COVID-19 safety: Tools to help parents prepare young students for eventual return to classroom

Here are some useful tools for parents to help prepare young students for their eventual return to the classroom.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The start of the new school year with distance learning is a big concern for a lot of parents. But there are things you can do to get your kids ready for the eventual return to the classroom.

Having our kids at home for another round of distance learning isn't what some parents wanted or anticipated, but child development experts say this could be a good time to prepare your kids for the new COVID-19 safety measures they'll face when they do return to in-person classes.

"It's a good opportunity right now to practice all these things at home," said occupational therapist Kate Holford.

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Among the most challenging for young kids is keeping their distance from friends.

"It's something that occupational therapists work on with a lot of the students that maybe have sensory processing issues and maybe seek out hugging or deep pressure, or they like to crash into things and people," said Holford.

Holford says role playing is the best way to help young children learn. She offers this advice for students: "Imagine having a hula hoop around you and that's kind of the space that you need to keep from other kiddos and other friends. We need to practice this because it's important that we keep a bubble between us and our friends right now."

Holford urges parents to have kids practice these skills at home, and even show the child how to react when they think a friend may be sick.
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"Sometimes having like a table and putting tape around your space in the table and make it a game and make it fun and that's really important," said Holford. "Before we shut down here, kids were really frustrated with each other because they were afraid of other kids and I think that's a piece we haven't thought of yet."

The goal is to minimize fear of the virus and encourage empathy.

"Practicing different situations and even drawing out those situations and writing out what to you say if someone comes too close to you and is sneezing and not covering their mouth," said Holford. "Do we talk to the teacher and say listen, Jane doesn't look like she's feeling too well, instead of making Jane feel really bad."

Another COVID-19 safety skill you may have overlooked: teaching your child to open their own snacks.

"Those students might not have fine motor skills with their hands to open a bag or a granola bar. I see a lot of kids asking for help to open those items at lunch, and the problem is that we as a society don't think we have considered that touch point as another time during the school day when germs can be passed around."

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