BLOOMFIELD / NUTLEY, NJ — As schools remain closed through the fall and virtual instruction restarts, parents again must figure out how to manage homeschooling, often while working from home themselves. It’s a challenge for preschool-aged children when they can’t go to preschool, so Lovelee Tang designed a virtual art program for children aged 18 months to 6 years old. The owner and director of Lovelee Art Studios in Bloomfield, Tang teamed up with Nutley children’s book author Ilene Dudek and will be using Dudek’s books as part of a six-week curriculum.
Tang is no stranger to working with young children — she has four of her own and ran a preschool out of her home before opening the art studio in 2017. The virtual program will be a mix of once-a-week live meetings, prerecorded videos and themed projects. It will run throughout the school year, and families can enroll at any time.
“Because of the pandemic, and where parents are with their kids, I wanted to create structure for them,” Tang said in a phone interview on Aug. 31. “And I wanted to make it fun.”
Dudek’s “Little Ants” book series will be used for six weeks as curriculum. Written and hand-illustrated by Dudek and based on real childhood situations her own children have been in, the books are about an ant going on adventures. One tackles bullying, one is an ice cream–themed mystery and the most recent book, published a month ago, addresses the coronavirus pandemic.
“I took a lot of what we’re going through,” Dudek said in a phone interview on Aug. 31. “It makes it fun and easier for kids to understand, because my 6-year-old doesn’t totally know what’s going on.”
Dudek and Tang met when Dudek’s son took art classes at Tang’s studio. Both entrepreneurs, they decided they’d work well together. Dudek is usually able to read her books to children, but the circumstances aren’t allowing it right now. With the art program, families will have access to her books.
“It’s a good match, for sure,” Dudek said. “If it’s conducive, I’ll sign books and get them to them. Usually I go to schools and libraries, so I need to figure out new ways to do that. Things are different now.”
The weekly live art-program meetings are designed in what Tang called a “mommy and me” style — parent and child watch and participate together. The other projects and prerecorded videos can be done together or by children on their own. The activities are broken down by age, but Tang said there’s flexibility within the guidelines.
“Parents can customize it to what they want,” she said. “Everyone is having to make a decision with their businesses and how they’re working. Everything will be pick-and-choose and baked into their day. I love the opportunity to create an experience. I love it just as much virtually, because there are ways to engage.”