Research School Network: Ten things we learnt about working with parents to support children’s learning in the early years This blog by Lindsey Foster and Julian Grenier summarises what we learnt during the lockdown


Ten things we learnt about working with parents to support children’s learning in the early years

This blog by Lindsey Foster and Julian Grenier summarises what we learnt during the lockdown

This is the fifth and final blog in our series about working parents to support children’s learning at home in the early years. You can read this as a brief standalone summary of our learning, or as part of the whole series.

[Read part one, part two, part three, part four]

In this blog, we’re providing a brief and practical account of what we learnt. We think this sort of informal practitioner research, evaluation and summary is useful for two reasons.

Firstly, it is helping us in a practical way to decide what we should be doing more of to support children’s learning at home, and what we should stop doing.

Secondly, it outlines potential areas for more formal research and evaluation in the future. This will help us to build a better evidence base. Currently, as the EEF guidance report explains, although we know that home learning is important, there are many gaps in our knowledge.

We hope that our learning, gained during the first lockdown, will help us to provide better support to parents in the future when more normal lives resume.

  1. Everything builds on strong relationships. When parents receive regular contact from their key person, they say they feel reassured. If that reduces anxiety, it may help parents to do the most important thing – provide warm, responsive and loving care for their children. It may help them to manage other feelings, like anxiety, which can get in the way.
  2. Have a clear outline script to focus conversations between key people and parents. Key people can then individualise this on each occasion. Without any script, the resources we share (videos and play materials) may not be understood by parents. In turn, that means parents may not introduce and support their children as they play with the materials or look at the books we have given them.
  3. Practitioners need to have a clear understanding of the aims and objectives of the home learning support. The programme needs to be co-constructed by the whole team.
  4. Share aims with parents, using plain English.
  5. Create short videos (23 mins) that show parents how to share stories and play activities with children.
  6. Create short videos of songs and rhymes.These are the most-watched videos, so we should prioritise these.
  7. When sending resources to children’s homes, share a short video in advance to explain what’s in the box and how to use it. This should be followed by a further videos of a practitioner modelling ways of playing with the resources with children. When we shared the first box of resources, some were opened immediately by children, lost and scattered, and not played with for extended periods of time with adults as intended.
  8. Zoom key group times need an engaging visual focus, alongside the voice content. Parents told us that interactive Zoom sessions e.g. listening bags, bucket time, and stories with props worked best. Parents found practitioners simply sharing a book or singing a song less engaging. Setting out clear objectives enable us to work collaboratively with parents to evaluate how well we did, and to learn to do this better.
  9. Share links to other websites so that parents can choose to explore areas of play and learning more. Parents said they liked these websites the most: Hungry Little Minds, Tiny Happy People and LoveMyBooks
  10. Work collaboratively with parents by setting out clear objectives and consulting on these. Then we can engage parents as collaborators in our evaluation. We can find out together what works well, and learn what we need to stop doing.

Find out more: LoveMyBooks – books and activity pages for children aged 3 – 5 years old.


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