How will preschool learning be different with social distancing?

COVID-19 may be relatively managed in Singapore, but that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down — especially in preschools where germs and viruses are easier to spread among children. Unlike pre-virus days, we can now no longer have large communal activities like mass celebrations, students have to head straight to their classrooms upon arrival as soon as possible and meal times must now be staggered.

As we adjust to our new normal, we are challenged to seek new ways to promote the students’ learning. Some activities would require a rethink, especially those that involve physical contact. But this is an opportunity to reinvent our activities and come up with creative ways that ensure our children still get the same learning experience while social distancing.

While times have certainly changed, here’s how we can make the best out of the current situation to make learning safe and fun for children!

Helping children understand social distancing

These new changes may be confusing for preschoolers and even hard for them to adapt. Before imposing strict measures on them, it’s better to first help them understand the concept of social distancing. Instead of using the term ‘social distancing’, it might be better to refer to it as ‘physical distancing’, because we don’t want the little ones to think that they cannot be social with their friends and loved ones anymore. By now, you must have introduced phone or video calls to your preschooler; if you haven’t, it’s a good time to start. Initiating technology use would also be apt at this time as most preschools start adopting digital technology into lessons.

When talking about ‘physical distancing’ to young children, start with a general discussion about viruses and germs. Let them know that germs are so tiny and cannot be seen with your eyes, but they can make us sick if we breathe them in or touch our nose, mouth or eyes without washing our hands.

I would use this opportunity to emphasise the importance of hand washing, and to also explain that it’s hard for people to tell if they have germs, hence the need for ‘physical distancing’. Ultimately, the aim is to let preschoolers know these temporary measures are to keep the people around them safe, but make sure to do so without scaring them and allow them to ask questions along the way.

Ways to make distance learning possible in preschool

Incorporate in educational activities to explain social distancing
A fun way to do so is through games.

  • Grab a ribbon or string 1m in length.
  • Place it on the floor so everyone can see how long 1m is.
  • Remove it and have your preschoolers guess how long 1m is.
  • Once they roughly know how far 1m is, include in some games with a rule that they must stand 1m apart from each other at all times.
  • At the same time, explain to them that this is the distance they should keep between them and other people for now, even outside of school.

Allow music to do the magic
Young children respond well to singing and dancing. For a child, participating in song or dance is an easy way to engage without needing to be in physical contact with others. The rules are clear and translate well even in an online format. Have dedicated time for sing-alongs or dance-alongs and play music intermittently during lessons to re-engage children.

Leverage on technology
Even if your school is not the best when it comes to tech or is not tech-driven, it’s a good time to start going digital. Lean on teachers or even families who are tech-savvy, and explore creative ways to maximise learning without compromising on play. In fact, this would be a perfect time for children to tap on their creative skills! Get them to share pictures of their favourite toy, or challenge them to build automobiles using cardboard boxes. In the event where we have to go back to at home learning (hopefully not), you’re already a step ahead of others.

Create individual spaces
In such times, activities will likely shift from groups to solo — but this doesn’t mean interaction and teamwork is not possible. You’ll first want to create a safe space for each kid — ideally one that’s uniquely his. You can do so by using furniture or tape and create designated spaces and filling each area with materials the child likes and. needs, such as books, toys, blocks, crayons and paper. Plan activities that children can do individually with some open conversation, like show and tell. Teachers should model to children how they can play individually while in their space. As much as possible, teachers must now also limit touching to essential care needs. To make up for the lack of touch, it’s important now more than ever and moving forward that teachers communicate in other ways to show children they’re still cared for.

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