Lincoln, Neb. —As people across the globe figure out how to adjust their lifestyles due to social distancing and sheltering in place, this shift can be even more challenging for those caring for children. A new project from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is designed to support caregivers in creating positive moments.
“A Beautiful Day” is a virtual childhood space designed to connect with children and families in Nebraska and across the world. Julia Torquati, professor in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies came up with the idea after seeing families’ and children’s daily lives being affected by the COVID-19 virus.
“Kids and parents need reassurance, routine and predictability,” Torquati said. “I thought it would be great to offer these supports in a friendly and upbeat way that would encourage everyone to find the positive, even during times of uncertainty.”
Soon, a team of early childhood experts from across the university were brainstorming how to turn Torquati’s idea into reality. Their inspiration came from Fred Rogers, who built a career out of helping people and finding beauty in small moments.
“We started talking about beautiful cooking, beautiful music, beautiful play, beautiful junk and all of the beautiful things that can be found in our days,” said Jennifer Leeper Miller, director of the Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory. The result is a virtual space designed to share ideas, foster learning and play, and support caregivers experiencing social distancing.
At the “Beautiful Day” website, caregivers can find creative and playful videos showcasing different activities and shared storybook readings children through age 8 can try at home. In one video, three children demonstrate how to make bubbles with dish soap, a container and kitchen utensils. After the solution is made, the children use problem-solving skills to figure out different ways to blow the biggest bubble or the smallest bubble. Other video activities involve subitizing in nature and using magazine clippings to express creativity. David von Kampen, lecturer in the Glenn Korff School of Music, composed the music for each video, which also captures the playful spirit of the project.
University faculty and staff, along with their children, are featured in the videos, which have been filmed in their kitchens, living rooms and backyards. Project leaders, including Kelley Buchheister, assistant professor of child, youth and family studies, weren’t aiming for professional videos; they wanted to create playful and real videos that were easily relatable. Viewers might hear a dog barking or see a mess on the floor because that’s what life looks like when everyone is home practicing social distancing.
“We’re inviting you into our home and introducing you to our families,” said Holly Hatton-Bowers, assistant professor of child, youth and family studies and an early childhood extension specialist. “‘A Beautiful Day’ really reminds us that we’re all a part of a community that is coming together to support one another through this challenging situation to promote distant socializing and children’s learning and play.”
“A Beautiful Day” collaborators have come from the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies and Ruth Staples Child Development Lab within the College of Education and Human Sciences, as well as Nebraska Extension and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute.
More than 40 people have contributed videos and other resources to the project. More videos are being added to the website each day.