Seven of the best lessons to teach preschoolers in a pandemic

Preschoolers in Singapore typically spend most of their weekdays in their respective childcare or preschool facilities, interacting with their classmates and teachers.

These everyday experiences contribute to the development of cognitive, social, and emotional capabilities that children build on as they grow up. As such, it can be said that preschool is one of the most important periods in a child’s development. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic has disrupted much of this daily routine for many children around the world. Young children have had to skip their classes and stay home with their family members while they wait for the result of their COVID-19 test, or because they have underlying health conditions that can increase their risk for the disease. There are also circuit breakers and days when classes are suspended or held online so that their preschool facility can undergo proper disinfection. Adjusting to these changes, some of which can occur quite suddenly, can be upsetting to some kids.

The good news is that young learners can still build on their social-emotional competencies and other skills at home with the help of their parents. Even if they can’t attend their kindergarten, Singapore-based young learners can still pick up a lot of practical and life lessons. Here are some of the best lessons that older family members can teach their preschoolers at home. 

1) Good hygiene

Given the current health crisis, it’s a good idea to consistently revisit the hygiene habits that help prevent the spread of the virus. It pays to keep demonstrating them to the younger members of the family.

Preschool facilities have a list of hygiene and cleaning practices that they need to carry out, and preschoolers may be familiar with a few of these concepts. Perhaps, the kids already know that they’re expected to wash their hands before and after handling food and using the toilet, and after coughing and sneezing.

Parents can reinforce these habits by joining their children in washing their hands before and after meals, and they can also sing a song like “Washy Washy Clean” to make sure that they are able to wash their hands for about 30 seconds. Making bubbles while handwashing can also make the activity more fun for young learners. 

2) Arts and crafts

Making art is another activity that children will likely enjoy and learn from while they’re staying at home with the rest of the family.

There have been numerous art campaigns that aim to express gratitude to Singapore’s frontline workers for their unwavering service for the past several months, and even children can take part in this activity. Parents, for one, can bring their children’s attention to the healthcare workers, cleaners, and bus drivers that they’ve encountered in the past, then discuss how these people help ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing during these tough times.

Then, they can invite their kids to create art that will encourage and show their appreciation to these frontline workers. This is a good way for kids to have fun, let off some steam, and develop a better appreciation of how society works. 

3) Cleaning up

Teaching children how to do simple household chores is also a worthwhile way of spending time at home. Depending on the child’s age and capability, they can be assigned to do chores like dusting small areas, setting the table before meals, watering plants, or sorting clean clothes according to who owns them.

Cleaning up can reinforce the hygiene habits that the kids have picked up in recent months while also allowing them to exercise their fine motor skills and encouraging them to assume age-appropriate responsibilities at home.

4) Time management

Young children who have an understanding of what time is or who know how to read clocks can also be taught the basics of time management. Teaching this all-important skill can simply mean establishing routines like meals, bath time, and bedtimes, creating a visually appealing schedule chart, or holding waiting sessions that can help the child develop the concept of delayed gratification.

Parents can also discuss the different times of the day, how to tell morning from noon and evening, and how their schedule during the weekdays differs from the weekends. At this point, parents can aim to help their children grasp the concept of passing time and give them a sense of order and predictability. 

5) Online safety

Today’s preschoolers are digital natives, meaning they’ve never known a world without the internet. At an early age, they might already be familiar with how to download games and browse through videos and images.

It’s important for parents to guide the kids as they familiarize themselves with the internet, especially at a time when most people are staying in their homes and have few other options in terms of entertainment and recreation other than online-based activities.

Just the same, preschoolers can also be taught to talk to their parents if they encounter anything online that makes them uncomfortable or feel unsafe. Parents can also start talking about online safety rules with their children, such as never giving away their personal information to anyone on the internet. 

6) Cooking

There are plenty of cooking and kitchen prep activities that parents and preschoolers can safely do together while they’re at home. They can prepare salads by mixing together a bunch of precut ingredients, make cookies in different shapes, and decorate cupcakes and brownies.

While they’re working in the kitchen, parents can teach their kids about the value of working as a part of a team, as well as the importance of nutrition and food safety. In the midst of a global health crisis, it is especially important for children to develop an understanding of the role that proper nutrition plays in strengthening the immune system.  

7) Resilience

Resilience can seem like a complicated concept to teach preschoolers, but parents don’t exactly have to delve deep into the subject while introducing it to their young ones. They can start the informal lesson with their children by learning to recognize the emotions that they feel and what they feel about what’s happening around them.

From here, they can discuss the activities that can help them feel better, like talking to another person, finding a silver lining, or doing arts and crafts, for example. Like a muscle, resilience or the capability to recover after a struggle can be built through effort and repetition, and short talks like these can help young children learn about emotional regulation without necessarily going through many complicated thoughts and processes. 

Instead of looking at isolation periods as lost chances for experiencing and learning new things, parents can use these times to bond with their kids and impart lessons that they want their children to learn and remember.

The current situation presents a lot of uncertainties, but it also offers parents a unique opportunity for teaching skills that their children will be able to use and apply as they grow into their own person. 

Photo by Jerry Wang