More than one year into the pandemic and the world is fully aware of the impact of COVID-19 on children. Many are particularly concerned about the short and long term effects of the pandemic on children’s education and learning.
Jamaica’s schools have been closed since March 2020 with many schools readjusting to the situation with the delivery of distant learning. Teachers have facilitated learning by engaging students online, telephone and through messaging apps like WhatsApp. On the other hand, parents’ roles have changed from caregivers to educators with many left feeling stressed and inadequate as they struggle to keep up with working from home and supporting their children’s learning.
For older age groups, distance and online learning might have been the practical solution but for younger children, online learning was a bit more challenging. A study in China revealed that parents believed that online learning for children was less effective than traditional face-to-face learning. This is because online learning lacked learning environments and social interactions that young children need which have resulted in poor outcomes for their learning. Additionally, parents were worried about the potential effects of online education for children as they highlighted worries about children’s vision problems as a result of having to stare at screens more than usual, and children’s lack of physical activity.
A recent report by the National Education Council titled Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Jamaican Education System revealed that the most used modality for online learning for early childhood was WhatsApp. The report also found that while majority of parents believed that online learning was somewhat effective, 50% of parents felt that their children learned only some of the content they were supposed to learn during online learning.
Knowing that the school year is still in session with a few more weeks until schools are closed for the summer. Here are some tips to support young children’s learning at home.
Play is Important
Children learn best through play. Play is very important to children developments and a great way for them to learn new skills. Children are more likely to engage in learning activities that offer them opportunities to play and have fun.
According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, there should be no screen time for children younger than 18-24 months and children between 2 and 5 years old should get one hour or less of screen time per day. With the outbreak of the pandemic, many families have had to rely on tablets and mobile phones for their children’s learning. Parents and practitioners should ensure that activities and lessons are planned to reduce children’s screen time by ensuring shorter periods for activities that would require screen time and longer times for activities that engage younger children and their caregivers in play activities. Parents can encourage children to interact with various objects and learning materials during and outside of class time and engage in bonding activities such as reading and storytelling.
Whilst we recognize the challenges that parents are facing while supporting their children’s homeschooling, parents can encourage their children to engage in physical activities away from screens by playing games that require children to use and strengthen their motor skills. Some activities include jumping, skipping, running, climbing etc. If the child’s school does not have a physical education session in the online learning activities, parents can set aside their own time slots for physical education with their child.
Every Opportunity is a Learning Opportunity
Children’s environments produce some of the best learning opportunities. In the home, parents can continue children’s learning by turning everyday home activities into learning activities. Parents can teach children about shapes and sizes with the grocery shopping. Children can learn about textures through their interaction with different varieties of food and fabric, and they can also learn about nature in their own backyard.
The COVID-19 Corner on the ECC’s website has activity plans and tips to help parents support their children’s learning.