As learning goes online to keep students away from schools and safe at home, preschool and kindergarten children barely out of their toddler years are struggling to make sense of this new version of school, which not so long ago meant playing, reciting poems and making clay models with friends.
While senior students wrap their heads around education through Zoom sessions and virtual interactions on laptops and smartphones, educators and parents say it is a challenge to explain the complexity of issues surrounding the coronavirus forced lockdown to the younger ones.
The fourth instalment of the lockdown imposed on May 18 allowed several relaxations but the education sector continues to be shut, forcing schools and colleges to continue the process of learning online.
Preschool and daycare centres across the country are doing their best to replicate the classroom environment virtually, but it’s tough when you are dealing yet-to-develop cognitive abilities and limited attention span, said Ankita Verma, mother of four-year-old Samaira who finds it difficult to sit through 40-minute classes.
She is usually quite excited to see the faces of her friends but eventually loses interest. Online classes can only do so much for a growing child who requires engagement with other children of her age and some physical activity, the Gurgaon-based HR manager said.
I understand this is the only option available during this lockdown period, but it can’t replace physical classes, she added.
Samaira’s school started off with disseminating educational videos, and later moved to live sessions to make the process of learning more interactive and personal.
Other education centres for children aged two-four years, too, have taken up similar efforts, including storytelling, reading sessions, music, and art and craft classes to keep the students engaged and help their lives fall into a routine similar to that before the lockdown.
Some have also introduced physical activities as part of the online class curriculum.
Many parents shared their concerns about their children not getting enough physical activities at home, so we decided to add that to our classes, said Priya Krishnan, founder and CEO of KLAY Schools.
The early education organisation now also conducts yoga classes several times a week to nurture a child’s social emotional, physical, language, cognitive, and creative growth.
We have a combination of physical and intellectual learning activities that can be accessed through the day. This includes a warm-up exercise, learning time, fun time and a mix of group activities and individual activities, Krishnan said.
Nikita Agarwal from Mumbai said her very friendly four-year-old child is getting frustrated at being confined to the house 24×7, and has been throwing tantrums.
Her rhyme sessions have helped quite a bit. They seem to keep her constructively occupied, Agarwal said.
A combination of short live sessions and offline activities that require parent participation does the trick with young children, according to Archana Tandon, principal, Kinder Care Playschool.
It is not easy to involve kids in live classes so when we have such sessions, we take up short activities that the kids can enjoy, as their attention span is very short. Parents are also a part of these sessions, she said.
Manu Gulati, teacher and education expert, agreed. These are high energy children, and it’s very important to channelise their energy in the right direction. To do that online activities cannot be the only option.
Technology should certainly be used to enhance the child’s everyday activity, but we cannot be completely dependent on it. Parents need to be actively involved with the children even beyond these sessions, she said.
Admitting that virtual education is not even a close substitute for traditional classrooms, Ketika Kapoor of ProEves, a Mumbai-based preschool/daycare aggregator, said the method helps keep both parents’ and children’s anxieties at bay in these unprecedented times.
In nuclear families, the pandemic and lockdown have resulted in anxiety and stress even in young children. We have had parents complaining about their children not being able to sleep or eat well in this new reality.
Such sessions help provide kids an opportunity to feel the social construct of a school and stay in touch with their classmates, Kapoor said, adding that their entire network of 6,000 preschools and daycare centres have gone online.
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