Connecting with Toddlers in At Home Mini-School


14Y Family Programs has converted our in-person classes for babies, toddlers and caregivers into At Home Mini-School, a unique program that streams right into your homes! Our classes arev curated for young families living through this moment, with teachers who take the time to engage with your little one personally—teachers like Meredith Wright, who has answered many of our frequently asked questions about At Home Mini-School below.

Registration is now open for the Winter/Spring 2021 session of At Home Mini-School, and we hope to see you and your child there!

Q: What is At Home Mini-School?

At Home Mini-School is a program for your toddlers that you can take part in from the comfort of your home! It includes all of the components of our Prelude to Preschool classes: we get together to encourage each child’s social, emotional and physical development all while creating community, familiarity, friendships and fun! We meet three days a week and we also offer a weekly parent discussion group.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background in teaching and how you came to teach at the 14Y.

My background is in Theatre Performance, which often intersects with the work I do with toddlers. Both actors and toddlers know the work we do is in our PLAY. It’s fundamental to learning how we fit in our world.

I have amazing mentors who have guided my professional development and helped shape my approach to working with young children. I include Kiki Schaffer, long time Director of our Parenting Center, among them. The day we were introduced she asked me what my interests were in Early Childhood and sent me to teach a pilot program at 197 East Broadway. Eventually I came up to the 14Y to teach as well.

Q: What is your favorite part about teaching classes for toddlers?

I must say I LOVE TODDLERS. I love them because they are the most unfiltered, scientific, observant, empathetic, curious and honest beings I know. Once during a children’s concert, I watched this toddler dance so hard that he fell over – and he just kept on dancing! I love their determination. I am constantly surprised and amazed at how they learn and what they know and how they grow!

As their teacher I get to be a part of this time where literally EVERYTHING is a learning experience, so I try to provide as many positive and creative ones I can think of.

Q: At Home Mini-School offers relational virtual learning that keeps children engaged. How do you connect with toddlers over a screen?

Just as I would in my classroom at the 14Y, I make sure each child and their caregiver feel welcome from the start. I sing hello to each child and share a photo of them and put them on display. During class I describe what I see in each virtual rectangle and make a point to connect with what I’m seeing. Sometimes it’s a connection between me and the child and sometimes I amplify a connection I notice among the children.

I instill a routine so the children understand the flow of their class. Our schedule is posted so you know our routine: morning meeting, story-time, art and sensory play, clean up, circle time, and goodbye. We end with a dance party.

I learn their favorite songs and sing them often, I meet them where they are in the class (whether they are sitting still or stretching their limbs). I ask a lot of questions and encourage their ideas. And of course, it’s fun! We laugh a lot. And there are also tears. I acknowledge those moments too. I seize every opportunity I can to let each child know that I see them as they are and I appreciate that they are there with me.

Q: Parents play an important role in At Home Mini-School sessions. What can parents expect from classes with their toddlers, and what support is available for parents?

Parents and nannies are essential to our toddlers’ learning experiences! You know your toddlers best so I rely on you to help me get to know them. A favorite song, story, music style, or animal is all valuable information that I incorporate into our time together.

Once you join, you will receive a list of materials to have for the semester. You’ll receive emails before each class so you have time to prepare. You can expect to feel welcome and appreciated because I can’t do it without you! It is helpful to model what we are doing in class in a way that makes your child feel relaxed. And hopefully the activities we do will find their way into the daily routines you create at home.

Our weekly discussion group for our parents and provides an opportunity to ask any questions, vent about challenges and brainstorm about ways to get through them.

Q: The Winter/Spring 2021 session of At Home Mini-School is scheduled to complement the Winter session of the 14Y’s Prelude to Preschool. For families with children enrolled in Prelude to Preschool, what are the extra benefits of enrolling in At Home Mini-School?

More fun stuff with more friends! Children learn through repetition and there are similar components that will reinforce what we are doing in Prelude. At Home Mini-School gives our children a community that is their own. There is comfort in seeing the same children and grownups each week. They can identify with people they know outside of their immediate family. Think of any club or your gym or your church or synagogue and how it feeds you…our children reap the same benefits with regularly scheduled classes.

You can also join from anywhere! I love that I can spend time with families from all over. Our 14Y community is vast and beyond Downtown Manhattan. And I love that virtual learning brings us together.

Q: Do you have any advice for parents who are juggling life with their little ones at home?

I could never have imagined the global experience we are in. I have never spent this much time at home. We are going through it!

Especially during this challenging time, I encourage you to be gentle with yourself. The expectations we have may ebb and flow – and that’s okay. If you and your child are still in your pajamas as the sun starts to set again, it’s okay. If a handful of pretzels was your dinner on meatless Monday it is okay. Just keep loving your loved ones. They don’t need it to be perfect – they just need it to be you that’s loving them!

14Y At Home Mini-School 

For Children Ages 12 – 40 Months

Family Programs is excited to extend this new program for families with toddlers this winter!

This program includes:

  • Developmentally-appropriate activities and learning for children that grows with your child over the semester
  • Twice-a-week music, art and circle time 
  • Once-a-week toddler movement
  • Weekly parent education and support, because we know you can only hold your family up if your own needs are met
  • Early access to January enrollment in Prelude to Preschool 

Most program engagement will be online, live-streamed from the comfort and safety of your homes. We have refined our techniques for virtual engagement, changed and evolved classes, and then changed them again transforming online play from passive entertainment into something truly new.

This relational virtual learning program is engaging, intimate and deep. This is a chance for your children to begin school and play with each other, while apart.

Program Schedule January 4 – April 15, 2021:

  • Mondays/Wednesdays | 11:30 AM -12:15 PM: Circle time with art and music play
  • Tuesdays | 4:00 – 4:45 PM: Toddler movement
  • Mondays | 8:15 PM: Parent Support Group  

Members $1,200 Members; Nonmembers: $1,600