The importance that educators play in the mental health of our students has always been an interesting topic. Upon the re-opening of our classrooms and facilities after what has been such a distressing time for everyone, how might this impact our learners? How might educators rethink their approach to the daily rhythms and flow of our days? How will we everyone help to create a learning environment which continues to foster a calm, safe, educational space for children to explore?
This blog post aims to address at this point in time, the importance of free play, rhythm and routine, and outdoor play in nature. And when life starts to return to some sense of normality, how might educators help with the mental health of our tamariki.
The future mental health and development of our kids
Continuing to take this pandemic seriously and limiting everyones contact with others upon doors re-opening will be a big challenge - especially if those others are family. Please do continue to listen to the experts and practice social distancing but there are some things we can do which will make things easier.
Encourage independent play using open ended materials around the facility such as play silks, tea sets, play kitchens, sand play, water play, sensory bags/bottles, dress up, small world play with figurines, climbing domes etc...
Less is more when it comes to materials - be creative and allow kids to explore with paint, water and sand for example. Do a clean sweep and rotate materials to maintain interest. If the space is clutter free, tidy up for the child is easier and they are able to understand how the room is kept. This will keep some sanity!
Keep exercise up! Have lots of water available. Walks in the parks (practicing social distance and safety rules) - avoid parks where play structures are touched and not cleaned... enjoy the calm and be active together. There is a reason why education trends are going back to the basis of nature play and free authentic play theories.
Make sure kids have healthy snacks and meals. It is important to continue to foster healthy eating habits for the everyone in order to keep mental health up.
Don't underestimate your role in resuming some sense of normality when lockdown is over. Kids will be looking for rhythm back in their lives, and now more than ever encouraging healthy mental habits will be crucial.