The pandemonium of the pandemic has thrown open a Pandora’s box to all of us! It’s been more than a year now and we have found new ways of doing most things as adults. However, as we battle the second wave of the COVID-19 coronavirus, we need to take a look at other activities that we ignored in the last months as “non-essential”. Now that we know that the virus is here to stay, and mutate, and pose newer challenges to our life as we knew it, we need to innovate.
We keep talking about our nightmarish times, but I pity those toddlers who are yet to start framing their thoughts into proper sentences and have no clue how permanently covid is damaging their lives ahead.
One of the things that had taken a back seat as ‘non-essential’ was education for our children. More so, the education of the younger ones.
The total student population in India is about 32 crores, out of which 36 million children qualify as pre-schoolers. It is the largest student body in the world, and almost touches the entire US population. However, early learning from home is a new challenge to both children and parents today.
So, what is a way out for pre-schooling children while keeping them and yourselves safe from getting infected?
The obvious answer is online schooling. But why is it important to ensure that younger children (pre-schoolers) continue their early learning at home?
• The brain development for children between 0-5 years of age is extremely fast. If we delay in any learning related activities during this period, it may cause irreparable damage with respect to learning abilities
• Skills such as fine hand motor skills required for tasks like writing or building structures is important and needs nurturing during this phase
• Maintaining a daily routine when it comes to learning and discovering about the world is critical during this phase which leads to building definite abilities & skills such as attention span, critical thinking, cultural consciousness, creativities and so on
• Being confined restricts opportunities for early stimulation such as exposure to outside environments and others, especially other children. So, it is important that children socialise and interact with peers which feeds their natural curiosity and encourages them ask questions and observe behavioural patterns of others of the same age.
The next important question however is how do you get your tiny tots to sit in front of the screen and obey a teacher who has no control over the class room environment.
My cousin’s kid is just about 3 years old, and he has been taken to the doctor, as he seems to be a bit of a late beginner in speaking. He listens, reacts, responds, and attends online school with his mom (who happens to be a working lady in a government service requiring attendance even in covid times). But the kid does not speak. We laugh at his antics, but as soon as the online class begins for his elder sister, and he sees the teacher online, he runs off the room to his grandma. Perhaps none of us realizes his unexpressed problem. Since he has come into his senses, he has been deprived of the phenomenon called socialising. He has never had friends around who would speak as much childish gibberish as he would, as a mandatory process of learning to speak. So naturally his urge to speak is simply there.
It may be ‘just’ two years and at most three gone waste, as we try to console ourselves. But little do we realise these ‘just’ few years is like lifelong damage to these tiny little hearts.
Hence, the paramount need of the hour is to find a preschool that focuses on keeping things interesting to hold the student’s attention rather than one that depends on you to make sure your child is sitting in front of the screen and obeying the teacher.
Interestingly I was involved in a technology project which takes you to the magical virtual world of interactive learning. Sounds a bit like an oxymoron, isn’t it? But such is the magic of technology that it does not leave you only to see and consume a cartoon, a game or anything of your interest, it makes you be in it, become a part of it. As in formal words they say – an immersive experience.
I think this is a magic which we can gift to our kids, who may be losing out on many touch and feel experiences of life in their most crucial developmental years. We can definitely gift them with a replica that gives them a near real feel of things. Just imagine if your toddler could sit with Masha and the bear and play with the butterflies, being at home and also experience how it feels to touch a butterfly- all in this virtual world, learn at one’s own pace without the additional stress of performance and yet develop critical attributes like creative development, cultural consciousness, communication and collaborative skills? At least don’t you think this will be some repair to the damage we otherwise are imposing on them?
Perhaps we are not smart yet to ward off the covid virus from our world in an abra-ca-dabra way, but we can still try ways to make the lives of our young ones magical!