Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on May 6, 2020. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Share at-home activities with young children
Video by Michaela Parker
Following nationwide closures of pre-Ks and early childhood education centers due to coronavirus, millions of parents are now caring for their young children at home.
Many Mississippi parents are wondering how to continue their young child’s learning, said Louise Davis, a Mississippi State University Extension Service professor with the School of Human Sciences. With a little bit of structure and some fun activities, young children can continue to develop the skills they need for school and beyond.
“Set up a space for your children to learn, where they can conduct activities, so they know that’s their learning space,” said Davis, a longtime early childhood education authority. “Put art supplies in a box and decorate the box. Color it and label it with the child’s name.”
Jamila Taylor, director of Early Head Start and Head Start programs in Harrison County, said the art box can be placed in a prominent spot. Choose a fixed location like a desk in the child’s room or an as-needed spot like the kitchen table.
“Now that the child has a space to be productive, parents can encourage young children to gather items and sort them in their learning area,” Taylor said. “Children can make groups in various ways to highlight the differences among colors and shapes and between large and small, longer and shorter, and less and more.”
Items can be collected inside, like books, or outside, like leaves, Davis said. Encourage children to order the items, such as largest to smallest, or pattern the items, like toy, book, toy, book, etc. Older children can create more complex patterns.
As young children begin collecting and sorting, they might enjoy making a book of their own. Full instructions are available in MSU Extension publication M2345, “Making Homemade Books.”
To begin, Davis said the parent and the child should choose a theme, which might be a letter, a color, shape, or an idea. For example, a letter theme might be T, and everything added to the book could start with letter T. A color theme like green allows a child to draw or cut and paste only green images. A shape theme like triangle can inspire a child to choose and draw images featuring triangles.
Finally, an idea theme such as friendship provides an opportunity to develop images of people acting kindly and working together.
The child can color, cut and paste, or print and paste images onto construction paper, and the parent can slip the pages into clear plastic bags to make pages. The parent can use a hole puncher to make holes along one side, and the child or parent can use yarn or twine to tie the book together.
Davis encouraged children to present their homemade books and read them aloud. This fast, fun activity teaches the child a variety of skills.
“When children are learning a process and having to think about the theme and when they’re building and doing, they have to think,” she said. “When they’re active in their learning, children retain knowledge and build on it. “
Taylor emphasized that despite the difficulties associated with the changes brought by coronavirus, parents should still enjoy this time with their children.
“Parents can include these activities as they develop new routines,” Taylor said. “Doing activities together can enhance the relationship between parents and children.”
Davis reminded parents that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting young children’s screen time to none at all for children under 2 and no more than one hour a day for children aged 2-5.
To help young children better understand coronavirus and reduce their anxiety, Davis recommended families read “Something Strange Happened in My City,” an online book available at https://socialstorycenter.com/social-stories/. The online coping tool, https://rightnowiamfine.wordpress.com/, provides a coloring book and more helpful information.
The Mississippi Department of Education has a range of learning-at-home resources for all school-aged children at https://www.mdek12.org/search/node?keys=Learning+at+home+Resources+for+Districts.