With the roadmap out lockdown bringing hope of life returning to normal in the coming months, we are seeing businesses and schools gradually reopen once again. The absence of schools has been particularly difficult over the last years, as these play an integral part to children’s development and socialisation. With the pandemic forcing the closure of schools during the first lockdown, a recent Ofsted report suggests that children’s development of basic skills, such as being able to use a knife and fork, have been affected as a result.
Here, we discuss the importance of child development post-lockdown and why this should be set as a priority.
In terms of children’s academic learning abilities, the report also suggests that these have fallen back to fluctuating levels. Although not every child had the advantage of being able to be home-schooled during lockdown, there are ways you can help support their academic development now they have returned to school.
To test your children’s basic numeracy and reading skills there are some fun ways you can do this. For example, ask them to point out 20 objects in the house and count them out loud, or count how many ingredients are needed to bake some cupcakes. This is a great way to embed fun into their academic development at home.
Keeping up to date with their homework assignments now that schools have reopened is essential. To help recognise if they’re struggling with the homework, don’t just leave them to work it out for themselves. Regularly ask them if they need help.
For the youngest of children, reading books to them will help improve their literacy abilities. It will also encourage their interest in reading and writing.
Andrew Leech, owner of baby products supplier Babythingz, explains: “It is apparent that the lockdown has had consequences across our society, and the lack of routine for toddlers and school children is going to impact their mental health, as well as their cognitive learning behaviours.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise that concentration levels are dipping among children after such a long period outside of the classroom. A routine makes learning easier for young people, and when that is removed, it becomes difficult for them to engage with their previously learned behaviour.
“Although COVID-secure measures need to be adopted, we know that having children in nursery and back in the classroom as soon as possible will only aid their development.”
Communicating with and being around others are key aspects of children’s socialisation. Playing outside with their friends is now possible once again, as long as social distancing rules are followed. Therefore, it is beneficial for you to encourage them to get out of the house and socialise. According to Ofsted, older children in particular may have their social abilities and concentrations spans affected over lockdown. The report suggests that online social media arguments are being taken back to the classroom now that schools have reopened. This negatively impacts both their academic learning and positive social communications.
If you feel your child is struggling to adapt back to seeing peers at school, there are some self-help techniques you can practice at home with them to help combat this.
- Pick up on their interests: As children grow and develop their own personalities, they will learn where their interests lie. Whether this is in sport, toys, or instruments, encourage them to talk about it and join a social club of some sort once things re-open again.
- Set an example: Be conscious about how you interact and socialise with friends and family around you. For younger children, they notice everything happening around them while being pushed around in their baby pushchairs. So how you talk to others during these walks will impact how they talk too.
- Roleplay conversations: Whether you have a young or older child, roleplaying conversations and acting different roles will help your child prepare for socialising in real scenarios.
When it comes to potty training, children have taken a step back, according to a recent Ofsted report conducted with 900 schools. Children between the ages of 18 months to three years old should begin to realise when they need to go to the toilet and be potty trained. Ensuring that you recognise the signs that suggest your child is ready to progress from nappies is vital. The top three signs are:
- If they appear to acknowledge and take interest in other people using the toilet. This is a sign that they are ready to learn the same.
- If before, during, or after they have soiled a nappy they tell you they have done so, this suggests that they are aware of the process and are ready to begin potty training.
- Their nappy is dry for two or more hours. This shows they are now capable of holding urine in their bladder.
As part of a child’s primary socialisation, potty training should be set as a priority. So, spotting the signs that they are ready to ditch the nappy is vital for development to take place – especially as they return to nursery and school where being toilet trained will be useful.
As mentioned above, when it comes to using a knife and folk the Ofsted report suggests that children are struggling with this concept. By the age of five, children should have begun learning how to cut and spread food with a knife. By seven, children should be able to use a knife and fork together to cut up food without assistance. If your child seems to be struggling with these skills over lockdown, there are ways you can help them:
- Give your child as many opportunities to use cutlery as they can. Practising this skill daily will help them learn.
- When they are holding cutlery, ensure their index finger is pointing down the back of the knife or fork.
- Break down each step of the cutting process by getting them to hold down the food with a fork while you cut it for them.
- Although it is often thought that using a fork in your non-dominant hand and your knife in the other is easier, allow them to explore what they feel is the most comfortable.
It might seem like being able to use cutlery isn’t a major life skill at a young age, but this is the start to them learning new and more complex skills as they grow.
According to government plans, life as we knew it should return soon. When it does, your child must be prepared to renter the world that is outside the comfort of their own home. To ensure they have the basic skills required, finding ways to support your child’s development to the best of your ability is something that will pay off in the long run.