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Lockdown: Home learning for your youngster should be fun and informal

At home with your young child during lockdown? Rough-and-tumble play and letting them take the lead will provide vital lessons.


Image via Adobe Stock

With scores of younger children around South Africa stuck at home and unable to attend school or participate in online classes due to their age, parents are understandably keen to provide at least some level home-based learning for their little ones.

But, advises Cambridge University professor Paul Ramchandani, learning at home shouldn’t feel the same as if the child were learning at school. Instead, there should be fun rough-and-tumble play that will help them learn different, but essential, skills such as self-control and physical co-ordination.

Ramchandani, who enjoys the enigmatic job title of Lego Professor of Play, recommends that the lockdown lifestyle is also an ideal opportunity for fathers to get more involved with the play activities of their youngsters. This can include singalongs and fun games.

Take the time to play with your youngsters

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, he says parents shouldn’t concern themselves with the kind of play.

“Children will learn and enjoy different things from different kinds of play, and taking the time to play with your children [and] getting stuck in is the most important thing.”

Ramchandani advises parents to follow the child’s lead when it comes to activities, as the child is doing what interests them. He calls this “responsive parenting” and points out that it is key to supporting children’s learning, as well as social and emotional development.

“Slow down and let the child complete the task themselves, however long it takes, because that is how they learn,” he told the Guardian.

According to Ramchandani the most important thing for young children in times of stress is to receive predictable care and love from parents. But having time to play will also ease this process.

Let the child take the lead

Bonga Masina, toy librarian at the Ntataise Lowveld Trust in White River, Mpumalanga agrees.

In an interview with the City Press he highlighted the importance of letting your child take the lead. Leverage their interest in specific topics or objects and ask probing questions to expand their imagination and understanding. For example, compare textures and colours of things around the house.

Masina said parents shouldn’t place too much emphasis on the child being right. For instance, if the child draws a pig the looks like a snake, don’t argue that it isn’t a pig. Just ask them why their pig looks so skinny.

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