Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Here's some great information that you can share with your families. Thanks to Jennifer Russell and Maryteresa Tracy at the Education Service Center in Austin, TX.

Friends, we recognize that the arrival of COVID-19 and school closures have put an enormous amount of stress on you to provide educational opportunities to your child during a time when you might already be experiencing anxiety, financial insecurity, and increased caregiving responsibilities of older family members. It’s a lot to manage, right? Our hope is that this blog might arm you with a few strategies to embed learning into “everyday” activities that you’re most likely ALREADY doing with your child. And one of the wonderful things about early childhood is that learning happens anywhere and anytime!

So, if you’re stuck at home, check out these 5 engaging activities or feel free to watch the Home Engagement video series!

#1 Watching TV

Are we encouraging young children to spend all day in front of the TV? No. However, we recognize that screen time is a part of the day for most kiddos, and with a few simple understandings, you can make this time meaningful.

Research has shown that screen time benefits young children the most when families ask and answer questions about what they’re watching together. In other words, whenever parents engage with their kids, it’s beneficial! For example, TV can help young children learn about a variety of subjects and concepts they might not have access to otherwise, such as places and animals. Children can also incorporate what they’ve watched into their pretend play. When parents are intentional in what and how they watch TV with their children, screen time can be an active, rather than passive activity.

#2 Going on a Walk

For young children, even a walk down the street or around the block can be an adventure and an opportunity to embed learning! 


When families point at and label objects, plants, and animals or play “I Spy,” young children experience an increase in listening skills and vocabulary development. Talking about the weather outside addresses science concepts. A scavenger hunt can connect to math by counting found objects. Taking photographs of interesting flowers, bugs and birds gives kids opportunities for creative expression and can link to literacy when the photographs are printed and made into a homemade book. When you take a walk with a young child, there’s always something to discover!

#3 Preparing Food

Cooking in the kitchen with little ones can feel overwhelming, right? With all of the knives, the hot surfaces, and the mess, it can feel like a recipe for disaster. But don’t throw in the towel yet! Preparing food with little ones provides naturally occurring opportunities to work on fine motor skills, cognitive skills, social skills, and academic areas such as math and science, all without turning on the oven!

When including young children in food preparation activities, parents might consider assigning age appropriate or ‘bite sized’ kitchen tasks such as mixing, pouring, putting groceries away, or tearing lettuce for a salad. Appointing a child as ‘official taster’ for whatever is being prepared can be fun for them and may broaden their palate. Consider that children can do part of a task rather than the whole, such as laying out bread slices for sandwiches. Some children might be able to help with cutting using a nylon safety knife. Finally, even if young children aren’t ready to be a chef’s assistant, inviting them to sit on the kitchen floor and explore different cooking equipment like pots, pans and safe utensils builds fine motor skills and is fun for them, too!

#4 Reading a Book

One of the best ways that families can connect with their children at home is through reading books. Many parents have reading “routines” with their young children, such as snuggling up with a book before rest time or bedtime. These routines and rituals not only provide comfort and connection, but also provide opportunities to embed some foundational literacy skills and lead to a lifelong love of books!

Here are 3 simple strategies that parents can incorporate into their reading time:
Point at the print while reading so young children pay attention to different print types and functions.
Ask questions that challenge young children to make predictions and connections to text. This builds reading comprehension skills that children will use for the rest of their lives.
Notice interesting words while reading and give “child friendly” definitions to expand your child’s vocabulary.

#5 Singing Songs

Not only are singing and dancing really FUN, neurobiologists have found that music activities literally mold the mind by engaging brain synapses. Pretty cool, right? Whether or not a child is able to sing along or do all of the movements, music is powerful!


There are so many skills that children can develop through singing including motor skills, shapes and colors, letters and vocabulary, and more! One thing to remember is that when children are young, participation in singing can look many different ways. Some children might dive right in with singing and moving and others might start out as “watchers.” It’s all good! Adding props, like a wooden spoon for a microphone, or homemade instruments like paper plate shakers can help children feel more included if they’re not ready or able to sing and move. When families pay attention to these strategies and considerations, engagement and fun are sure to follow!

Stay safe and healthy, Friends!

Jennifer Russell

Maryteresa Tracy