By Paula Cox
COVID 19 changed the world as we know it. We went from having busy, predictable routines to having our routines upended. No one’s normal is normal anymore. Even if you are still working, you are now sanitizing, practicing social distancing when working, working in shifts to minimize contact, etc.
Not only has our normal been upended, but now many of us are trying to work from home with kids and pets underfoot. It feels impossible! Then, if you are a parent of a child, preschool through school age, you were given a packet to follow, giving you instructions for video links, Zoom calls, Google classroom, review packets and even more! But WAIT, you say! You have a preschooler! Why on earth were you given a packet full of links and instructions?! Is preschool that important?! Oh no! If I don’t do this…will they keep my preschooler from starting kindergarten? What can I do so my preschooler is ready for kindergarten this Fall?
The educator in me says, YES, preschool is important! YES, your preschooler will be ready for Kindergarten in the Fall.
I know, I know. You are wondering how to make that happen now that you are working from home, social distancing and creating a new normal.
I want to take some of the pressure off all preschool parents. If you were given a packet to follow and you have time…use it! But, if you are like most parents of preschoolers who feel like they can’t take a shower without an audience, I have a few tips for you!
Tip Number 1: Put the packet away. There are many things that you can do as a parent that will benefit your preschooler without using the packet! Let go of the packet and relieve some of your stress. Make sure you remember where you put it because every once in a while you may want to pull it out.
Tip Number 2: Make a family schedule. Did I say a realistic family schedule? It needs to be realistic or you will give up on day 1. Children (and even adults, if we will admit it) function better with some type of schedule. Think through your day, the amount of sleep you need, how long your kiddos usually sleep, if you want free time in the evening without those darling kiddos, how many hours you need to work from home, etc. With that family schedule, decide, am I an early riser? Can I get a lot done before the kiddos even wake up or will I do better completing some of my work from home once they are tucked in for the night? Can conference calls be moved to the afternoon when they are napping or first thing in the morning before they are up? I always find it helpful to put things down on post it notes so I can rearrange things easily as I try to create the best schedule. It is an easy way to work on getting a clear picture of different scenarios, moving things around, until I find the one that works best for me.
Tip Number 3: Start using some great parenting practices that have stood the test of time, such as: play games with your child (teaching them to wait and take turns), read books together (even the ones that you feel like you have read 100 times), go on nature walks to observe the world, let them help you cook, clean or fold clothes. If you have watched any of Marie Kondo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EY3QJyi4js https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZjp55-QsAM videos on Youtube, she is very purposeful about teaching children to help around the home. You can also talk to your child! Have real conversations with them about books, about their favorite shows, about things that they like to do. Sing and dance together! Play together. Build forts, do art projects, collect rocks, walk the dog together! Do puzzles, build with Legos, color, paint, get out the playdough and cookie cutters! Cook together! Watch fun videos that make you all laugh. Read a children’s Bible storybook together! Clear off the table and start using it for family meals! Put magnetic letters up on your frig and give them tasks to do, letters to find or words to spell while you are washing dishes or let them help you wash dishes! You are your child’s best teacher! Putting these great parenting practices into play helps your child build vocabulary, experience new things, encourages their good behavior, helps them feel loved and cared for, builds strong emotional bonds and so much more.
Tip Number 4: Turn off your technology. During these uncertain times, our children need our attention. They cannot verbalize the angst that they feel because they sense your tension. Our children do know that they need us! They need us to hold them, to snuggle together, to laugh together and to just be present in the moment. I am not saying to go without your technology but you could have technology free evenings, technology free meal times, technology free play time in the yard.
Tip Number 5: Be consistent. Consistent about what, you may ask? EVERYTHING! Be consistent about bed times, about getting dressed in the morning, about hygiene habits, about eating at the table as a family, about those technology free times, about discipline and good behavior, about chores and helping around the house, about your expectations.
Tip Number 6: Get out the packet. Once you have established your schedule and routines, get out that packet from the preschool teacher. Spend some time reading through the packet to see the suggestions and skills that the teacher is suggesting that you work on. Assess what you have been doing. Have you been working on counting when they were putting toys in the bathwater? Have you been focusing on sounds when you asked them to find the magnetic b or the w on the frig? Did you work on rhyming when you read that Dr. Seuss book? YOU have been teaching your preschooler! Congratulations. Pat yourself on the back and see if there are any skills that you may have missed and use the packet to address those skills.
Tip Number 7: Enjoy your children! Look at the world through their eyes! See how uniquely they were created by God! Hold them tight, pray over them and watch them as they sleep….and thank God for walking this journey with you!
Remember this upended world is just for a season. You will not be able to mimic everything that a great preschool program provides for your child but you can build a solid foundation for your child. Don’t be discouraged! God will be there to help you every step of the way!
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Paula Cox is the Assistant Principal at Destiny Christian School. www.DestinySchool.com