With the growing emphasis on childcare providers being responsible for helping to improve home learning environments, Liz Hodgman, Childcare Expert, looks at developing Home Learning Packs (HLPs).

Research has shown that children who have positive home learning environments will make better progress and are more likely to achieve their early learning goals at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). They can overcome the challenges faced from living in poverty, poor living conditions and being raised in a workless family.

Using resources wisely

With the recent introduction of the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP), childcare providers are excellently placed to use some of this funding to develop HLPs. These simple resource packs are loaned out to parents to support them to engage with their child at home and encourage them to try out new activities.

Creating a library of HLPs need not be expensive but does require some thought, preparation and some creativity!

We found that using the A3 zipper bags were best for a number of reasons. They are easier to store than cloth drawstring bags as they can be stacked on a shelf. The children are instantly curious as they can see some of the items through the clear plastic. They are very economical to purchase and can even be colour coded, for example, yellow tops are for age range 2–3 years and red for 3–4 years.

Choose contents well

We chose some well-loved picture books as the basis for each pack and then planned resources around them. These books can usually be obtained through online book companies for around £1 per book. One of our most popular HLP was the “Hungry Caterpillar”.

We made a storyboard using a piece of corrugated cardboard and covered it with felt. We then made the different food items from the story, laminated them to make them more durable and added a small piece of velcro to the back. (You can download the artwork from free internet sites.)

We added to the pack a laminated sheet with top tips for reading aloud to your child and how to use the storyboard to help engage your child.

We designed a rhyme sheet with words of rhymes and songs that link to the book, for example Arabella Miller finds a creepy-crawly little caterpillar, with picture prompts for the actions.

We added a craft activity sheet with ideas for parents and children to do together at home, for example, making butterfly paintings by folding paper in half to create a mirror image. We added in a set of matching and sequencing cards downloaded from the internet and a sheet with ideas for extending the activities.

Finally we included some information on the EYFS — such as: What to expect, when? — available at www.foundationyears.org.uk.

You could also include a copy of the booklet, Reading with Your Child which is available to download from the Book Trust. (This booklet is also available in 26 other languages so a great way to support diversity within your provision.)

We always include a content sheet in each pack. This helps when checking that everything is in the pack when they are returned and before they are loaned out. We always make several copies of each HLP, this enables children to choose the same pack to take home and also saves time creating large numbers of different packs. Children will want to borrow the packs again and repeating the activities and extending them will help with sequencing, recall and early reading skills so this should be encouraged.

Other things for consideration

You will also need to consider the demographics of your provision’s families. It may be appropriate to develop HLPs which are focused around dual language books. Your Local BookStart representative may be able to help with sourcing these.

If you are using EYPP funding to support this project, then gathering evidence of the impact of them is very important. This can be done in a number of ways.

  • Parental questionnaires can be included in each pack — ask questions about how the pack was used at home, for example:

    • How many times did they share the book?

    • Describe the levels of child/parent engagement?

    • Have they extended or repeated any of the activities?

    • How could the pack be improved upon?

    It is really important when designing your questionnaire that you know about the families that will be completing it. If English is not their first language or there are high levels of basic skills issues then you may need to use more pictures, get some translated into different home languages or support parents to complete the forms when they return the pack.

  • Children’s questionnaires in the packs. These will need to be very pictorial and we find using yellow smiley/sad face images works well. Keep the number of questions to a minimum.

Parental questionnaires at the end of a term after the HLPs have been used several times will give a greater picture of the longer term impact of the project. For example “do you read more now with your child?”. You could ask parents to complete a baseline questionnaire before loaning out packs and then compare this to the one completed at the end of the term/year. This would help establish if the packs had increased the engagement and home learning environment.

Make a song and dance …

You might like to put a case study together on just two or three children. You could include pictures (parents may be willing to email or text over photos taken at home using the packs) as well as observations and parental feedback on how the packs have been used at home.

The children will also enjoy seeing their work/artwork that they have made at home, as a direct result of using the HLPs, on a wall display.

Keeping track

Finally you need to organise a robust lending system for the HLPs that records who has borrowed which pack, when borrowed and when due back. You may want to explore using a free online toy library database to catalogue your HLPs and recording the lending. (This would also provide evidence on how well the resources were being used within the provision.)

Further information on improving the home learning environment is available from:

  • Provider influence on the early home learning environment (EHLE), www.gov.uk.

Last reviewed 29 June 2016