Virtual learning for early learners: Take a sad year & make it better

By Children’s Librarian Shelley Harris

Every year, our final Early Bird Reader tip we send via text (Want weekly early learning tips from the Oak Park Public Library? Sign up now for Early Bird Readers ») is to share stories about the year that’s ending. Sharing memories is a great way to practice narrating stories, and a fun way to see what sticks out for your kids. They may remember things that you don’t! 

That’s still our final tip this year, though we know the memories that come up are probably going to be very different than usual. A lot of people, kids and adults both, struggled this year. Even when it’s difficult, this is a good time to validate so-called “negative” emotions like anger and sadness and responses like tears and tantrums. Big feelings come out in big ways for many humans, adults included!

Find resources below to help you and your kids share memories, deal with difficult emotions, and practice listening and having empathy.

Watch these videos

In this video, Jenny shares how she uses stories to help kids navigate emotions, especially when playing Highs and Lows. This game encourages kids and caregivers to practice listening skills and empathy and work through hard times together.

Sometimes feeling a lot of emotions turn into an unusual reaction, like restlessness and boredom. You want to do something, but nothing feels right. Jenny and Ruthie work through this stressful experience together.

Try these activities together

Everywhere online, there are reminders to be compassionate with yourself, because the world has been in a traumatic event for many months. Kids have been, too! They are doing their best to survive through stress and new routines, and even after the pandemic has ended, this year will be highly memorable. What can we do? Keep talking through it.

  • Play Jenny’s Highs and Lows game about 2020. What has stuck with kids? What has stuck with you? 
  • Make a 2020 memory book with stories and pictures from your most vivid memories. Help kids practice “first,” “then,” “finally,” and the “end” for a story structure. 
  • Remnant books are made with objects from memories people want to share, with words to prompt conversations. They were created for people with disabilities, but they are great story and conversation starters for everyone.
  • Miss Jenny likes to do an annual craft project where she writes or draws things that happened during the year that she’s ready to get rid of, using different colored papers. These can be kept private. Then she tears them up and turns the pieces into something new! A picture, a pattern, anything. This is a great family activity, and validating for kids to see their grownups processing their feelings, too. Take some of your pain and sadness and turn it into something beautiful.
  • The Cleveland Clinic has tips on helping kids navigate disappointments due to the pandemic. There have probably been a lot of those in our 2020 memories!
  • The Clay Center for Healthy Young Minds also has tips on helping kids through the rough times.
  • Take a deep breath together and SMILE. The year is almost over, and 2021 is going to bring better things. You’re doing a good job. Keep it up!
Shelley Harris

About Shelley

Shelley is a children’s librarian with a passion for early literacy, serving and celebrating the disability community, and exploring technology. She can often be found practicing storytime songs with her black lab, Bingo.

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