May 29, 2020
By Erin Mauro, Disabilities Services Coordinator at Community Action Head Start
Community Action Head Start is our cover sponsor for the Summer 2020 issue. You can read this article on page 6 in Lincoln Kids Magazine Summer 2020.
For two months now, learning, like so much else in life, has been happening in the home. Keeping kids happy, healthy, focused, and engaged can be a challenging adventure, even on the best of days! For children under age five, this can be especially true. Erin Mauro, Education and Disabilities Services Coordinator with Community Action Head Start (and parent herself), is here to share some tips for at-home education:
Q: How important is it that families continue providing educational opportunities to their young children during this time?
A: Very! But education comes in several forms, not just from textbooks and screens. As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to remember that you’re your child’s first and most important teacher. By being around you, your child is learning something every day; this was true before this period of necessary physical distancing, and it will be true long after. With that said, young children thrive on consistency and predictability. Daily interactions and routines are where a lot of learning happens! Having a routine doesn’t mean everything needs to happen at the same time every day. What is important is that things happen in a similar way each day. Within routines, it’s important to build time for children to play! Play is a young child’s “schaool work.” This doesn’t mean you need new toys or materials—just give them time and space to explore and create. Lastly, try to build in some reading time with your child. Even fifteen minutes a day is great, and it goes by rather quickly.
Q: What are some educational activities parents and caregivers can create for their children using only common household items?
A: Let’s get creative! Some ideas:
1) Use household chores to foster independence. Have your child help you sort and fold laundry, wash dishes, and prepare meals. You can take it a step further by adding in other educational opportunities with these tasks. Support language development by describing colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. Count objects as you put them away. Cooking together offers plenty of opportunities to experience different textures and smells and introduce simple math concepts, new vocabulary, and reading.
2) Encourage creativity and imagination. Who doesn’t love a good fort? Or a rocket ship? Or a boat? With a blanket, cardboard box, or laundry basket, the possibilities are endless.
3) Get crafty. Clean recyclable materials like paper towel tubes, egg cartons, milk and water jugs, and other containers can provide endless building and craft ideas. Use age-appropriate crafting supplies and help your child if your projects require scissors, glue, tape, paint, markers, etc. Be sure the materials are clean, and remove any choking hazards.
4) Use nature to teach sorting, counting, and art. Collect natural materials from your backyard or walk around the neighborhood and ask your child to sort them by size, shape, color, etc. You can also save some to use for a craft project.
5) Practice observing and questioning, whether you’re outside, indoors, or reading a book. How many birds’ nests or squirrels can you see? What sort of animal do you suppose left this paw print? Play I-Spy in the living room. Point out objects and ask questions about the pictures in books you’re reading together. The possibilities to teach and learn are endless.
Q: What advice do you have for parents and caregivers who may be feeling overwhelmed right now?
A: Take a deep breath and remember that this is new for all of us. No one is a perfect parent, and most of us didn’t sign up to be teachers! It’s important not to create unrealistic expectations of ourselves (I’m totally guilty of this!). Know that some days will go better than others, and it’s important to treasure the good moments. Also, do something that brings you joy every day. And ask for help when you need it. Let’s be real—we all need a little help sometimes.
Erin and the Community Action Head Start team have compiled a list of recommended free educational resources available at www.communityactionatwork.org.
Community Action Head Start is a comprehensive early childhood education program serving children age birth to five and their families. The program is free to eligible families. Visit Community Action’s website for more information.