Forum: Give pre-schoolers sense of normalcy during this period

I read with great interest that some parents rushed to buy toys for their children ahead of the closure of most shops as part of stepped-up social distancing measures (Out and about before new measures kick in, April 5).

The toys' novelty will wear off very quickly. Instead, give children relationship, routine and sensory-rich activities.

In my 16 years as an educator and practitioner, I often ask children: "Why do you like to come to school?"

Most children respond with "I like my friends" and "I like to do work".

During this pre-school closure, give children a sense of normalcy by helping them to stay connected with their friends.

I suggest dividing a class of children (three-year-olds to six-year-olds) into buddy circles consisting of four children each.

For each circle, assign a child to be a leader on a weekly rotation to initiate video calls with the other three buddies under their parents' guidance in a coordinated time schedule.

Children can boost one another's morale with show-and-tell sessions in which they share about their little home-based projects, for example, a constructed toy model, a drawing and so on.

Most pre-schoolers adore and listen to their teachers. Teachers should organise video calls with each buddy circle to check in on the children's well-being.

Next, routine gives children a sense of predictability and control of knowing what comes next. In other words, a sense of security.

Parents can adapt their child's pre-school weekly timetable around their work schedule and the buddy circle timing.

Involve the child in the planning of a weekly timetable for a sense of ownership that comes with the child's buy-in.

Routine comes with children having a familiar working space of their own to access working materials independently without their parents' help.

Set up learning spaces with the child at home for him to retreat to do some independent work - to draw, tinkle with recycled materials, read and play.

Lastly, plan for open-ended sensory-rich activities at least once or twice a week.

For example, fill a big shallow rectangular box with things like water, ice cubes, flour and water, that provoke a child's five senses to discover and explore freely.

Occasionally, just add some new toys or materials to keep the play experience fresh.

Relationships are built around fun activities and routines.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)