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Family Files

Keep Young Children Learning at Home During Trying Times

Many families with young children are seeking resources about learning at home with young children as the COVID-19 situation evolves in our communities. This is a trying time for programs and families as they work together to keep young children safe, healthy, and learning.

Going to child care and preschool is part of their regular routine for many young children. These routines provide stability and comfort that helps them learn and make sense of the world around them. Many children will be at home with their families or experience changes in child care and school situations as the COVID-19 situation changes.

The Illinois Early Learning Project wants to provide educators, caregivers, and families support and guidance as they work through these challenges. Young children look to adults for comfort and guidance. This is especially important when their daily routine is disrupted by an unexpected event, such as the COVID-19 situation. Here are some things adults can do to support young children:

Keep a Stable Routine and Provide Consistent Guidance

Establishing a consistent daily routine with young children will help them feel safe and secure. Talk with young children about what they can expect as their day progresses. Regular play, meal, and rest times provide stability. Consider what you can do to provide encouragement, guidance, and emotional support during this time.

Provide Appropriate Explanations

Young children need clear and child-appropriate explanations for changes in routines. Adults should consider what information is appropriate for young children to overhear about the COVID-19 situation. Young children will sense worry and concern from conversations they overhear. Focus conversations with and around young children on how your family and community can stay safe and healthy. Being good citizens helps young children feel a sense of control and competence during anxious times.

Provide Developmentally Appropriate Activities

Young children are eager and joyful learners. Curious young children need to play and explore at home. They can learn in safe spaces outdoors and in their community. In times of stress, these play times are especially important for establishing a sense of safety and normalcy. Singing together, reading stories, and pretend play are all ways that young children use language, thinking, and social skills. A simple walk around your block is an opportunity to talk about nature, lights and shadows, and the buildings you see in your neighborhood. Young children can learn during everyday activities at home! Our tip sheets provide many ideas for families to continue to learn and play together.

Reach Out for Support and Information From Reliable Sources

Follow the guidance you are receiving from reliable sources in your community to determine what is safe to do with young children. They will let you know which community spaces are open and available for your family. They can provide guidance about resources you can turn to for support and meeting basic needs during this stressful time.

Related IEL Resources

Rebecca Swartz

Dr. Rebecca Swartz, an early learning specialist for IEL, completed her doctorate in human development and family studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Rebecca’s research and outreach work focuses on infant-toddler care, home-based child care, and the social-emotional development of young children. Her goal is to help parents and early educators by providing evidence-based resources on child development and early learning.