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Puppetry, Play, and Parenthood during the Pandemic

I recently had the pleasure of getting to chat with PreK NYC school educator, Andy Yung. We talked about Clixo and how it’s incorporated into Andy’s school lessons, and how the pandemic has shaped our parenting. We also talked about play based learning through creativity, and how unstructured play has helped navigate our way both in the classroom and out.

Check out the full interview in this YouTube link and a quick summary below. 🙂

Remember Remote Learning Back in 2020? ????

Remote learning was a challenge for Andy as well as myself. Last year, we did a full year of remote learning for our then PreK child, so I understand the challenges Andy was faced with! Keeping a young child engaged online is hard enough, but during Andy’s lessons, Clixo helped his students stay focused and became a main component in some of his lessons. Through DonorsChoose, Andy was able to get basic supplies, books and Clixo packs for each of his students. When teaching online, the class would build and share their creations. “Playing apart but also together,” says Andy, helped keep his students interested and engaged. He found the younger students kept more focus during free play, compared to structured learning and used unstructured learning as the core of his “lessons”. He used a building prompt using any of the toys the kids had at home including Clixo, and were encouraged to build and play however they chose.

???? Check out some of the Clixo builds his students made here (pictures) and over here (videos).

During virtual learning, the unstructured free play eased some of the tension at home. It gave parent’s a break from having to feel like they always had to be present, or could take a conference call while working from home. The younger kids who couldn’t yet navigate a computer were set up by mom or dad and had their instruction played out for them. I give these kids lots of credit for keeping up with their online classes, and sitting through some of the longer days! The disconnectedness we felt last year and not getting to see our friends really started to take its toll.

Back to School Blues

Andy also mentioned that seeing the kids come back to school has proven a little difficult. In general, most students became used to at-home learning in the comfort of their own home with their parents nearby. However we both agreed that children are super adaptable, and the transition from home-life to school-life is improving. Andy’s number one goal is to get them excited, and to keep an eye on each student’s overall development. Just being there for them has created a sense of reassurance and confidence. We’re thankful to be back in person this year.

Like most parents, Andy says that balancing work and home life is also challenging. During the dark days of remote learning, Andy felt that he couldn’t do much with his classroom. His sleep was disrupted by constant thoughts of how he could keep his students engaged while learning at the same time. In previous years he felt reserved about technology, but after his remote year, he saw it as a new opportunity.  For example each student was required to do their “feelings” check in before the beginning of each lesson. It would give Andy an indication of their moods before coming to class, and would then use these opportunities to open up the conversation about how each student felt. If a child was feeling sad, he would talk about ways to make them feel better. In addition to feelings, Andy would use a puppet (the most recent was based on the school’s cafeteria worker) to teach his students about everyday life skills. This was then put into a video that was shared with parents and available to the students when they needed it. The puppet would show the kids how to do basic skills such as opening a milk carton. This helped save time in the cafeteria because one person wasn’t scrambling around helping each child. Those kids have limited time to eat before the next lunch shift comes in, so it proved to be very helpful!

Clixo is still being used in Andy’s classroom for compactability and mobility!  In addition it offers a sensory experience for young ones. Some creations are very basic considering they’re younger learners, but Andy mentions his students love to make necklaces and rings.  A giant magnetic wall in the class is used as a gallery for students to celebrate and showcase their creations. The students also incorporate their pieces into role play, for example, a doctor or artist. So despite the harder challenges and mature creations for the older crowd, Clixo can be used in many different ways!

Shout out to Andy Yung for working so hard to keep his students interested and eager to learn!  We’re thankful to put remote learning behind us (for now) and will continue to let kids be kids through free-based creative play. ????

This piece was written by Kate. Kate’s a NYC parent of two young boys, ages 3 and 5 and fur baby, Mr. Biscuits. She lives in the West Village with high school sweetheart and now hubby, Dylan. When not working or managing the school shuffle, Kate is running, cycling, painting, or as her children call it, “sitting in her lounge chair” (aka the couch). She loves a good laugh and literally dances like no one is watching.