Virtual Grandma (Yammi) Preschool

the grands Sep 20, 2020
Virtual Grandma Preschool

As the Covid pandemic continues to affect us, schools across the country are all attending differently. Some are full time in person, some part time in person/part time virtual, and others are full time virtual. In our area, most schools are going virtually.

My son and daughter in law had made the decision to keep my just 5 year old grandson in preschool for an additional year even before the pandemic in order to allow him to mature socially. But he is entering a school year with very little social opportunity. Even for kids that are going to school in person, the teachers and staff are working hard to limit social interactions.

My daughter in law called me and asked me if I had any ideas or knew of anyone who was doing any virtual social groups. I work with young children and teens who are diagnosed with ASD and have access to those sorts of resources. My immediate response was “ME! Nothing would give me more joy!”

And thus was born “Yammi Preschool.” It’s been a lifesaver for this grandma who misses being heavily involved with her grandchildren’s activities. And it brings the added bonus of helping my grandson and a few of his friends.

Tips When Starting Grandma Preschool 

Pro tip:   Choose Kids Whose Parents are Low Maintenance

Sorry. It’s just a fact. Not all parents are easy and laid back. Yammi Preschool has been a learning process for me in terms of technology, how long activities take, and what engages the kids. While you’re going through the learning process, you need a group of parents who are nothing more than grateful for your time and efforts. One of the moms in my preschool group had the forethought to think of this and they’ve chosen not to invite certain kids as a result. They wanted me to be able to relax and enjoy the experience. To be able to text on a morning if I’m not feeling well or have a work obligation without being criticized.

My Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10 are written in stone and scheduled around. But it’s nice to have moms who are in my corner just in case.

Keep it Small and More Intimate

We have three kiddos in preschool right now and I would be comfortable adding one more. We chose kids who were friends in preschool the previous year. They were excited to see each other virtually because they knew each other.

Any more than four would be difficult virtually. A big part of what we are working on is social engagement and too many kids would make this harder to do. They’re learning how to show off their project when it’s completed and to give each other complements. They’re encouraged to converse and ask questions of each other. If there are too many students, it could get hard for them to wait for each person to take their turn.

Discuss at the Beginning What You'd Like to Be Called

This is tricky because we have one student who calls me Yammi and that’s not going to change. So one of the moms suggested that the other kids call me “Miss Yammi.” Which I absolutely LOVE. Everyone’s preference on this will be different. A balance between too formal and too casual is best.

Have a Parent or an Adult Nearby With Each Student

The kids do need help and support with certain things – crafts, technology, their snack, etc. They can’t be completely on their own at this age. Having said that, you might also have to encourage parents not to hover.

Okay...I've Got My Kids -  Now What? 

Have a Plan - Don't Wing It

On our first day of Yammi preschool, I told moms that I wanted to get a sense of what the kids could do, how long they could attend, would they engage with me and each other, etc. The kids showed up ready to start preschool. They were excited that they were doing virtual school like their older siblings. They had a plan. I did not.

There is one boy in the group who is a little more outspoken than the other two and he declared that he wanted to do a craft. So, we drew a picture of something we did over the summer and took turns telling each other about our picture. After that first session, I quickly developed a system and a plan.

We have Yammi school every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 10. The Friday before, I plan what we are going to do the following week for both days. I then email the moms the plan and a list of needed supplies or items to have ready.

Another Pro Tip:  No Activity Will Take As Long as You Think It Will

Plan more than you think you’ll have time for. I can almost completely guarantee you’ll have time for it all. Activities never take as long as we think they will.

Shorter, More Frequent Sessions Are Better Than a Longer One

It will depend on the kids and their ages, but for preschoolers, I’m noticing that after about 35-40 minutes they start making faces into their cameras, watching themselves, fidgeting, and getting silly. That’s been a pretty consistent time frame.

What a Typical Session Looks Like

Everyone’s goals will be different. For our group, socializing with friends is the main goal so my activity planning focuses on social interactions. Examples of other possible goals depending on your students are:

  • learning to attend;
  • following group instruction;
  • fine motor;
  • academics.

Each of our sessions start out with a show and share activity. I pick a topic the week before for each day and let the moms know so that the kids are prepared. Some examples are: their favorite toy, book, stuffed animal, family photo, things that start with different letters, etc. We’ll do seasonal show and shares, as well. Because we are targeting social skills, each child asks the show and sharer a question about their item.

We then do a “would you rather” question or just a general fun opinion question and listen to each other’s answers.

We then do a craft. This was not part of my original plan because it didn’t fit in with my social skill goals, but in the boys’ minds that what you do in school and that was something they were looking forward to doing. They love the crafts and afterwards the boys pay each other complements on their final product.

We then do a game and have a snack and work on conversation during snacktime.

Occasionally we will incorporate a story, which I love, but it’s hard to engage this particular group virtually with the book.

Which leads to my next point:

Pay Attention to What Your Kids Are Into and Tailor Your Session Accordingly

I could see that the kids were fidgeting and not engaged at all each time I read a story. So, as much as I love doing that, I have not included that in my plans very often. I’ll re-introduce it from time to time but as long as they continue to appear bored by it, we aren’t going to do it.

I hadn’t intended to do crafts but they made it very clear that they had been looking forward to that. So, we do a craft project each and every time!

Most Importantly...

Relax, enjoy and be grateful for this opportunity to engage with your grands and their friends. The pandemic sucks (pardon my French, but it does). Opportunities like this are a golden nugget in a stinky situation.