Essential Skills Children Should Learn in the Time of COVID-19

The transition to 2021 is bringing with it a lot of optimism about our ability to move out of the era of COVID-19. Vaccinations are slowly but surely being administered, and there is legitimate hope that by the midpoint of the New Year (or perhaps a little later on) a significant portion of the population will have gained immunity. That will bring back some semblance of life as we knew it before 2020.

At the same time though, some of the changes we’ve been forced into will remain in place. COVID-19 will not be eradicated (at least not anytime soon), and at least for the remainder of 2020-21 school calendars many students will remain in remote situations. This means parents and educators need to continue finding ways to make unorthodox education effective. And it’s why we’re putting forth a few essential skills we believe children should be learning in the time of COVID-19 — however long that time may be.

Home Physical Fitness

Covering the idea of ‘Bringing Physical Fitness to Students During Quarantine’ way back in May of 2020, we discussed how teachers and PE instructors have had to adjust to remote-learning situations. This involved developing games students can play from home — “taking it from the playground indoors, all using everyday in-house materials.”

This remains a vital idea several more months into the pandemic. In many cases children simply aren’t getting the physical activity they would ordinarily get, and in the meantime they are, by necessity, spending more time on screens. This is a significant problem, not just for physical fitness but for general development in younger children in particular. According to research conducted by an assistant professor of pediatric obesity at Louisiana State University, children who get markedly less exercise and less sleep, but more screen time, show lower fundamental motor skills than those who sleep and exercise more and limit screen time.

This is a glaring issue, but one that educators and parents can help to correct by finding inventive ways to keep physical activity in education. Children need activity for a whole host of reasons, and it can be provided with creative instruction!

Media Literacy

We just noted that some increased screen time among kids is necessary. The simple fact is children in the time of COVID-19 are relying more heavily on devices and internet activity than ever before. This can in the best of circumstances lead to dynamic and effective learning. But it also means more time spent online, where it is increasingly difficult for young or inexperienced users to tell the difference between what is reliable and real, and what is misrepresented or fake.

This is why we’re buying into the increasingly prevalent notion that parents and instructors should be teaching children “media literacy” in the time of COVID-19. A Huffpost article on media literacy frames this as a means of raising “informed media consumers,” which is actually quite a valuable idea. Kids today are going to grow up seeking and using information online and through social media, and teaching them how to analyze the sources of that information is as valuable as any traditional school subject. In that same article, an assistant professor from Maryville University’s online masters in strategic communication and leadership explains that this is a process that can begin with very young children as well. Though this particular professor teaches students among the growing ranks of aspiring professionals seeking higher education online, her expertise leads her to believe that something like showing young children what is reality or fantasy on YouTube or television can be a start. Parents and teachers alike can find ways to relate to kids of all ages in such a way as to convey crucial ideas relating to media literacy.

Life & Home Skills

Life and home skills have less to do with traditional schooling or academic pursuits. But for parents in particular who are looking to make sure their young children simply keep learning new things, this can be a valuable category to turn to. That’s not to say it should displace school topics. But for children who may not be enjoying full academic calendars, time spent learning life and home skills can boost development (and make some practical sense) more than excess leisure time.

A Seattle’s Child exploration of life skills to teach had some excellent ideas about where parents might start with something like this. These included organization (the “Marie Kondo method” specifically), cooking, gardening, and more — all valuable home and life skills that aren’t traditionally taught in schools. Suffice it to say a little bit of focus on these areas in lieu of an extra hour browsing YouTube or playing a video game can be excellent for development.

Ultimately, with a return to ordinary living on the horizon, the hope is that we can soon get children back into regular schooling scenarios. As was noted by an associate director at the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education though, even this won’t mean that things simply snap into place. Starting ordinary school next fall and assuming everything is okay will discount the fact that kids need to catch up. But we can start that catch-up process in some ways by continuing to seek creative solutions to at-home education, including some of those discussed above.

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