Lots of early childhood programs moved online in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. The majority have moved back to in-person, but online preschool programs will likely always be an available option in the future.
When parents hear that toddler classes or preschools are meeting online, they may have questions about whether it could be an effective method for learning. It is definitely not the same as in-person learning, and it is more developmentally appropriate to be in-person, hands-on, with lots of happy children interacting in the same room. However, there are lots of possible benefits to an online preschool or toddler program if that is the best option for your family, whether that’s due to health issues or disability, or to living in a location without access to good in-person options.
Here’s what can be gained in online preschool:
- Routines: having a predictable activity in your weekly schedule helps to provide some structure. It provides an event to look forward to and reflect on.
- Other Faces and Voices: seeing other children and a teacher can be delightful, your child will learn by observing their peers, class can also expose them to diversity and broaden their world, plus we know that children learn language better when they hear a wide variety of adult speakers.
- A Listening Ear: for classes where they offer sharing time, children will have someone else to share their exciting ideas with, and will have a chance to practice their expressive language skills
- A Chance to Practice Manners and Classroom Skills: one of the important aspects of an early childhood experience, whether that’s story time at the library, Sunday school at church, or preschool is that children get to practice sitting still, listening to someone else, participating in a group activity, and taking turns – they can practice all these things in an interactive call on Zoom.
- Learning New Things: whatever the content of the class – music, stories, dance, art, or science, your child can easily learn new ideas from an online teacher, and if you’re listening in, you can reinforce the learning much more effectively than you could have reinforced what they were taught at a drop-off preschool.
- New Inspiration: your child will get new ideas and you will get new ideas for things to try out at home and explore and learn from – you don’t have to feel responsible for coming up with all the learning ideas on your own.
Here is a handout where I offer lots of tips on help child succeed on Zoom and get the most benefit from an online program.
If you’re considering an online preschool, then you’ll want to ask many of the same questions you would ask of an in-person option: What do they teach? How do they teach it? Who is the teacher – what is their background and why do they choose to teach? And who are the other students? Learn more about these questions: https://gooddayswithkids.com/2014/01/17/questionsforpreschool/.
One major provider of online learning is Outschool. I have taught many classes there and my son has taken many classes. I wrote a comprehensive review of Outschool – the benefits and possible downsides. Many of these would also apply to other online programs.