There is a lot of back and forth happening around the idea of school buildings reopening. I’m not here to say which is the correct choice because I don’t know if there is a correct choice. My daughter goes to a charter school in NYC. Her school has had a five days a week on-site learning option available since September with the exception of about two or three weeks when they felt the need to close for student/staff safety. My daughter hasn’t stepped foot in a school building since March 2020. And I honestly don’t know when she will again.
During her time at home, she has grown a few reading levels, taken on new math strategies, and has even begun to pick up a new language (French)! Okay, language-wise it is really basic, but she is doing it all on her own. Her reality is not the same as many other students around the country. Many students are suffering academically because their learning style thrives on in-person learning. Many suffer because they lack the resources to help their academic careers succeed. Some students suffer because their adults don’t have the ability to supplement and complement the education that they receive from their schools. What I have observed via my child’s remote learning and the remote learning adventures of friends is that the education they are receiving is not so different than the education that they regularly receive in school. Say what?! Most schools are still teaching the same curriculum on the same days that they would be teaching if the students were in the building. The students that are succeeding would have succeeded in the building and the students that are struggling probably would have been struggling in the building, they just might have received additional resources that helped to mask the levels of struggles that aren’t available during this season.
What all of these students are missing is the socialization that comes with being in a school building. Even homeschooled children have been missing their regular socialization opportunities over the past year. That is what we really need to pay attention to right now. There’s a lot of talk about the effect of their academic on the future but what about their social-emotional intelligence? I believe that we need to concentrate on the mental well-being of our children. We need to pay attention to how this is changing their anxiety thresholds, notice how they shy away from chances to go outside, listen to the worlds they create when they play.
I know, you didn’t come here for a dissertation on child development, you came here to learn about toys that can help you educate your littles at home. I’m getting there. I just wanted to let you in on my path to get to this month’s selections. This month, I wanted to focus on items that let us see how our littles are feeling, things that give us a peek into how they’re really doing in this new normal.
Big Feelings Pineapple – When my daughter was in kindergarten her class had a weatherman that they dressed every day at morning meetings. They would dress the weatherman according to how the weather was on their way to school. When this showed up at our house, JustaBXgirl was more excited for it than I expected. She wanted it to live in her “office area.” I decided that it would be a great way to show up how she’s feeling for the day. Kind of like a weather check for emotions. We love these kinds of things. You might remember the Whatsitsface Cat from my Building a Classroom Corner. She still uses the Cat but the pineapple also allows her the opportunity to customize her feelings a little more. It is great for occupational therapy as well for those that need a little support around dexterity. This was designed for a preschool-age but I think it will work even as far as college students.
MixaRoo – I find MixaRoo to be so sweet. It is a way for littles to build a buddy. JustaBXgirl wasn’t really into plush toys when she was tiny. She probably became interested in them really in the last year. Now, don’t get me wrong, she’s always had a few favorites but now she actively looks to bring plushies into her world. I think that this past year has made her crave comfort. I had planned to give this to one of my younger nephews but she asked if she could keep it. She creates characters and then gives them backgrounds. It allows her to build her vocabulary and gives me a peek into her imagination. If you wanted to take it a step further you could have your littles write stories about the characters that they create. They’re also great for grabbing a squeeze when feeling overwhelmed.
Roblox – I can’t be the only parent that has lost the attention of my beloved child to Roblox! JustaBXgirl gets on a video chat with one of her school besties almost every afternoon for about two hours. These girls spend most of that time having adventures on Roblox. They are constantly changing their appearances, trying on new careers, and living their best lives. At first, I was very wary of the amount of time she was spending on the screen but then I realized that she was finding a way to create her own new normal. She and her bestie can’t hang out in person after school going to the skate park and eating pizza but they can log into Brookhaven on Roblox and do just that! Sometimes her friend’s cousins hop on with them and sometimes JustaBXgirl’s cousins get in on the fun. Once in a while, they will play with other classmates. Just last week, JustaBXgirl was on her laptop having a Google Meet chat with two of her friends and on her phone on FaceTime with another friend while they all played Roblox together and created an entire backstory and roleplay for the game that they in. Having the time to connect with people outside of our home is critical. Does that mean that all screen rules are out the window? No. In fact, we spend even more time discussing internet safety and appropriateness.
Please remember that there are lessons to be found in everything that we and our littles do. Take time to think outside the box and trust yourself and your family. And please don’t stress yourself of your little about what they are and aren’t learning. We are in a pandemic. All of our productivity is allowed to be lessened. Take time to be together. Take time to recharge. Take time to play!