Posted on September 20, 2020

Ask our Experts

If you’re looking for access to leading experts and trusted resources to help support your child’s learning and development, look no further! We shared your questions with our team of experts led by Dr. Michael H. Levine, and they responded with simple solutions you can start applying to your lives today!    

How can I provide structure for my child while they are learning from home?

“Young children crave structure!” says Dr. Levine. Knowing what is going to happen each day decreases a child’s stress and increases their sense of security. Establishing routines helps support children’s learning by helping them focus, persist in finishing tasks, and plan ahead.

Create a daily schedule with your family

When everyone is involved in making the plan, they are more likely to follow it.

  • Think about specific times during the day—what time does everyone wake up? When are work time and play time? What time are meals and snacks?
  • Encourage healthy habits by scheduling breaks during the day, and have your child help decide what to do during those breaks—like taking a walk or playing a quick game!
  • Think about location—where does everyone need to be during the day? Is there a loud area for video calls and a quiet area for drawing or listening to a book with headphones?
  • Be flexible! You may have an extra video call one day–encourage your child to problem-solve and adapt.  Can they read a book? Draw a picture?
  • Talk about the next day before you go to sleep at night. Do the best you can and know that you can always adapt if the day doesn’t turn out quite as you had planned!

How can I prevent my child from falling behind especially when it comes to certain skills like reading and math?

Herbert P. Ginsburg, PhD, the Jacob H. Schiff Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, says: “Early math is important for two reasons.  One is that young children enjoy doing everyday math activities like making shapes with blocks, counting toys, making patterns with colors, and comparing lengths. So get engaged with their everyday math activities.  In particular, talk about them:  ‘Look: the cat is on top of the table and the dog is under it.’  But most of all, have a good time. The second reason is that everyday math lays the foundation for later school math, which elaborates on everyday math.  Children who have already played with blocks will enjoy learning in school that a square has 4 sides all the same length.  Children who have learned to count at home will enjoy learning in school that when you count after 20 all you have to do is add on the numbers 1 through 9.”

Reading and math skills can be practiced every day during daily routines

  • Practice reading and math skills by looking for letters and shapes throughout the house, and when you take a walk, around the neighborhood or at the playground.
  • Practice math skills by counting as you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds! Sort laundry together, find patterns on your clothes, and measure how far you can jump!
  • Have books available for your child to look through and read throughout the day—ask your child to retell the story and focus on the order of the events.
  • Write letters to family members and friends.
  • Have conversations during meal times—tell stories and have your child ask and answer questions.
  • Playing games reinforces reading and math  skills—have fun and learn at the same time! 

Susan B. Neuman, Professor of Early Childhood and Literacy Education at NYU, reminds us, “There are wonderful, easy ways to help children….the key thing that we could do is to be responsive to a child’s queries and interests. So every time the child asks a question and I answer it and I extend it, I’m letting the child know that I’m responsive to their language….that is the key to vocabulary development. It’s the responsive adult interacting with the child.”  She also reminds us to read! “The most helpful strategy, of course, is read to your child, even after your child is already reading on his/her own…enjoy a chapter from a chapter book, and read books that are a little bit above your child’s level.”

Should I be concerned that my child is not having a lot of social interactions with other children their age? What can I do to help my child develop social skills?

School is a place where children practice many of their essential social skills. The good news is that your child develops many of these skills at home.

  • Use video conferencing apps to have play dates with friends and to build relationships with others.
  • Take a neighborhood walk and, from a safe distance, say hello to neighbors and community workers.
  • Family time is a great time to reinforce social skills—talk about feelings and taking someone else’s point of view. Pose questions for each other—What would you do if a friend is upset about something? Dr. Levine suggests playing the Rose & Thorn Game—each person shares a “rose,” or a special part of the day, and a “thorn,” or a challenging part of the day. Read books and watch short videos together and talk about how to solve problems.
  • Read books and watch short videos together and talk about how to solve problems.

Even though we are spending less time in person with other people, we can still be social with each other!

How can I find out what my 3YO/4YO/5YO should be learning? 

Dr. Levine reminds us, “Children are unique and learn at different paces.” If your child is in school or other child care, check in with your child’s teacher about what they should be learning. Ask for suggestions about books to read and skills to practice.

Here is a trusted source that shares common milestones for young children—knowing these milestones helps you know what skills to work on with your child:

Encouraging your child to develop all of their skills—physical, social-emotional, and cognitive—is key to healthy development!

Check out Dr. Levine’s interview with CMOM and hear some more tips from one of the leading experts in early childhood!   

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