As we edge closer and closer to Fall and the onset of the new school year, there are so many things to think about as childcare professionals.
In addition to the many valid concerns about how current classroom structures make social distancing an impossibility, many folks working with young children have already experienced how difficult it can be to help enforce CDC and WHO best practices in social settings.
We wanted to offer a few ideas that may help you communicate about COVID-19 with your young charges, in an age-appropriate way that provides them with a better understanding of how to be helpers throughout the pandemic.
Develop New Greetings
From a very young age, we become accustomed to some sort of physical contact each time we greet someone. From handshakes to hugs, it’s such a common aspect of culture and one we often don’t even consciously engage in. Unfortunately, in the throes of this pandemic, it is essential that physical contact with people outside of the home is extremely limited. Help the young people in your life adjust to this change by modeling social distancing in your own greetings. Perhaps you throw out an air hug or a kind wave to the neighbors, and show your nanny kids how to greet people without physically touching them.
Speak With A Smile
Learning to understand spoken language can be confusing enough at a young age, but when you take out the physical cues that often accompany speaking, the multiple facial expressions that help us to assign meaning and intent to the conversation, clear communication becomes significantly more complex. Mask wearing can be difficult for young people to embrace because many young kids rely heavily on facial cues to better understand your words, so when you’re wearing a mask, be sure to use other cues to support your intention: smile with your eyes, be aware of your tone, volume, hand gestures, etc.
Play is such an integral part of intellectual and emotional development, and playing with peers is a common way that young kids process their life experiences. In the shadow of a highly contagious pandemic, it is really difficult for young kids to continue to engage in play the way that they once did. Consider how we can create opportunities for our nanny kids to continue to develop strong bonds with their peers while maintaining physical safety above all. Many communities are creating Zoom and Skype playtimes centered around a story read out loud or creating virtual field trips through one of the many online learning sites. One nanny had a young charge who was so sad about being unable to spend time with their best friend, so the nanny coordinated with their employers to get matching dolls for both young girls, and helped to organize Zoom playtimes for the kids. The sweet friends used their dolls to play together online, while also benefiting from having that tangible, comforting reminder of their friend once the online playtime was over.
As we all become so consumed with physical safety and cleanliness due to COVID-19, we want to do everything in our power to protect the young people we’re caring for, but we don’t want to raise an entire generation of people who are terrified of the world because they grew up in a pandemic. Some nannies and parents have developed creative ways to gamify some of the new habits we’re adopting to stay safe, in an effort to add some playfulness to what can feel very overwhelming for young kids. Consider making a 20-second song with your nanny kids for hand washing to make it more fun! One nanny worked with her school-aged kids to better understand social distancing, and their approach was to look at the 6ft-apart-rule as the new ‘floor is lava’ game. If they see someone getting too close to another person, they all exclaim: ‘you’re almost touching the lava’, and have kid-appropriate knowledge about why you don’t want to get too close. Another way to look at this is to approach cleaning tasks as something that ‘helpers’ do to help their friends. Explain how sanitizing, washing toys, and handwashing helps to keep our friends and family safe. Create chores and tasks that center the concept of helping and caring for others, and you may be surprised by the sudden interest.
These are just a few quick ways to help your young nanny kids manage all of the restrictions around COVID-19, but there are certainly many more. Do you have any recommendations? We’d love to hear how you’re navigating these situations with your nanny kids!
We’d love to hear your thoughts, do you have any advice for caregivers navigating this time?
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