As early childhood centers (preschool and daycares) across the nation work on connecting to children through virtual platforms, it is important that these decisions and plans are informed and based on research and best practices in early years.
Early Childhood Association strongly recommends that the connection between the teacher and the child should continue even during the lockdown and till preschools or daycares open. This is important because teachers can convey many messages and educate them about
- Eating healthy.
- Sleeping well.
- Not watching too much TV, or watching inappropriate videos or games on mobile phones.
- Help them understand and dispel fear about corona.
Teachers can help engage children in socio-emotional and physical activities-
- By helping them video chat with class friends
- By telling them stories
- By singing rhymes
- By engaging them in doing yoga activities
- By teaching them through stories developed by ECA about physical distancing, wearing masks and new hygiene rules
- Teachers can play games like guess the sound; whose makes this sound etc.
An engaging video chat like this, for an hour every day, is not harmful to children.
(Ref: Website kids health medical experts- Time spent with screens (like a TV, tablet, or smartphone) can be an opportunity to reinforce learning and promote creative play)
Research clearly suggests (and given by Australian Govt. department of Health) that Preschoolers ages 2 to 5 should have no more than 1 hour of screen time each day. The exception to this rule is video chatting with grandparents or other family friends, which is considered quality time interacting with others.
Not all screen time is created equal. For example, you and your child playing an interactive phonics or numbers game on a tablet or watching high-quality educational programming together is good screen time. Keeping the TV on all day for “background noise” or letting your preschooler watch your favorite shows with you are examples of bad screen time. Use screen time as a chance to interact with your child and teach lessons about the world. Don’t let your child spend time alone just staring at a screen.
Even the American Academy of Paediatricians recommends introducing only “high-quality programming” to children 18 to 24 months of age. Children between the ages of 2 to 5 years should watch only one hour per day of approved programming. WHO recommends
Keeping all this research in mind, Early Childhood Association recommends the following for all preschools and daycares that are planning to create Home-School Play connections with children and their parents-
- Please do not consider these or label these as ‘classes’, these are not suitable academic platforms and should not be used like that for young children.
- Please ensure that your interaction between teacher and children should not be more than 1 hour and it should be like a video chat filled with singing, story telling and engaging activities like finger rhymes, action activities in which the children are not passive viewers but actively engaged.
- Have a welcome song ritual in which you acknowledge and take the name of each child
- Do not try to teach any academics and burden the children
- Do not ask test questions or grill children on the platform
- The entire teacher- child engagement on the platform should be for making children smile, laugh and be happy.
- Attendance should not be forced.
Early Childhood Association further recommends to preschools and daycares to give the home-school connection in three parts-
- Teacher- child connection (as given above)
- Parent-child interaction- give activities that parents can do with their children again ensure no stress on academics. They can be fun videos to watch together on phonics or numbers or games and activities.
- Child independent activities- give yoga, home chores and non fire cooking activities that children can do with minimal help
Early Childhood Association is absolutely against a formal, teaching for early years on any online platforms. This is not the time to stress on academics, academic achievement or assessing children academically. Focus on talking to children about topics that help nurture their thinking skills, emotional skills and social skills.
The Early Childhood Association also wants to draw the attention of the media, policy makers, and government officials on the importance of the early years. Children are presently cooped up at home; adults around them are extremely busy and irritable and are not able to give them quality time. In this scenario, children will suffer emotionally and socially. So when the teacher comes on a screen, using a developmentally appropriate platform, to interact with them and they can see their friends, this is something that should not be criticized, as it will help keep children happily engaged. Happiness in these crucial times is the most important emotion to keep children safe and healthy.
Children are as it is watching content not meant for them, on television and mobile phones as adults around them are grappling with work issues and are not able to give them enough time. In this scenario, a child getting this age appropriate engagement from their school and teacher is not the evil but the appropriate solution.
This kind of engagement will also keep teachers actively engaged and partner with parents.
The Early Childhood sector needs to be taken seriously if we want to come out of this pandemic with happy, resilient children and a robust economy. These video chat engagements are helping children be happy, keeping the teachers employed is contributing to the economical revival of the country. If thousands of preschools around the country close down, it will mean millions of jobs lost of teachers and will lead to economic chaos in many households.
Let us live for our children. This was advocated by the father of Kindergarten, Fredrich Froebel and this is what ECA wants to stress upon during this pandemic, let us take care of our youngest by ensuring that we give them active play and engagement opportunities with their teacher and friends, wherever and whenever possible.