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While children appeared to be largely spared from the direct mortality impacts of COVID-19, the indirect effects have changed their lives profoundly, and we have with us Mrs. Rashmi Kapadia – Headmistress of Bloomingdale Pre-Primary discussing pre-schoolers and the pandemic’s effect on them in a conversation with Icy Tales.
Q. With the raging pandemic going on for more than a year now, we can see how deeply it has affected the education sector. In what ways do you think children are affected by the pandemic when it comes to social interaction?
Rashmi Kapadia: Since the last one and a half years, we have been facing this pandemic, and especially talking about these pre-school-going children, I would like to mention that they have been affected the most.
The learning for these children is mostly via touch, feel, and social interaction. Now due to the pandemic, this has gone down to “zero,” I can say. To mention how the pandemic has affected them, I can say that they learn the skills of sharing, trust, support, or loyalty, through social interaction.
Emoting their emotion is also learned by their interaction, which has gone down to quite an extent because of this, I feel there has been some kind of deterioration in the way they emote or the way they convey their feelings.
Q. Talking about social interaction, what offline activities do you feel the children should take up to make them more social?
Rashmi Kapadia: Many parents have restricted their children from going out or meeting others during the pandemic, and they spend most of their time at home, either with their parents or with other elders at home.
The different activities they can do that will help the children with their social interaction, and which they should do is a lot of storytelling with their parents, they can see some puppet shows online if possible, play board games, puzzles, and so on.
These activities should help them with their vocabulary building, which is extremely important to improve their social skills. They will be able to express themselves better with a better vocabulary.
Even games like card or memory games help. Dress-up or role-plays at home also help with their vocabulary building and expressing their emotions. These are the major activities they can do at home.
Q. From a school’s perspective, what do you feel a child’s parents expect from his/her school & teachers? Also, is there anything that JML feels it provides above the conventional expectations?
They look out for who’s teaching the children, their A-B-Cs, their 1-2-3s, concepts, reading, writing. This is what the parents are more focused on.
As a part of the school, I feel the socio-emotional growth is as important as the academic growth of a child. And JML Bloomingdales, as a school, provides this kind of opportunity for the children where we take online virtual classes for our young ones, and we give them ample opportunity to interact with each other.
When the little toddlers see the other children doing some activity they learn best. So if they see another child doing a particular activity, they would also like to mirror that and do the same activity themselves.
At times we also do a lot of cooking activities with the children. They don’t like eating vegetables and fruits, and our teachers do a lot of cooking activities, they show children what the various fruits and vegetables are and how to make a salad and eat together.
So when they see others also eat various vegetables, they also at least try to taste something new that is there in front of them.
Q. The 21st-century demands more than just school textbooks’ knowledge. At such a tender age, what extracurricular activities do you suggest children should get involved in?
Rashmi Kapadia: The extracurricular activities for the preschoolers should be more physical activities, things like dancing, yoga, learn musical instruments. Go out cycling, learn about various methods of planting, growing plants at home. I would rather have children doing more physical activities and be a part of a group that has physical activities together as that would help out.
As far as academics are concerned, the school and our trained teachers are the best who can help them. Physical and emotional growth can be taken care of with these kinds of extracurricular activities.
Q. Since the beginning of human life, we’ve seen an ever-increasing need for good communication. What tips would you give to improve a child’s communication skills?
Rashmi Kapadia: Reading books is extremely important for children. They should read a lot of storybooks of various genres. Another thing is once they read the book, they should discuss the book with their parents. Discussing what they have read also helps them to improve their communication skills.
Likewise, I would say that many times a parent merely questions the child. They’re constantly questioning the child – “What is this?” “What do you see there?”, “How does this work?”. So a lot of “whats,” “hows,” and “when” are what parents ask. I feel a parent should try to make statements, more than asking questions to children, where the pre-schooler is constantly tested on a particular subject or topic, or even if a parent wants to ask a question, it should be more of an open-ended question, which will help a child to think creatively and communicate well.
Another thing is that the parent should also have fun with words with their children. Say a word and ask the child to rhyme that word or make funny words out of it. So these are the various things that parents could do with their children to improve their communication skills.
Another very important thing is to give time for a child to answer because when parents ask them something, many-a-times they’re impatient and don’t give them enough time to think and answer and the parents answer immediately. Give a child time to think, and then, if the child is not ready with the answer, the child will ask the parent to help them out.
Q. Everyone concentrates on issues of virtual middle school and secondary school education; pre-schoolers are facing a lack of social learning & interpersonal skills due to this virtual model. How do we combat these problems?
Rashmi Kapadia: The parents need to be convinced that concentrating on a middle school or a high school child and giving their education more importance is not right.
A pre-schooler also is a student, and a pre-schooler attending school, spending time in school is extremely important. I feel these children are always ready.
There’s a schedule that is set for them when they’re a part of a pre-school. They look forward to their classes, meeting their peers, meeting their teachers; that is something that a toddler’s parent should understand. Giving importance to that kind of schedule for their children.
Only sitting at home and learning the A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s is not growth. Social growth, whether interacting with their peers, is equally important. That is something a parent should understand and make their child a part of pre-school because the trained teachers in pre-schools give enough age-appropriate activities for their growth and fine motor skills, or their language development and social interaction.
So I feel parents should give that kind of importance even to the pre-schoolers. Many-a-times I have realized while speaking to the parents, and they feel that “Why should we send our child to a preschool, learning it is just 1-2-3s and A-B-Cs?”. But it’s not just that. They’re also learning how to control their emotions, how to put forward their emotions, how to communicate and learn from their peers, which is extremely important for them.
Mrs. Rashmi Kapadia has out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to pre-school education. She not only focuses on academics but also gives importance to the social and emotional well-being of children, which is extremely significant for the overall development of a child.