Meredith Bunyard is the director of P.LA.Y. Preschool, a Reggio-inspired in-home program in San Francisco, CA.
Child care happens in person, but that doesn’t mean early childhood educators aren’t supporting learning and keeping their communities connected during Covid-19. Here’s a window into what one Wonderschool director is doing for her families.
Continuing the Learning
A child shows off the bunny they made with one of P.L.A.Y.’s Weekly Activity Packets
On Thursdays, Meredith Bunyard sends out a plan for the next week. It includes tips and ideas for families to do with their children, and what to expect during their virtual time together. Then, on Friday, Meredith drives around dropping off packets at the homes of her families. The packets are filled with the materials needed for next week’s activities.
They are staying connected almost every day. Monday – Thursday she gathers everyone for a Zoom circle time, where they greet each other, sing songs, and read stories. In addition to this, Monday – Wednesday, Bunyard and her co-teacher, Olivia, lead the children in specific activities. Last week they made paper plate bunnies, bird feeders, and did yoga together.
Bringing the community together has been helpful, but the kids still miss each other. Bunyard sent home pictures of all of the kids in her program, and has heard from parents that their children are really missing their friends and taking time to look through the pictures every day.
And It’s not just about bringing the kid-community together either, Bunyard wants to make sure the parents feel connected and supported. Most of her parents work in tech, so she created a Slack workspace for her parents to communicate. She posts articles and shares tips for how the parents can talk through Covid-19 with their children, and offers ideas to work through any behavior issues.
Keep reading to see an example of a weekly packet for P.L.A.Y. Preschool.
Sample Weekly Play Packet
Hello PLAY Parents!
Here is your weekly packet with our weekly activity schedule and also lots of different ideas to try with your little ones at home this week!
Weekly Grab Bag will include:
- Washed Pine Cone
- Sunflower butter
- Bird seed
- Plastic needle
- Magic water marbles
Zoom Activities Schedule
- Circle Time: Monday – Thursday @ 9:30 am
- Monday @ 5:00 pm: cooking project with Teacher Olivia– Child-Friendly Granola *See Ingredients/instructions below
- Wednesday @ 5pm: project with Teacher Meredith — bird feeders
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/4 cup ground flax seed
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins or whatever dried fruit you have on hand
- Preheat the oven to 300, and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat for easy clean-up.
- Combine all ingredients (except the blueberries!) in a large bowl, and stir well to combine.
- Spread the granola evenly on the sheet pan, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
- Let cool completely, and then store in glass jars.
Ideas to use at home:
Mindfulness (quoted from Moments a Day):
What does mindfulness really mean?
You acknowledge your feelings and thoughts, but you don’t let them rule you. You focus on what you’re doing and experiencing in the present moment, without worrying about the past or thinking about the future.
You can achieve mindfulness with or without meditation, and it’s a useful way to manage your stress and shape how you react to different things in your life.
How can you teach your kids to react to things mindfully?
Focus on their breathing
A big part of mindfulness is being able to take a deep breath and center yourself in any situation. For little kids, you can include their favorite stuffed toy as their breathing buddy. Have your kids lie on the floor and set their favorite stuffed toy on their belly. As they breathe quietly for one minute, have them focus on the way their stuffed animal rises and falls. While they’re lying down, tell them to let any thoughts float away like bubbles or feathers.
Focus on their heartbeat
For this exercise, your children need to do something to get their heart pumping. Have them jump up and down in place, run in circles or whatever it takes to get their heart rate up. After a minute, have them sit down and feel their heartbeat.
You can also have your kids focus on their heartbeat, their breathing and the way their body feels. exercise is similar to the one above in that it gives kids a focal point.
As we all know play is an essential part of childhood — free play teaches kids everything from creativity to leadership skills to fine motor skills and helps them develop the skills they’ve already learned. Don’t be afraid to take out a play doctor kit and try some breathing and heartbeat games with stuffed toys.
Focus on their senses
We all have five senses that help us experience the world. Try using them to give your kids things to focus on. Have them sit quietly and describe something they can see, something they can touch, something they can smell, something they can hear and something they can see.
This exercise helps your children use the world around them to foster mindfulness. By taking a moment to step back and highlight something they can experience with each of their senses, they can start to use their mindfulness skills in their daily life. It’s also a good tool to learn for dealing with situations that make you or your child anxious. Focusing on things you can experience with your senses gives you a way to calm down a mind that is running out of control.
Focus on their muscles
Teaching young children how to loosen up and relax can be tricky. They often don’t understand the concept of relaxation.
The “squish” exercise can help get your kids to loosen up, even if they don’t realize they’re doing it. Have them lie down and tighten as many muscles as they can. Make fists with their hands, squish their toes up and hold them for a few seconds before they release them. As they’re doing this, have them focus on their bodies and the feelings they’re experiencing.
This next exercise helps your children relax, while teaching them to be present in the moment. Start with your toes and work your way up through each muscle group until you reach your head. If you can remain focused and keep incoming thoughts from interrupting you, chances are you’ll be asleep before you reach the top of your head.
Above all, keep this in mind…
Being mindful is a useful tool, no matter your age. If you can teach your children to be mindful from a young age, even for a few minutes at a time, you are equipping them well to deal with real-world situations that may arise. Read more here.
Activities & Games:
Developing Language Skills Through Games
Play is the primary conduit for the development of language, intelligence, and imagination. Outdoor play maximizes opportunities for a child to engage in all forms of play, which in turn allows them to express ideas and feelings, as well as develop communication and social skills. Outdoor games that focus on reading and writing help with different aspects of letter recognition and language development. They include:
Rhyming games: Jump rope songs and other classic playground ditties such as “Ring-Around-the-Rosie” help children learn about word families, the concept of phonemic awareness and the ability to break words into smaller recognizable parts. Rhyming helps children who are learning to read understand about the structure and patterns of written and spoken words.
Games promoting fine motor skills: Coloring with sidewalk chalk helps with fine motor skills such as grasping. Using a squirt bottle to erase the chalk from the cement also helps promote this same type of development.
Vocabulary games: Introducing new words during play, such as jump, flip, up, down, etc., is a great way to increase a young child’s vocabulary. This can be done while climbing rock structures, swinging or even playing hopscotch. Adding expressive words is a bonus, especially during snack time when children can describe what they are eating.
A child plays with the water beads included in the Weekly Activity Packet.
Playing with sensory materials: Ex. water beads, foam, sand, dirt, leaves, flowers, and so much more.
With online ordering at an all-time high right now, it seems likely that you might have a cardboard box or two in your home that hasn’t made it out to the recycling yet. Good news! Cardboard boxes are an amazing ‘toy’ for children to play with as they are an open-ended material. They inspire creativity and imagination as children transform and reinvent them into something else. Your child could turn the box into an everyday location such as a restaurant or doghouse, or a more fantastical location, such as a pirate ship, or castle–the ideas are endless!
One way you can facilitate your child’s imaginary play with a cardboard box is by providing items such as stickers, stamps and writing implements so that your child can play and create in an unstructured way.
- Discuss with your child: What would you like to make?
- Discuss with your child: What are you doing? How are you going to play with the box after you have finished creating?
- Add other items as your child’s imagination and creativity develops as they create using the box. For example, your child wants to turn the box into a ship and would like to add a flag.
- Help your child cut out “windows” or make other alteration to the cardboard box by using scissors while they watch
- Fine Motor Development
- Hand-Eye Coordination and Control
- Experimenting with tools provides
- Language development – talking about what they are doing (the process)
- Creativity and Imagination
Check out “Learning 4 Kids” website if you’re looking for fun ideas that promote creative play and learning with your little one. Their website allows you to browse by age range (I have linked the 2-3 year age range below) and also by category (Ex: fine motor, paint, words). Happy playing! https://www.learning4kids.net/category/2-3years/
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