We are going through unprecedented times. The social distancing and self-isolation norms have confined us and our little ones in homes. Kids are already going through emotional turbulence without schools, playmates, and trips to the park. In the absence of social interaction, they are missing out a lot, especially younger kids who are developing or improving their speaking capabilities. Toddlers and preschoolers largely relied on their play park outings, or playgroups hours to learn communication skills.
Kudos to the teachers and the parents who have quickly up their game to not affect children’s progress. Teachers have rapidly acquainted themselves with the online way of teaching, and parents have become excellent facilitators to continue the child’s education.
Locked Kids, Agitated Parents
Unfortunately, how much we do, the online structure isn’t equivalent to physical schooling. In these online classes, kids are mostly mute spectators to avoid noisy calls. So while they are covering upon their academics, the social skills and language skills are still overlooked.
I know of a mother who is left anxious as her child can’t attend the speech therapy session physically. The kid has a short attention span and online sessions aren’t doing much good. A friend is worried about her 2 year old becoming too clingy due to lack of social interaction.
I am a mother to a preschooler too. I loved it when my daughter would befriend new kids, deal with the issues in the play park, share her viewpoints, and show her disagreements with her friends. How she would discuss everything that her friends said and what she believed and what she wanted me to confirm. Her language and analytical skills were developing effortlessly. After some research and pondering, I came up with a few tips and tricks that can help bridge the gap between our children and the outer environment.
Talk, talk, and talk, all day long
For infant and babies
The best way to make kids learn a language is to speak to them whenever and wherever possible. If your little one just babbles, use action with words to teach them. Children learn through expressions. Be consistent with a few words at least. Start with bi-syllables like ma-ma, da-da, na-na, etc. Try talking to them in no more than 3 words. Like, instead of saying it’s time to eat your food, just say “eat food”. Let them start picking up words to add to their vocabulary. Once they started speaking at least a few words, you can work on sentence structuring.
For Toddlers and preschoolers
For toddlers and preschoolers who are already using single words or small sentences, speak to them in full sentences like you normally do. Pick up 1-3 words a day, associate it with action, and repeat it oftentimes. You can also create placards with pictures, words, and alphabets, thereby teaching them language and alphabets at the same time. If you think your preschooler has developed good speaking ability, start teaching them synonyms. You can introduce them to new words through the usual interaction itself without much effort. For example, next time don’t say ‘a big elephant’, rather say ‘a giant elephant’ or ‘a huge elephant’ etc.
Please don’t rely too much on your tablets or phones to teach them fresh words. I don’t have to emphasize the disadvantages of electronic gadgets for the tiny tots.
This is important for their emotional and mental wellbeing. Let them talk to family and friends or anyone they are fond of over a video call. In the absence of regular social interaction, video-calling is one sure shot way to make them feel connected to their friends. You can also arrange for a virtual playdate if the kids are comfortable and like the idea.
Make Stories your Best Friend
My daughter loves stories. I have been narrating those to her since she was an infant. She no longer even relies on books for the tales. I have to whip up something nice and swift on a wall, a spoon, a fan, among others. Sometimes it gets difficult for me. But I have learned to deal with it. So should you. Talk about objects, about animals, about food, about the environments, emotions and anything and everything you can think of.
For preschoolers, I have found a hack. When narrating stories become too much for me, I make a deal with her. I will read or narrate 2 stories and ask her to tell me one. It works like a charm us. Hopefully, it will work for you too. This method will take some time, but it surely kills two birds with a stone.
I have recently started a new activity with her. I show her a picture and ask her to tell a story around it. She is faring well so far. I will update her progress as she continues.
Let them Lead the Pretend Plays
If you have a little one, pretend plays would be a usual thing at your home. To make it fun, entertaining, creative and a learning exercise, let the kids lead the activities. Don’t take decisions, instead ask them questions. You should target on teaching them problem-solving and decision-making, understanding through facial expressions, etc.
Not only through pretend plays, but you can also involve children in taking decisions in the daily chores. My daughter for instance, decides our food menu almost every day. And voila! No fussy eating either.
Make Use of their Screen Time
Kids these days are largely dependent on digital devices, whether it is for attending classes or for staying connected with friends. They would also want to watch television or phone for leisure. By keeping a check on what they are watching, we can make the best use of this screen time to develop their speech. Few things to keep in mind are the kind of words, clarity of speech, and tonality used in the video. Additionally, there are several educational apps available for free or a limited trial basis. My daughter’s favorite these days is the Kutuki app. You can check which works best for your child and subscribe to that particular app. You may visit the British Council website for several free songs, stories, games, and activities for learning English.
Learning should be Fun, not Taxing
These are overwhelming times. Parents particularly are over-burdened with kids requiring attention 24*7. The best way to deal with the pandemic days is by not being harsh on ourselves. Learning can happen naturally through routine activities too. There is no need to fret on what the child is missing. Our kids are in the safest environment, with their favorite people. Help develop their language skills in a fun way without taxing yourself.