Nichole Hughes, Early Years and Key Stage teacher, education consultant supporting parents, and a parent herself, shares her reflections on encouraging play at home.
‘Play? Play is not learning! How are you learning? It’s just playing.’ I have heard this many times from individuals who may not understand the role and importance of play within the Early Years Curriculum. As Early Years educators know, play is fundamental to a child’s development, including supporting cognitive skills, social interaction and creative skills.
With our current climate, living in and experiencing a pandemic, children need play more than ever before. As a parent myself, I understand that it can be challenging to find various ways to prompt play at home. Early Years professionals and educators need to work collaboratively and supportively with parents and carers, to ensure they feel confident to play with their child and understand why it is so important.
How can Early Years Educators support parents and carers with playing at home?
Before COVID-19, parents and carers were able to attend workshops within a nursery, preschool or school, where they could ask questions and Teachers and EYFS educators could share and show parents how to play at home and support their child’s learning. However, as educators we have had to adapt to the use of technology while taking into consideration that not all parents and carers may have access to the internet. In this instance, learning sheets or a contact book can be sent home, keeping COVID safety in mind.
With the use of technology, educators can share videos of play activities based on particular aspects of the EYFS Curriculum. For example:
· Engaging in Lego play and block play
· Using household items to support fine motor skills
· Sharing stories and creating lollipop stick puppets to retell a story
· Providing Q&A sessions or parent consultations
Currently, within my setting we use Tapestry, which enables parents to comment on their child’s experiences and see what learning is taking place within the EYFS setting. This in itself can give them ideas to try at home.
Using learning sheets educators can:
· Provide three simple play activities for the week with photos
· Play dough ingredients list
· Photos of household items and resources that can support learning through play at home
· Share learning outcomes and an activity that will support the learning
We also use home contact books so we can communicate with parents and carers.
Providing a contact book can help with:
· Writing messages to parents and carers
· Parents and carers can write a question for their child’s EYFS Educators
· Educators, parents and carers can share positive learning celebrations for each child.
The key is for educators to provide clear advice to encourage and engage parents and carers with learning activities at home. Using visuals, such as photos or short video clips, can relay information to families where more than one language is spoken at home, and where spoken or written communication may create hurdles. There should always be an opportunity for parents to ask questions about their child’s learning and progress.
Tip for parents
Learning through play at home is enjoyable and fun with the five top tips below:
1. Notice your child’s interests
What does your child enjoy playing with or what is their favourite activity? Once you know this, you can use their interest to engage with them in their play.
2. Provide an environment where your child can access their learning resources.
Is there a space within your home where your child can store things so they can reach them, read books quietly, or complete an arts and crafts activity and enjoy their own play? Place resources and activities in boxes or easy to open containers. Providing an opportunity for your child to freely access their resources supports their independent play.
3. Get on your child’s level and play with them
Allow your child to lead the play and interact with their learning through their play.
4. Have fun!
Play is fun and enjoyable - there is no wrong or right way to play.
Overall, as educators we know we need to ensure that parents and carers are comfortable to ask questions and know that there are various ways to contact the educational setting whether it is a nursery, preschool or school. Working collaboratively with parents and carers, building a rapport and giving clear advice will support families to feel confident about learning through play at home.
Edited by Jules