kindergarten in a pandemic
@nelsonmaart/Twenty20

It's not easy to be a kindergarten student—or the parent of a kindergartner—right now. There's the masks to be worn, social distancing rules to be followed and the upside-down day-to-day rollercoaster of life in a pandemic, which might even include zigzagging to school one day and staying home and learning virtually the other.

All the more reason we want to be there to help you navigate this challenging time. Read on as a handful of super-smart kindergarten teachers across the country share their words of wisdom:


1. Explaining what 'social distance' means can be fun

By now we all know how important it is for all of us to stay six feet apart from each other. To drive home the point, kindergarten teachers have gotten innovative.

"To help keep students spaced out, we're using strategies such as explaining how important it is to walk on line like a 'zombie' with their arms out in front of them," says Elizabeth DeVore, a kindergarten teacher at Boevers Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "Inside classrooms, spots on the floor are marked so that they have a reference of where their body needs to be."

To help teachers amplify this message, DeVore suggests taking a measuring tape or even lining up objects your child is familiar with, such as stuffed animals or shoes to show them what six feet looks like. "This strategy may be helpful when you're out in public," she says. "Parents can say 'Remember, we need to stay one couch or six coloring books away from other.' Having that special code word can make it like a game and make it easier for children to conceptualize."

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2. Please read what your child's teacher sends home

This is an ever-changing time for all of us and everyone is juggling this new-normal so ongoing communication is key, says Beth Alterman, a kindergarten teacher in New Jersey.

"We're trying to apprise parents about ever-changing things," she says. "Whether it's an email, newsletter or the agenda we send daily about what we're going to do in class, we want to make sure parents are reading everything—whether your child is coming into school or learning from home."

3. Make Zoom successful with a schedule

One of the biggest ways for moms and dads to keep their kindergarten student focused on Zoom is to set clear expectations. For example, consider setting up a consistent, predictable schedule for your child to follow every day.

"Always have your kids get up, get dressed and eat breakfast prior to Zoom beginning," says Megan Dean, a kindergarten teacher at Holmes Elementary School in Spring Lake, Michigan. "Provide a welcoming, clean and organized environment for your child. Keep all the materials they will need nearby—such as pencils, glue sticks and crayons. It's important to make sure your child feels independent in finding these things on their own."

4. Rest easy—kids are resilient

If you ask teachers, they'll tell you that their students are doing just fine wearing masks at school. "I haven't had one student complain," Alterman says. "I had one little girl who said she needed a mask break. So I told her to go to the corner and count to 10."

And, while some of the kids have little noses and the masks may not stay up all day, teachers are right there with solutions. "We'll tie a knot behind their ear if it doesn't stay up," Alterman adds. "These kids are so resilient and wise. They've figured out this is important."

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