Many children across the world are returning to school – some after more than two years away from the classroom. It is an exciting and daunting time for many of us in education. August - September brings a sense of anticipation, excitement and anxiety. Perhaps even more so now as for many it is a return to school after far more than just a mid-year break. Many children have never been to school, many have been at home in various states of lockdown for more than half their lives, for many educators they have only ever met their pupils online – what do they look like in 3D? Will they recognize them from behind?
For those lucky enough not to have had to close their schools the global stress of living through a pandemic is not be underestimated. Children sense our anxiety, our exhaustion even if they cannot talk about it and don’t understand. The fall out of the pandemic is being seen in classrooms across the globe and will continue to play out as the term unfolds. Children may have meltdowns more easily and there is far more anxiety out there now than before the pandemic- exacerbated by a war, the threat of climate change and a cost of living crisis. It can be a challenging world. Similarly many children have not been moving enough over the past few years either which impacts hugely on wellbeing and development, and many have missed out on the usual opportunities to make friends.
So how can we harness the power of play to support children that have missed out on this crucial social and emotional learning and the usual opportunities for optimum development? How can we create a sense of safety for children who have absorbed the global sense of anxiety around them? How can we rebuild our school communities? Most importantly how can we instill hope and joy in ourselves and our children. We all need it and we all value it.
Here at CreateCATT we recommend starting from the bottom up and building the foundations of learning and social and emotional wellbeing through early sensory body play and attachment safety play. Our main tips to do this are as follows:
1) Work with circles – they are a great symbol of cohesion and safety- literally and metaphorically . Sing in circles, chat in circles, draw circles, dance in circles. Indigenous wisdom shows us that circles are how humanity has come together to build and celebrate community since time began.
2) Create clear rhythms to the day and the classroom routine. The pandemic threw us out of rhythm and we need to recreate it. If you think that as human beings one of the first things we ever heard was the rhythm of our mothers heartbeat in utero – it is the embodiment of safety- so use it in school. Clapping games, drumming, marching for transitions, clear visual schedules that map out the day. We all need some predictability and the safety of rhythm.
3) Engage the bodies and the senses; play outside, encouraged lots of movement and sensory opportunities. Jumping, swinging, lifting, pushing, dancing, action songs. Help children connect with their bodies in big ways- lessons can be run in a gym. Children do not need to sit to learn all the time- they were made to move. One of the most inspiring literature classes I have ever seen was with children creating the shapes of the letters through running in the gym in the shape of the letters that were called out. Learning made embodied.
4) Affirm the child and make them feel seen, if they feel that they are special they are going to be more confident to build relationships with others. Lots of “ I see you’ language and mirroring games will help build this sense of identity. We also recommend paired work first for children who are socially anxious before you put them into a big group, big groups can be overwhelming if they have not had a lot of social contact before.
5) Most of all make it fun and go gently on yourself and your children, we need to claim back the joy of learning and interacting – and play is the way.
A few simple steps to create solid foundations which we hope will inspire you as you navigate the new term.
There are lots more ideas and resources available on www.createcatt-academy.com
Like so many students we at CreateCATT are also going back to face to face trainings and if you are based in the Philippines do check out our upcoming workshop below – we would love to meet you in person and work with you in 3D!