A new timetable for tiny tots

From weekend classes to one-on-one sessions, play schools are making an effort to align themselves with parents’ interests

“Sometimes I have to coax her into sitting upright before the laptop as her attention span is limited,” says Indumathy who has started attending the online classes with her daughter since a month ago.

This is how most days begin for Indumathy.

“We have to make some adjustments or our child is going to miss out on so many things,” says Indumathy, who also has to attend to the demands of a three-month-old child. To handle the little crises at home, sometimes she gets the support of her husband, who works from home, or her mother.

With play schools switching to online classes, parents have to work with them now.

Most play schools want one of the parents to sit through the class; some have reworked their timetable, offering the classes in the evenings and weekends, keeping the challenges faced by working parents in mind.

Of the 15 children enrolled with Mahima Cultural Centre in Mylapore, seven are regular to the online classes.

“Increasingly, we have parents of tiny tots seeking one-on-one classes as they don’t think group online classes help the children,” says Manju B, headmistress of the centre that runs a play school and an activity centre. Of the seven students, three have opted for the morning hours and the rest prefer evenings and weekends. “One parent has opted for a 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. slot as he would be free from all meetings at this hour,” says Manju.

Classes do not exceed 30 minutes but for this arrangement to be fruitful we need greater participation of parents, she says.

“Even if it is just 30 minutes, children get distracted easily so we insist on a parent sitting next to the child to give the necessary encouragement,” says Manju.

Velammal VKids at Mogappair has a 30-minute lesson through video call for parents and children during weekends.

“We have 300 students from pre-KG to UKG enrolled with us and nearly 20% of them are signed up for the weekend classes as their parents find this timing convenient. Here, we either offer classes in batches of two or three or have one-on-one session,” says Mary Manimala, headmistress of the school, adding that a parent must be around when a child is taking an online class.

Opinion is divided on the effectiveness of one-on-one classes.

Charanya Prabhakar, founder, Oyster Montessori in Alwarpet, says they don’t encourage one-on-one classes for toddlers. While learning, a child has to see other children and feel like they are part of a classroom environment. So, they have a mix of students — not exceeding 12 — across age groups in the virtual class.

Based on a two-month research including feedback from children and parents, the centre has tweaked the timetable for pre-schoolers, moving it to the evenings – between 4 p.m. and 4.30 p.m.

“This is a huge shift for us as in pre-COVID days we always had classes in the mornings,” says Charanya.

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