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COVID Babies Go to School!

COVID Babies Grew Up!

Remember somewhere around mid-March of 2020 someone flipped a switch? The museums we visited the day before were closed. Schools with the same friends and teachers as last week were shut. Office meetings were no longer around a staff table but on Zoom. Now after varying degrees of “stop and start”—and lots of worries—we have ambled back to today.

But children were born, and toddlers learned to walk; babblers made simple words. Physical developmental stages have been pretty much untouched. However, the normal gradual socialization of library visits, dance classes, and even going to the grocery store or being around extended family did not happen. Now the COVID babies are headed for preschool.

Children will feel more confident if they have the basic skills needed. Then they can deal with the emotional separations. Prepare your child by teaching tasks necessary to be successful in the preschool environment.

Make Learning FUN!

  • Separation: Make pop-up puppets. Punch a hole in the bottom of a paper cup. Insert a drinking straw and tape on a picture of yourself. Move the straw up and down. Even if the child can’t see you, you will be back.
  • Putting on shoes and socks: Show your child how to gather the sock to make a little hat over the toes and then pull the heel down to fit before pulling the sock up the leg. Tube socks and Velcro shoes are just smart!
  • Washing hands: It takes a long time to make this a habit! Make up a twenty-second silly song to an old nursery tune or your favorite hit. Keep soaping until the song is over.
  • Standing in line: Choose four to five stuffed animals and role play lining up for a treat. How does your child respond when Elephant tries to cut ahead of the Bear? Who gets to lead the line and why? In the end, of course, the child gets the treat!
  • Winning and losing: No one likes to have a carefully crafted stack of blocks knocked down or be last in a race. But life in a community means most of us will be disappointed sometimes, and preschool is a good place to experience that when the stakes are not so high. Model being a good sport and downplay the competitive urge by teaching “high five”s for everyone who took part.
  • Cooperative play: Moving from side-by-side play to real cooperation is big. Start with a simple puzzle but divide the pieces into several piles and alternate who puts them in. Cooperation and sharing are essential. The task could not be done by one!
  • Listening to others: Sit together with a ball or beanbag and a timer. Pass the object around and when the time goes off, the person holding the object can name a food they like (or color or animal) while others listen without interrupting. Start the time and pass again. Stop after all children have had a turn.
  • “Reading” faces and bodies. COVID children are unused to seeing facial expressions and body language of those outside the family. As you look at picture books, move beyond the story to play “Feeling Detective.” Can your child tell if a character is happy or sad? Lonely, afraid? Can your child think of a way to help?
  • Communicating feelings: “Use your words” often does not work with an upset child. A puppet (even a sock with two eyes drawn on it!) can sometimes distract the child. If the puppet says he “cannot understand,” the child may be more likely to calm down and speak clearly than with an adult. The “understanding” of the puppet models compassionate listening.
  • Inside/outside voices: Use a board game spinner to practice: 1 = no talking, 2 = whisper, 3 = speaking, 4 = shouting is okay. Play at home, then take the spinner in the car. Before you enter an activity, let your child indicate on the spinner which voice to use. It will be different at the library than at the playground!
  • Please, thank you, sorry: Model their use and remind children often by role-playing situations with stuffed animals. What should the stuffed doggie say when he wants a drink? When the child is empowered to do the “correcting,” learning occurs. These are important words for a lifetime!

You Are Not Alone!

Preschool teachers have been anticipating this post-COVID anxiety and are prepared to make the transition with your child. Read any “preschool mom” blog; other kids in the class have experienced isolation. With the basic preschool skills in place, you and your child can weather the social reentry knowing you are ready.

Robin Currie learned story sharing by sitting on the floor in library story times. Robin has sold 1.7 million copies of her thirty storybooks and writes stories to read and read again! How to Dress a Dinosaur (Familius, 2022) shows a creative way to get dressed!

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