From Cooking to Calligraphy, People Stuck at Home are Finding New Space for Creativity, Washington Post, April 11, 2020
This year, the arrival of summer comes with a loss of the last remnants of daily structure, leaving many parents with a sense of being lost in the wilderness. Where can you begin to approach this amorphous time, to shape it for your family and your children?
Consider approaching the weeks as a teacher might, by creating a workable, streamlined schedule that everyone can follow.
One of the reasons that young children seem so comfortable at preschool is because they know exactly what is happening when. Their classroom routines become automatic, especially when they can see them. Clear expectations about the flow of the day are established at the start of the year. Children come to rely on these expectations and find comfort in the familiar rhythm of their days. In this way, children can anticipate transitions and look forward to their favorite times of day.
Young children are extremely visual. They can read and interpret pictures and symbols long before they begin to read words. As parents, you can use this developmental strength to help your children at home, just as teachers do throughout the classroom.
To create a picture schedule at home, start by examining your daily routine. Give it some careful thought and come up with a daily structure that works for your family during this time. Your daily plan might include: Play time (free choice), dedicated clean up times, quiet rest, meals/snacks, limited screen time, indoor/outdoor movement, and supervised activities such as cooking, art, science and water play. Each day of the week, M-F, should be a little different, varying project types and screen days. You can also decide how often and when you want to include music and/or movement activities.
It is important to remember that you are actually creating an ordered routine, not a precise schedule with exact times. Over a relatively short time, your children will begin to internalize the general outline of the day's flow. Their new rhythm will become familiar with practice, and you can stop improvising.
Here is a possible routine:
Outside or Music/Movement Activity
Limited Screen Time
When planning this schedule, I kept these ideas in mind:
1) The day starts together after breakfast. This will give children some reassuring attention right at the start of the day.
2) Active movement early in the day can help children to release energy and feel more focused, to breathe some fresh air, and to exert physical effort in a healthy and necessary way.
3) Playtime, Quiet Time and Screen Time are meant to be independent, so that everyone, has some time to themselves - including parents. Try streamlining as much as possible, coordinating your own work with your children's independent times.
4) Alternate active/quiet times of the day, and independent/supervised play.
5) Simple rituals, lighting and music will help with transitions.
6) It's important to go outside every day - rain, snow or shine. Explore nature, experience the elements, breathe, and move in an unconfined space.
7) Decide how often you would like to include music and/or movement. These activities can be supplemented by online programming or streamed music.
Making a Schedule Board for Your Home
Once you have decided on a daily rhythm that works for your child(ren), create an eye-level visual schedule to refer to each day.
1) Write out a list of every part of the day. This might include the following activities: Art, Cooking, Exploration, Science, Water Play, Choice Time (2x), Outdoors (2x), Rest Time, Screen Time, Story Time, Movement, Music, Clean Up (2x), Snack, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and/or Jobs. Add an additional "Something Different" picture to give yourself the option for a surprise. Write or print the list in approximately 24 bold pt. type (This is especially useful for children who are becoming interested in reading and making connections between pictures and words), and cut out each activity label. For Example:
2) Create pictures to represent each part of the day. Take a quick photo of your child doing the described activity, or use clip art or your own drawings. Invite your children to participate by coming up with and creating their own images. They can even take photos themselves. Glue activity labels and images onto 4 x 6 index cards (or 5 x 7 for two year olds), or computer paper cut into quarters or halves.
3) Place the finished schedule cards in order with magnets at your child's eye level with the understanding that they will change daily. The lower part of your refrigerator is ideal, but you can use a white board with magnets. Velcro on poster board can also work, or try Post-It's in a pinch. For younger children, you may want to display one row at at a time; ie. morning schedule through lunch, and the afternoon through bedtime. See what works for your children!
4) As you go through your day, turn over or remove each card as you finish the activity that it represents. In this way, children can actually see where they are in the day.
Your child will soon be able to follow the order of the day in pictures. You will begin to notice your children going back for independent visits to check the visual schedule, perhaps to seek reminders about the day's plan, or simply to experience the reassurance that comes with knowing what comes next. Creating this rhythm at home requires intention and forethought, but it's worth the effort. When your young child knows what to expect, the day is more likely to unfold with a greater sense of order and calm.
This Washington Post opinion piece by Kelly Glass speaks directly to the mission of Be That Someone.
From On Parenting, April 21
As schools shut down last month, shell-shocked parents and their young children retreated to the physical protection of their homes, only to recognize a looming reality: Uncertainty had toppled all plans. Carefully shaped routines evaporated. Children’s multifaceted worlds beyond their homes - and all that these provided, including childcare - had ceased for the forseeable future. Their colorful, organized classrooms with labeled shelves, and the sense of place and order that they offered, were lost for the academic year. Playdates and lessons ceased. Neighborhood playgrounds lay abandoned. In the quiet stillness, you could almost hear a collective parental gasp, a terse inhale without release.
"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."
- Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
Mr. Rogers' final episode aired in August, 2001, the month before September 11. Shaken and heartbroken, he steeled himself to step out of retirement into a role that he knew well - to serve as a reassuring touchstone for the nation's children. He returned to his studio living room, the most appropriate setting for this difficult but crucial conversation. He conjured his sense of presence and his kind voice, bringing his deep concern for the children watching. They needed to hear directly about what had happened. He spoke as if he were talking to each of them alone, intuitively grasping the importance of their relationship. These children needed him.
"No matter what our particular job, especially in our world today, we all are called to tikkun olam, repairers of creation." He went on: "Thank you for whatever you do, wherever you are, to bring joy and light and hope an faith and pardon and love to your neighbor and to yourself."
As Mr. Rogers addressed his young audience, he was also modeling for adults how to be present with children, bringing honesty, patience, and curiosity into their relationship. He was demonstrating the importance of prioritizing children's emotional experience, making time for their questions, acknowledging their fears, and offering a consistent message of comfort and hope.
A year later, the United States was embroiled in war with Iraq and Afghanistan. This time he addressed parents directly: "I know how tough it is, some days, to look with hope and confidence on the months and year ahead. But I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger. I like you just the way you are. And what's more, I am so grateful to you for helping the children in your life know that you will do everything you can to keep them safe and to help them express their feelings in many different neighborhoods."
Fred Rogers spoke to us as children about the Viet Nam War and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and he can guide us now, if we study his prescient words. But clearly his communication skills exceeded his chosen words; he was speaking to children with the camera at eye level, in a kind, approachable and reassuring tone. He was focused and clear, doing one thing at a time, as he won their trust and attention.
As we begin to conduct much of our life on screen, we have a leader in Mr. Rogers. Who could have imagined that his beloved television program would find new purpose during a worldwide pandemic twenty years after he had filmed his last episode. We have much to study in how he was able to break through the screen to connect in the deepest way with the open hearts of young children. He was able to create an intimacy, a trusted bond. Whether you are a teacher reaching out virtually or a multi-tasking parent, you can learn from paying close attention to his ability to reach children.
Luckily for us, children today can still experience Mr. Rogers live on their computer or tablet screen. They can watch five new half hour episodes every other Monday at the Mr. Rogers' Foundation website. (https://www.misterrogers.org/watch) While you will no doubt find that some aspects of the show are dated - the dial phone, the clothing styles, the slower pace - you will also notice his timeless personal quality of unhurried presence and his remarkable ability to make a child feel seen. Fred Rogers continues to reach children through the screen to create the intimacy of a one-to-one relationship that children crave..and his shows are filled with both realism and imagination, puppetry and original music.
Mr. Rogers' deeply understood the power of music. His choice of song subjects are highly relevant to the lives of young children. Here are a few sample titles: You Are My Friend, I Like You Just The Way You Are, Won't You Be My Neighbor, Sometimes Isn't Always, There Are Many Ways To Say I Love You. A trained pianist and skilled musician, Mr. Rogers wrote and played all of the music for Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. As he sings, his voice soothes as he creates music that is filled with short repeating phrases. Progressions flow easily, allowing him to emphasize chosen words, such as "friend." Children respond immediately. You can still create a playlist of his many songs which are available on Spotify.
I know what it feels like to love Mr. Rogers first hand. He was able to create a relationship with millions of children, including me. As I remember, it was just us, as if during every show, he were speaking directly to me. He created a relaxing experience for me in my living room, as if her were inviting me over, just to talk, saying "You'll have things you'll want to talk about. I will too." Looking back, I can see that I was responding to his voice, the music, and the realistic questions and concerns that he raised. He was talking to children's intelligence about what we were thinking about.
For many years this was a private memory, but in 2018, I attended a conference for the National Association for the Education of Young Children in Washington DC where I heard a moving talk by Mr. Rogers' Foundation former co-director, Junlei Li. During the question and answer session, teachers in the audience stood to share their own memories into the microphone with over 500 attendees. Some were moved to tears as they recalled the impact of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood on their inner worlds, as they struggled to come to terms with divorce and racism in their young lives. In raising topics that no one else did, they shared that Mr. Rogers had created a space for their feelings that allowed healing to begin. And they never forgot.
If anyone can guide us now about how to reach children during this unprecedented time, it is Mr. Rogers.
"At many times, throughout their lives, children will feel the world has turned topsy turvy. It's not the ever-present smile that will help them feel secure. It's knowing that love can hold many feelings, including sadness, and that they can count on the people they love to be with them until the world turns right side up again." - Fred Rogers
WATCH FIVE NEW EPISODES THE FIRST AND THIRD MONDAYS
OF EACH MONTH AT HTTPS://WWW.MISTERROGERS.ORG/WATCH
Be That Someone.
A blog for that special someone in a young child's world.