Fear Not Parents: Kids Can Learn Lots While At Home

“In general, we need a better appreciation for the fact that learning is happening everywhere especially within families – in every conversation, exchange, meal preparation, routine, backyard game children are learning,”                                                      – Debra Harwood, Associate Profession of Education Studies, Brock University and an expert in Early Childhood Education

One of a number of images produced by the Ontario government, in the wake of the COVID-19 oubreak, on learning at home

News from Brock University in St. Catharines/Niagara

Posted May 24th, 2020 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – As parents adjust to the announcement that in-school classes will not resume in Ontario for the rest of the school year, a Brock University expert says several key steps can be taken to keep kids learning until the end of June and throughout the summer.

Associate Professor of Educational Studies Debra Harwood says it’s necessary for parents to start with what kids need most.

“I think what’s important is remembering the basics of what children need, such as the sense of belonging within family, safety, and mental health and well-being,” she says.

With these key parameters at the forefront of any learning objective, Harwood believes the best outcomes can come through four simple steps:

  *   Provide structure and consistency to the day. Knowing what to predict and providing a daily routine can help children learn more effectively.

  *   Take lots of time for talking. Social interactions facilitate attachment and a sense of self as well as foundational language learning skills.

  *   Set up project time. You can think of projects that can be undertaken throughout a day, or the entire week.

  *   Make time for play. Ample time for play, both unstructured and supported by parents, fosters creativity, problem-solving and autonomy.

As outdoor temperatures climb, Harwood says the spring and summer seasons provide an ideal time to take some lessons outside.

Another image recently produced by the Ontario government for young students learning at home

“The outdoors provides a wonderful prospect for endless learning and play for children, and it also offers holistic developmental benefits and much needed opportunities for mental wellness,” she says. “Beyond the physical benefits of the outdoors, it also promotes language development, problem-solving skills, children’s ability to assess risks, increased concentration, improved self-esteem, and overall well-being.

Whether lessons are taking place at the kitchen table, in the toy room or around the backyard, Harwood says it’s important for parents to recognize that learning is not exclusive to school or school-based activities.

“In general, we need a better appreciation for the fact that learning is happening everywhere especially within families – in every conversation, exchange, meal preparation, routine, backyard game children are learning,” she says.

“Focus on practical life skills and having fun”

For examples of what parents have been up to, Harwood invites interested parents to visit the Brock Early Childhood Education Pinterest page<https://www.pinterest.ca/BrockBECE/at-home-play-learning-ideas-during-a-pandemic/>for  a list of at-home play and learning ideas.

Early Childhood Learning Expert Debra Harwood

Debra Harwood has been involved in the area of Early Childhood Education for more than 20 years. As a practitioner and researcher, Debra has worked directly with educators, families and young children in Ontario, British Columbia, and internationally. Her teaching and research expertise are focused on early child development and curriculum, nature pedagogies, professionalism, community

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