Lauriston Kindergarten’s new program helping kids recover from the social restrictions of COVID-19

There has been much concern about the effects of COVID-19 on the wellbeing and mental health of our children. A recent article in the Educator highlighted the importance of play and social interaction in helping kids cope and recover from the restrictions of COVID-19 lockdown.

We talked to Director of Kindergarten Fiona Ireland about the implementation of their new Kindergarten program “Stay, Play and Talk”, which has been adapted to address this critical need for increasing social skills in young children.

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“Stay, Play and Talk” is a program originally designed to increase the social interactions of children with immature social skills or children who lack social competence. Every year at the Kindergarten we observe children with a wide variety of aptitude in the development of social skills. Our educators foster strategies to support children to engage with a selection of children and widen their circle of friends. Having investigated this program, and in light of the obvious impact COVID-19 restrictions have had on children’s social skills, we decided to adapt and implement it into our classrooms as follows:

  1. Children are assigned a ‘buddy’, someone they would not usually play with.
  2. One of them is assigned ‘buddy in charge’, which means they get to choose the activities.
  3. The teacher decides the length of time the children will be with their buddy: 20 minutes is usually enough to begin with.
  4. Stay – the children must stay with their buddy for the allotted time.
  5. Play – the children must play at the activity together.
  6. Talk – the children talk together about what they are engaged in.

For a certain session each day the children have been engaging with this program. At first they were taken aback by the choice of buddy, and a little ‘eye rolling’ ensued!

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As the days passed the children started to take it very seriously and were genuinely impressed by the skills their buddy demonstrated during certain activities. Many of the children engaged in activities they would never have chosen. Another challenge for the children is that the natural leaders in the group must become, for a short period, the followers, which encourages listening, respect and compromise. On the flipside, it also means that children who are reticent to come forward are put in a leadership position and discover that they have a voice; that they are listened to and respected.

Having implemented this program for the latter half of Term 2 and Term 3, Fiona said that they have witnessed magical moments as children make wider choices among their peers and fully realise each and every child’s potential and what they can learn from each other.

This is a learned skill the children will take with them through life.

This program has been particularly critical with all the changes the children have had to adapt to this year and enabled them to participate with different children at different times and take this in their stride.