Some ways to help keep children learning during the COVID-19 pandemic
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has upended family life around the world. School closures, working remotely, physical distancing — it’s a lot to navigate for parents to navigate. Robert Jenkins, UNICEF’s Global Chief of Education, offers five tips to help keep children’s education on track while they’re staying home.
1. Plan a routine together
Try to establish a routine that factors in age-appropriate education programmes that can be followed online, on the television or through the radio. Also, factor in play time and time for reading. Use everyday activities as learning opportunities for your children. And don’t forget to come up with these plans together where possible.
Although establishing a routine and structure is critically important for children and young people, in these times you may notice your children need some level of flexibility. Switch up your activities. If your child is seeming restless and agitated when you’re trying to follow an online learning programme with them, flip to a more active option. Do not forget that planning and doing house chores together safely is great for development of fine and gross motor functions. Try and stay as attuned to their needs as possible.
2. Have open conversations
Encourage your children to ask questions and express their feelings with you. Remember that your child may have different reactions to stress, so be patient and understanding. Start by inviting your child to talk about the issue. Find out how much they already know and follow their lead. Discuss good hygiene practices. You can use everyday moments to reinforce the importance of things like regular and thorough handwashing. Make sure you are in a safe environment and allow your child to talk freely. Drawing, stories and other activities may help to open a discussion.
Try not to minimize or avoid their concerns. Be sure to acknowledge their feelings and assure them that it’s natural to feel scared about these things. Demonstrate that you’re listening by giving them your full attention, and make sure they understand that they can talk to you and their teachers whenever they like. Warn them about fake news and encourage them – and remind yourselves – to use trusted sources of information such as UNICEF guidance.
3. Take your time
Start with shorter learning sessions and make them progressively longer. If the goal is to have a 30- or 45-minute session, start with 10 minutes and build up from there. Within a session, combine online or screen time with offline activities or exercises.