2020 has thrown us all for a loop. Most parents have agonised over what to do with their kids. Some have been at the school gate at the crack of dawn when schools were allowed to open, ready to hand their kids over and bolt. Others have dug their heels in and refused to take their child out their front gate. Still others have swayed back and forth so much, trying to decide what to do, that it would make even a well-weathered sailor giddy.

 

I have been in a fortunate position to have been able to abstain from any decision. My daughter’s name was down at a play group starting mid year just after she turned three. Our COVID_19 case numbers were climbing and we made the call to pull her off the list for the rest of the year.

 

Here is why.

 

1. Social Interaction

We had our friends living on the property. She was getting ample opportunities to play with another child. Each day they would play together and alongside one another in the sandpit, on the trampoline and on the jungle gym. If they weren’t outside, they were inside reading books. She has had more social interaction than many kids her age albeit with one child. Now that they have moved away, we started to have conversations about what we should do to increase her social interaction. Level 2 opened up a week later, so now we see friends all masked up.

 

2. Age

She has only just turned 3. I have wanted to keep my kids at home until Gr RRR as I don’t think school is necessary before then if they are being sufficiently stimulated. She has under 4 hours of screen time a week. That means that the rest of the day, she is playing outside, doing puzzles and reading books. She has a time on her own each day where she has to entertain herself for just under an hour. We have reading time together. She is doing all the things a little girl of three should be doing. I am a firm believer of not rushing kids into a schooling system. They have plenty of time for that later.

 

3. Stimulation

As I have said, I believe she is being sufficiently stimulated. She does a mixture of 30 piece to 50 piece puzzles every day. She spends much of her time looking at books of which she has many. She has lots of equipment to develop fine and gross motor skills inside and outside. I am not worried in the least as to whether she is being stimulated. I have thought she is ready to go to a play group or a preschool. But, with COVID_19 around, I’m in no rush to send her anywhere. In order to keep her a little more entertained, I started to do “school” with her and our friends’ son during lockdown. I planned activities around themes and tried to put out a sensory tray each day with things I’ve been collecting such as tea leaves, rice, sawdust, etc.

 

4. Learning Through Play

I firmly believe in the statement Let kids be kids. At this age, children learn best through concrete objects. They do not need to be sat down with a piece of paper and asked to be able to identify which cup is full and which cup is empty, for example. They learn by standing on a chair at the kitchen sink pouring soapy water from one cup to another. They learn to count as they line up their toy animals to form a procession into a toy ark. They develop fine motor skills by posting objects through the slats between the patio boards. Children learn through play. As I have previously said, my daughter doesn’t watch anything on the laptop (we don’t have a T.V.) more than four times a week. Some days she doesn’t sit in front of a screen. Which means, she is there when I wash dishes. She is reading books in her room. She is filling yoghurt tubs in the sandpit. And, gradually, all the concepts she will need to comprehend on a page in school, she will understand because she’s been learning through play.

 

Because I can check all four of the above boxes, we have decided to keep her at home for the remainder of the year.

 

However…

 

This does not mean that everyone should be keeping their child at home. Because not everyone is me. Some of you are working. Some of you need some space. Some of you have a newborn and need some time to breathe each day. Whatever your circumstances, they are very likely different to mine.

 

Here’s why I would send my child to school…

 

1. Social Interaction

If you, unlike me, have not had a playmate during lockdown; if you have not seen anyone, then your child is probably yearning for a friend. Children need to learn social skills. You cannot provide all the social skills they need – you are the parent, not the friend. A good 20+ years separate you and your child, and try as you might, you cannot play with them on the same level. If you are unable to make regular playdates now, they need to be interacting with little people of their own age.

 

2. Age

This is a personal opinion, but I believe kids should be in school by the time they are 4. I think they need more structure in their day and benefit from more stimulation that messing around in the dirt outside (although there’s nothing wrong with that). If your child is older than mine, then I would definitely consider sending them to school. Next year, as things stand currently, we intend on finding a play group or preschool for my daughter to attend.

 

3. Stimulation

If, for whatever reason, you find yourself unable to stimulate your child at home and develop skills, then you should consider sending them to school. Hear me carefully – the teacher will not do your job! You must still stimulate them at home and not abscond the duty to a teacher. However, if you find that they need more stimulation than you are able to give, then get some help.

 

4. Learning Through Play

Kids need the space to do that by themselves. It’s also helpful to give them opportunities to develop concepts through planned play, like doing a project together – building a Duplo house, playing vet with soft toys, etc. However, if you find that, to keep them out of your hair so that you can meet work deadlines, you are sticking them in front of Daniel Tiger, Peppa Pig and then Jurassic Park (you’re desperate, right?!?) then you need to rethink your situation and find a working solution where you are both able to do your thing!

 

We are all different. So are our children and their needs. Times are strange. We are all trying to handle this pandemic in the best way we know how. So, based on the above, make the best decision for your family.

 

Photo Credit: Natalie from Pexels

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