepts and fostering creativity and motor skills!
I am in no way saying that a preschool classroom is easy to replicate. There are thousands of planned and spontaneous learning moments that occur on any given day in a quality preschool environment. What I AM trying to say is that you, as parents, are still doing a great job of teaching your kids in the interim! If you are teaching actual structured curriculum in addition to the incidental learning I described, so much the better. But, if you are working, and trying to teach two or more kids as well as run your household, you need to take the win. You need to understand that many of the experiences in your home are building those brain connections that are critical to cognitive development in your child’s first five years.
As, I said in the beginning, I would like to help you as well. Many of you know about and have used my sites. If you have not, please check them out. I am working to fill in the gaps for you and your kids. I have a website with activity areas that foster thinking and reading skills, math and science concepts, games that provide learning and fun and lots of movement related activities for motor development. I also focus on learning about feelings and coping which are important concepts to learn about and develop in the early years. I have a Facebook and Instagram site that is designed to get kids thinking and learning and hopefully connecting to others. Finally, I have a YouTube channel that, after 6 weeks, has HOURS of safe, fun, stories, games, and activities. The site and YouTube are set up so that your kids can do most of the activities with OR WITHOUT you, if you need some downtime to work or relax.
I will be writing about other areas of development and age groups soon. I am really hoping that you can benefit from all my degrees and experiences. I feel alive when I know I can positively impact children’s lives. This virus has cost a lot of people their jobs, me included. We all need to lean on each other and use our strengths to get through this the best we can. Together, we can keep your kids thriving! I hope to see you in Mrs. Robin’s Neighborhood! Be well and keep up the good work!
Mrs. Robin-AKA as Dr. Robin Desrochers 🙂