March 24, 2020

I see a lot of requests and recommendations for online learning resources for children who will be at home for an extended time. Every day, I think about this in my research on early learning, and I want to offer a few quick thoughts that I hope will help those families with children at home due to COVID-19.

  • Online resources. Common Sense Media is a great resource for age-appropriate learning recommendations backed up by research, including media EDC helped to develop and research. I’m also a huge fan of PBS KIDS—the original free educational media. In addition to research-based resources for children, PBS KIDS also has research-backed resources for parents and teachers.

Just a note: Screen time can refer to a lot of things. However, using screens effectively to engage in learning, especially together, is not what we worry about when we advocate for limiting children’s screen time.

  • Parent-child interactions.Learning is interactive and requires support. If you’re at home with your child, that’s great news! It’s a perfect time to practice some good engagement strategies. For example:
    • Play and view media (digital and hands-on games, videos, books) together
    • Talk about the media’s content
    • Practice strategies (e.g., asking questions, making predictions, and counting down from 5 to calm down) that characters model in the media
    • Make connections between the digital world and experiences and learning in the real world
  • Keep learning fun. Board games and other games are great ways to practice counting and number sense, reading and spelling, problem-solving, and persistence. These include any game that involves dice, movement in a sequence along a board, reading cards, following directions, or even playing something like Hangman.
  • Different ways to explore literacy.Reading is important, but there are lots of ways to support children’s literacy. Just a few ideas:
    • Tell or re-tell stories
    • Draw or write in meaningful ways (e.g., thank you notes, captioning a picture, recording a schedule)
    • Act out stories
    • Assemble pictures to tell a story
  • Get moving. Remember that your kids still need to move around. Get outside if you can, or use videos or apps to have a dance party or hold a yoga class. Common Sense Media and PBS KIDS are great resources for these types of media.

Finally, be kind to yourself as you adjust to this new normal. Spending quality time together matters, and it will help your family build good memories during this stressful time.

Deborah Rosenfeld is a senior research associate at the Center for Children and Technology at EDC, where she designs and studies digital and hands-on materials to support early learning, especially in the areas of STEM. She is also a parent of four kids who are now all suddenly at home and who will be part of this new learning adventure.
Early Childhood Development and Learning

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