It’s been 3 years since I wrote and shared about our experience with our Kita (preschool/kindergarten). It’s hard to believe that we’ve graduated one child from their program and look forward to starting the journey again with our third child next year… amazing.
We’ve also been witnessing an international discussion on learning and play thanks to COVID-19 and the implications of a worldwide pandemic on education. Of course, before that conversation even began, we were all quarantined for many weeks with our children, trying to survive and flourish in unprecedented times. Our family’s particular quarantine lasted 10 weeks.
In our household, we had just had our third child and I was jealous for a year at home with Germany’s very generous maternity leave… however, I started a program of being a stay-at-home Mom to a 6 year old, a 4.5 year old, and a newborn. Thankfully, formal school starts in 1st grade in Germany, so we had no online work to do, or lessons to complete. While many of my peers were trying to figure out online platforms and group chats, I was working on an independent family program (called survival).
To say the least, I worked hard with Brian to create something sustainable. This was no time for “NO TV!” anthems (hello 3 week old baby), but we also didn’t download any new apps to keep our kids “babysat” by screens. But in all honesty, I’m not here to toot any of our own horns.
I’m here to honor our Kita. (And, by extension, our kids!) When we moved to Germany, our kids had never been in daycare or school. We had nothing to compare to, and I think I hadn’t fully appreciated the beauty of the Kita program our kids were so easily folded into.
As we treaded through the waters of quarantine, though, I could see all the Kita training of our children shine in small pockets of peace…
I say, “Play outside!” and they went… Thanks to the Kita, they know how to go outside, collect pieces of nature, color on them with chalk, bring a stick along, break it in half, play pirates, capture the swings, and a few bugs while they’re at it. This skill set was given to them by a Kita who sets them loose outside almost daily, in most weather, with no “Schedule” or “Activity” plans. They’re simply outside with a few playground equipment pieces for fun.
I say, “Go to the playroom!” and (usually) they go happily… Thanks to the Kita, they know how to enter a room full of legos and create models of dream homes with bunk beds and dog houses. They know how to combine reading chairs as forts and then to change those forts into a horse barn with stalls for feeding and tunnels for walking through. They know how to cook (pretend) breakfast, including cappuccinos (that’s my doing–sorry, Kita), and offer us the tasty foods from their play kitchen.
I say, “Do something at the Activity Table!” and thanks to the Kita, they have ideas on how to fold paper airplanes, small pocketbooks, and then make play money to slip inside of them and go shopping. They know how to pull out sand and create a work site and make birthday cakes. And we’ve all “eaten” plenty of play dough pizza!
We did our fair share of “special” activities like Cosmic Kids Yoga (Screen time, yes, but also active participation–or I turn it off… LOL), family movies at night, bubbles in the backyard, painting, pretzel making, planting a garden, playing Uno, reading chapter books together, and yes, Brian did an amazing job teaching about the alphabet and how to read with both kids.
Indeed, we did a lot of active-participation things with them, too… but! I’m here mostly, again, to honor the Kita. This little haven for our kids, where they’re free to be kids, getting not much actual instruction, but a world-full of learning that kids should be doing–because they’re kids! Sitting and making pretend grocery shopping lists? On the regular here in this house! Heaven forbid we forget to pick up eggs and flour to make cake!
I’m so blessed. I didn’t know a pandemic was coming right when our third baby was to arrive, but despite all the battles and difficulties (hello witching hour), what I learned over quarantine was that I’m so grateful for our Kita kid-heaven. They have the skills to keep themselves busy, to use their imaginations, and to make messes that prove they’re having loads of fun, and I’m just so darned happy about it.