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4 Easy Activities to Support Learning While Your Child is at Home

18 Mar 2020 by Mary-Margaret Gardiner

If your child is away from preschool because of the coronavirus, you might be wondering how you can make the most of this time and support their learning. The good news is, learning can happen anywhere. Even a moment that might seem small to you, like talking with them at breakfast, can help you learn more about how they see the world and encourage reasoning and reflection.

Here are 4 ways you can connect with your child throughout the day and promote learning at the same time.

1. Talk With Your Child

There are so many moments throughout the day where you can have a conversation with your child! Ask them at breakfast what they plan to do today, have them point out different plants during a walk, describe what you see and hear and use lots of adjectives. “That is a beautiful cherry tree! Look at those pink blossoms.” Talking with your child can help you understand how they view the world and themselves. It also shows them that you care about their feelings and opinions. 

An easy way to start a conversation is by using open-ended questions. These are questions that invite extended responses and don’t have a yes or no answer. They encourage children to reason, reflect, and think about the world around them. Be sure to listen to what they are saying. Really listen. That way your response will be based on their input.

Here are a few open-ended questions you can use to get started:

  • What do you think… ?
  • Why do you think that happened? 
  • Tell me more about that.
  • What might happen if… ?
  • I wonder….

2. Share a Favorite Story or Create Your Own

Another great way to engage with your children is to read with them. Start with one of their favorite books. Rather than simply reading the story, spend time asking the child what they see in the illustrations. Prompt the child to predict what might happen next or why a character acted in a certain way. Listen to their answers and respond with feedback using their words.

You can also write your own story! Writing a story lets your child express their feelings and their imagination. Have your child tell a story to you while you write it down. Then, they can illustrate it. Afterwards, act out the story with your child. Let them choose who plays the character. Help them set up a performance area if they want to perform it for other people in your household.

3. Make Screen Time Worthwhile

During this crisis, you are likely faced with new challenges, like juggling working from home and caring for your children. While we generally recommend against too much screen time for children, we understand that there may be times when you'll need to use a TV or tablet to keep children busy. If your children have screen time during the day, try to limit it to 20 minutes at any one time, especially for children under 5. And, if you must allow more time, space screen time sessions out over the day.

Even if your child is watching a screen, use this as a chance to engage with them. Talk with your child about what they're watching. Ask them questions about what’s happening in the show and why they think it’s happening. Let them explain their thoughts and ideas about the characters - who do they like and why do they like them? Engaging with them while they’re on a phone or watching TV will encourage them to actively think about what’s going on, instead of zoning out.

4. Get Crafty

But be open ended. Put out materials that they can be creative with: cotton balls, q tips, glue, crayons or markers. The “best” projects don’t need to look like anything. Let your child experiment and play with ideas. This is a great time to use some of the open-ended questions we mentioned earlier. Ask them to tell you more about what they created and why they decided to use certain materials. What if the craft or picture they created was a story? What might happen next?

See the Opportunity

In these uncertain times there is one thing that is certain, this is a time to pause, to slow down, to pay attention to your child on a level your “regular” life might have prevented you from doing.

One we are on the other side of this mess, you may think back on these times as stressful. But, your child may recall a pretty special time. They’ll remember that they got to spend time with you exploring the world around them in new ways. No child remembers their best day of TV. But they do remember spending time with a parent and feeling loved and safe.

All of the recommendations here align with our Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), a tool for monitoring and improving teaching interactions. For more tips and ways to incorporate CLASS into your home, take a look at our CLASS at Home download.

CLASS at Home Download