The Comfort of Familiar Routines
Julia Luckenbill is the infant-toddler coordinator at the Center for Family Studies, University of California, Davis. Julia reports that this year the center will serve toddlers and preschool-aged children. She shares the following information about creating routines for families.
We all know young children love and need routine. There are new protocols for routines like hand-washing, temperature checks, health screens, and drop off and pickup procedures. We ask families to carefully read these expectations in advance and then share the information with their children. For example, last year it might have been fine for a child to bring her stuffed bear to school. Now, however, stuffed toys are not allowed. It’s best for the parent to tell the child in advance so she does not bring the bear to school and discover that the bear cannot come in. Getting used to the new normal is hard enough for young children without adding this kind of stressful surprise.
In another example, perhaps in the past families walked their children into the classroom where they said goodbye. Now, for health and safety reasons families are not allowed to enter. Children need to know this in advance so they will have appropriate expectations.
Ease Separation with Goodbye Rituals
Young children find a goodbye ritual very comforting. Families can make up a love ritual such as a secret handshake and a kiss. Reading books about separation such as The Kissing Hand can also provide comfort to children.
Families can walk the child through the school day at home, practicing the new routines. For example, families can view Sesame Street videos about handwashing and then practice together. Teachers can then sing the same song with children while handwashing in the classroom. When home and school expectations are parallel, children don’t have to adapt as much. Simple, age-appropriate phrases and rhymes can help young children remember the importance of hand-washing, not touching their face, and other health and safety measures.
Explain What Stays the Same
While the pandemic has changed certain aspects of preschool, many things have not changed. Parents can tell their young children about what to expect (and get excited about) this school year. For example -- “Look, you’ll have circle time, just like last year!” and “I know you will still have snack time, let’s think of some really fun things we can put in your bag.” Focus on familiar relationships -- “I see that Tomiko will be your teacher again, I wonder what you will say to her when you finally get back to the classroom?”
Through careful planning and anticipating challenges, we are hopeful that this year will be a meaningful educational experience for all the children.
Julia Luckenbill, MA, is program coordinator at the Early Childhood Lab School at UC Davis.