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Children Learning and Talking about Fall: A new experience coming out of a Pandemic.

By Maureen Penko

The fall is one of the most colourful of any the seasons. This year we have experienced one of the hottest summers and the heat has turned some of the leaves on our trees brown earlier than expected. September hailed the start of school with children being able to attend in person and parents taking their preschool child into the buildings. We know that the restrictions we all experienced over the past year did impact us and our children. We have noticed that very young children have had fewer social opportunities when families adhered to strict precautions. The usual social exposures of play dates, playing at the park with others and family gatherings for various events were no longer the norm. Children sensed the stress of social distancing as well as not being able to "read" the expressions of others due to mask coverings. In some cases, being able to discriminate what the adult is saying due to the muffled quality of speech behind a mask made it difficult to hear words clearly. We have all experienced not being able to hear as well in a noisy surrounding when someone is talking to us with a mask. Some older children and adults found that they had to use a louder voice volume to be heard which could result in vocal strain. Of further interest is the vocabulary that children heard repeatedly, virus, pandemic, hand sanitizer, wipes, mask, starfish distance, meetings, bubble and vaccine. Some families report that their child has become hyper-focused onscreen time and that virtual became the primary mode of visiting family. In some situations, children became so used to being at home that that they were upset easily when entering new situations and meeting new people. We know that when a child has only watched social interaction from a distance they are mainly observers. When they finally enter play situations with others they stay in solitary or parallel play for a while. Parents have called the clinic to say, that their child lacks social communication skills and worry that their child has regressed. Unless there is a developmental/neurological reason for the social disengagement you need to get down and play even more with your child to make up for what they would have gained by playing with other children. Play in an engaging way with your child and there will be a change. I recently observed a group of children who had been together all summer in a preschool outdoor camp. It was delightful to hear them laugh, call each other, show off their talents or have a scrap. This is not how they were when they first were allowed to attend. Many children were in solitary play. Social distancing can affect social communication skills; however, it is not permanent as we slowly return to a new normal and gradually feel safe about our children participating in group settings. You will start to see the difference.

So, let's start off with the joy of fall and the many social and play opportunities it brings for our children. Start with an Autumn Leaf collection. As you hike and look for leaves talk about the colours. You can count the leaves collected, the size and shape of the leaves. Leaf rubbings and leaf prints will make for beautiful collages along with a discussion about the tree that the leaf came from. Print the name of the tree under each leaf. Making playdoh cupcakes and cookies while adding colours that represent fall can add fun to a pretend tea party. Don't forget to count how many of each you made. Children love to experiment and baking apples to make apple sauce allows your child to participate with you, take turns and learn about measurement at the same time. Hopefully they can enjoy these activities with family and friends. Singing songs and rhymes about fall promotes articulating words and building memory skills.

Autumn Leaves Are Falling Down

(Sung to: London Bridge is Falling Down)

Autumn leaves are falling down, (children stand, hold arms high and wiggle fingers like leaves falling from branches)
Falling down, falling down?.
Autumn leaves are falling down,
Down down on the ground. (crouch low)
Rake them up and make a pile, (pretend to rake leaves)
Make a pile, make a pile.
Rake them up and make a pile,
Jump into the pile of leaves, (jump up and down on the spot)
Pile of leaves, pile of leaves?.
Jump into the pile of leaves,
Taking turns if you please.

There are so many story books to read with your child. Here are some favourites We are going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzer and Find the Pumpkin by Tad Hills. The books are colourful and the words are delightful, simple and have a repetitive chant to them. Spend time watching all the squirrels play and hurry around collecting their nuts. This promotes learning and talking about animals and their habitats as they prepare for cooler weather. Soon it will be Halloween. Stay safe and enjoy the fall.

Feature Articles:

Where Has All Our Sleep Gone?

15 Things You Should Give Up to Be a Happy Parent

Children Learning and Talking about Fall: A new experience coming out of a Pandemic.

Seven tips to Introduce Children to Sustainability

Can I Instill Real World DRIVE in My Virtual World Child?

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