Locked Down – How to keep your toddler’s development on track.

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Early Childhood Development during the COVID19 crisis by Lisa Voortman, Head of Education, GROW Educare Centres

from working parent to teacher

From working parent to teacher

The arrival of COVID 19 and the nationwide shut down has created a high level of anxiety for many parents of young children. Educare centres and creches shut down so quickly that many parents were left with no option but to transition from working parent to teacher. Parents have legitimate concerns that their child’s development will be adversely affected and are looking for guidance through this uncertain time.

How do young children develop?

Young children, if properly stimulated and engaged with at home, should reach their milestones without formal preschool education. The main categories of developmental milestones include the physical, mental, social, and communication skills learned at each stage in the child’s growth. Parents and families are a child’s first and most influential teachers. Consider these milestone categories and create opportunities for your child to learn through play.

chidlren learn through play
Play is an essential part of a child’s development. It is important to remember that learning through play is often described as the single most crucial part of early childhood education. Play, exploration, and discovery are their most valuable lessons when they’re young. It is how children learn to make sense of the world around them.

Learning through play

Parents often ask how can play be learning, and how can you implement it in your home? Remember that a child is like a sponge: they absorb information and learning throughout their day by just playing, and mimick the world around them.

Children are social beings, therefore receiving undivided attention from parents and more time with siblings is a benefit that the lockdown has had for many children. Talking to your child and including them in the family conversation has a huge benefit to their language development.

Simple tasks around the home are ideal activities to occupy and stimulate young children:

  • Laundry is a perfect time for children to learn how to sort and match. Identify a big t-shirt and a small t-shirt, group clothing by colour and then by owner. Arrange them in patterns. These fun activities are pre-maths skills that form the foundation for future maths concepts.
  • Wiping down surfaces encourage large muscle movement and crossing the midline while giving a child a sense of mastery and pride in their accomplishments.
  • Cooking and food preparation is another task that children love to be included in. Use the opportunity to count, measure, read instructions and discuss. These activities make baking fun and educational too.
  • “What’s in the bag?” is a fun and low resource game that parents can play using a variety of household items. Simply collect an array of objects from around the house and put it in a bag. Sit with your child as they unpack each item and start playing: Name each item, talk about where in the house it belongs, who it belongs to, and what it is used for. This activity is a fun way to spend undivided quality time stimulating language, vocabulary, and expanding their knowledge.
  • Matching lids on storage containers help with problem-solving, maths concepts like size and understanding too big or too small.

Learning from home is not a fit-all solution


Learning from home may be a possibility for some but not for all. Many parents need to work and are not available to be at home full time, stimulating and socializing with their children. The reality is that many homes in disadvantaged areas cannot provide stimulating environments and children have minimal social and educational opportunities (the research by Stats SA shows that children in mostly black African families received suboptimal stimulation as 31% were never encouraged to imitate daily activities and 35,2% were never given answers when they pointed at objects and asked for explanations). Lack of access to high-quality nutrition is another limitation in under-served communities and stress and violence within the home or community a reality for many.

The importance of Early Childhood Development Centres

Access to quality Early Childhood Development centres is essential to ensure children establish the foundation required for future learning. They provide safe, structures learning environments dedicated to unlocking the potential of each child. Research also confirms that Early Childhood Development centres support working families to pursue sustainable job opportunities, which is crucial in the South African economic climate.

Grow Educare Parent Perspective

  • A child at a quality preschool experiences a sense of belonging to a community.
  • They collaborate in groups, learn how to negotiate, listen, and engage with others.
  • Their teachers work with them to create moments of play that ignite wonder, discovery, and learning.
  • Their teachers understand that relationships matter and so create an atmosphere that is safe, fun, and accepting.
  • At a quality preschool, play-based learning is intentional and planned for through a daily programme that scaffolds learning and provides age-appropriate activities and resources that stimulate and encourage learning.
  • A quality ECD centre also provides children with good nutrition and a predictable world where routines and structures are planned. This creates a sense of physical and emotional safety that allows a child to learn and develop.

MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet has partnered with GROW Educare Centres to continue expanding its network of 43 Educare Centres in developing communities. These centres are transformed into quality educare centres that offer children a safe, stimulating environment that ensures a child’s developmental needs are met. Not only has MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet adopted ECD centres to help them achieve 5 Star quality, they have also sponsored each centre with an essential handwashing station that will equip centres, once reopened, to prevent the spread of COVID19.

We believe Early Childhood Development centres must be allowed to reopen as soon as possible. While no parent should feel forced to send their child to preschool, we believe each working parent should be afforded the opportunity.

Who are GROW Educare Centres?

GROW Educare Centres is a non-profit social enterprise that uses the principles of franchising to establish excellent, high-quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in developing communities that are also financially sustainable businesses.

We believe that ECD centres in disadvantaged communities should be able to provide children with the quality learning they need to set them up for success while also paying educators and centre owners what they are worth. That’s why we are changing the status quo in the ECD sector by offering quality and professionalism that disadvantaged communities have never seen before.

Our network currently (June 2020) includes 43 Educare Centres across Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

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