Supporting families to support their child’s learning

Since the introduction of the EYFS framework in 2008 there has been a huge emphasis upon encouraging parents to become engaged in their children’s learning. Research has recognised that parents are children’s first and most enduring educators and that improving the home learning environment is an important role of the practitioner.

In 2004 Kathy Sylva and Iram Siraj-Blatchford embarked upon the EPPE research and in their findings, they highlighted the importance of the home-learning environment.

What is a good home learning environment?

An environment where parents:

  • engage in meaningful talk with their children
  • share books at least five times a day
  • play practical mathematical and literacy games with their child
  • take their children to places of interest to extend their first hand experiences and understanding of the world.

So taking parents out on visits will allow practitioners to support parents improve their interactions with their children as practitioners will be able to model speaking and listening and the introduction of new vocabulary, provide parents with simple tasks and games to complete during the visits, and reiterate the importance of taking children into the local and wider community.

Further international research supporting the need for parental engagement has found the following:

  • It is possible to engage vulnerable parents and improve the home learning environment. (Evangelou, 2008)
  • Parenting behaviour influences children’s development from the moment of birth (Gulman & Feinstein, 2007; Feinstein, 2003).
  • The quality of the home learning environment is more important for a child’s intellectual and social development than parental occupation, education or income. (Sylva et al., 2004)
  • Children whose fathers are involved in their learning do better at school and have better mental health (Flouri & Buchanan, 2001)
  • The influence of the home is “enduring, pervasive and direct”. (Desforges with Abouchaar, 2003).

The new Early Years Inspection framework (2019:19) reiterates the importance of parental engagement and what inspectors will be looking for during an inspection visit.

Wherever possible, the inspector must find out the views of parents during the inspection, including those of any parents who ask to speak to them. This will contribute to judgements about how well the provision works in partnership with parents to support children’s learning and development, and the promotion of their well-being.

Strategies you may like to trial

  • Give your families as much notice as possible for outings you would like them to help with. Working families may need to organise time off and this can take time
  • Base the visits on the families shared interests so they are most likely to come
  • Stress the learning that their child will be engaging in whilst being taken out and with the follow up experiences
  • Share the experiences and learning that has taken place on outings families haven’t accompanied and be specific about how they too could go or other opportunities they could offer their child
  • “Ask me about…” stickers, so families are prompted to ask specific questions of children after an outing
  • Make multiple copies of resources that have been produced so families can borrow them or keep a copy at home
  • Be clear about your expectations for families on the outing and the role you would like them to play in the outing
  • You may need to tell the family member more than once in the run up to the trip to just remind them
  • Buddying family members with other families or staff members
  • Written reminders so family members can refer to the expectations or learning points as the outing unfolds.

More from the Exploring the Wider World project