Ministry of Education, Guyana

Learning at Home: 5 Steps to Plan Your Day

On our first unexpected day together at home, my daughter and I scrambled to put together a plan for a routine and learning activities that she could do while I worked from home.

We both agreed on a “no screen time until after 2:30pm” rule — the time her school day typically ends. We were excited to get started! An hour into the day, she asked if I would play with her. I felt badly that my remote meeting schedule didn’t allow me to give her the attention she wanted. Instead, I encouraged her to switch activities until she found one that would keep her attention. We continued this pattern for the rest of the day — juggling work while trying to find activities to keep her engaged on her own. The day felt stressful to us both. Neither of us had what we needed to feel successful and, in the end, the day felt like a failure.

On our second day, I gave in to our “no screen time” rule by mid-morning. My daughter was much happier and my stress level was down so I felt better too.

When our state announced extending school closures, I realized we needed a new plan for how to balance our conflicting needs. What children need most at any age is connection — connection with caring adults and connection with other children. Juggling work with home life wasn’t letting me do much more than keep an eye on my daughter without truly feeling connected. We both felt the stress of that. Looking ahead, I decided to dust off strategies from my days as an early childhood teacher. We came up with a new plan to blend learning activities into our daily lives. Using a combination of materials we had at home, activities that gave us a chance to connect through the day, and high-quality screen time — we came up with a plan that left us both feeling like we have what we need.

As many families are suddenly carrying the stress of juggling work and home life in new ways, we may all need a little extra help from one another so that we don’t have to do this alone.

Here are a few strategies to set yourself up for success with what you already have at home.

1 Plan for a basic (and flexible) routine.
Children and adults thrive when they have patterns. New patterns take time to get used to, but once in place, they lead to routines that children come to rely on. As you decide on your home routine, ask yourself: “What are the must-haves?” Your child might need snacks, lunch and a nap at certain times of day. Set those first. Next ask: “What are the nice-to-haves?” Depending on your child’s or children’s ages and developmental stages, what each child needs might be a little different and can help shape your daily family goals.

2 Set manageable daily family goals.
A manageable goal might be that each day, we will: 1) learn something new, 2) read a book together, 3) go outside or exercise indoors, and 4) spend quality time together. You might have other goals that are important to your family, too. Choose goals that are flexible and use materials that you have on hand at home.

3 Use what you have on hand.
Gather learning materials from around your home. Have books easily accessible in places where you and your children spend time. Find paper, crayons, markers or other craft materials to set up a crafting station and unleash your child’s inner artist! Use pillows and blankets to create forts. Pots, pans and wooden spoons can become musical instruments (try this water xylophone). As you and your child go about daily life, brainstorm ways that everyday items can be used in new and creative ways.

4 Make learning part of the conversation.
Talk about what you see around you to build your child’s language, vocabulary and turn-taking skills. Ask questions that encourage children to think about things in new ways like a scientist might. Point out textures, colors, numbers and shapes. At snack or meal times, use words to practice self-help skills, good manners and sharing. As you read together, have conversations about characters’ feelings to promote your child’s social-emotional development. You can use conversations to help extend your child’s learning from screen time as well.

5 Have realistic expectations for your child.
Many young children are not ready to entertain themselves for long periods of time and that is okay. As children’s brains develop and mature, they gain the ability to focus for longer periods of time, but doing so takes practice! You can help your child practice these skills by engaging in activities together. When you do spend time together, show interest in what your child wants to do. Ask questions that help them engage in the activity a little longer. If you are juggling work and home life, you might find that you rely more heavily on screen time than you might otherwise, so choosing high-quality programs like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Wild Kratts is especially important.

As you and your children adjust to new patterns at home, be forgiving of yourself. You may not feel equipped to teach your child everything you think they should learn, but keep in mind that learning never stops. Every moment that we connect with a child matters. These moments are a chance to teach new vocabulary, share how we think about the world, model strategies for how to manage emotional ups and downs, practice problem-solving skills and think creatively. With what you have at home and a focus on connection, you can help your children feel loved just being who they are and that may be the most important lesson we can share with our children any day.


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