Last reviewed 5 May 2014

Kay Crosse reports on practitioner support for the home learning environment.

It is in the home learning environment that a child’s first steps in learning can be taken. Parents who communicate well, read stories and enjoy playing with their children are supporting learning in the best possible way.

The role of the practitioner is to develop a trusting relationship, build confidence, provide encouragement and offer information to parents as to why their role is so important. Parents are very keen to support their child, but are sometimes at a loss to know what to do.

The importance of a good role model

Practitioners can be good role models for the adult role in a child’s learning. When parents can see the ways in which the practitioner interacts with a child, they gain an understanding of the best ways to provide encouragement. Good role modelling will include:

  • building on a child’s interests

  • planning learning at a suitable pace to meet a child’s individual needs

  • communicating in a way to extend learning

  • organising learning in small “chunks”

  • trying to build in success

  • remembering that motivation is a key factor in learning.

Literacy as a foundation for learning

One of the most important aspects of early learning is literacy. Building the foundations of literacy enables a child to make good progress with reading, when the time comes and the child is ready. These foundations include speaking, listening and story-telling, with the practitioner well placed to provide some good ideas for parents. These include:

  • telling stories, perhaps with the child as the central character

  • encouraging the child to listen and follow “directions”

  • taking part in conversation, learning about taking turns in talking

  • reading stories about a range of topics of interest to a child

  • looking at pictures connected with the story and encouraging discussion

  • playing a range of games to encourage pattern recognition

  • developing memory and concentration

  • enjoying jigsaws to develop shape recognition

  • encouraging prediction in stories

  • enjoying a wide range of finger rhymes and action rhymes

  • enabling the child to select his or her own stories and books.

Enjoying numeracy

Another key aspect of early learning is numeracy. The best way to introduce children to numeracy is through everyday activities, many of which regularly take place in a setting or in a home environment. Professional childminders have the advantage of combining both environments. Ideas for introducing numeracy in home learning environments include:

  • naming and counting the vegetables placed into the bag in the supermarket

  • naming the shapes seen in the home, eg rectangular biscuit boxes, circular mats

  • counting the potatoes placed in the saucepan

  • helping to weigh ingredients in simple recipes

  • understanding the cycle and sequence in planting and growing plants

  • using wooden blocks for counting and shape recognition

  • playing simple games, such as snakes and ladders

  • matching a variety of simple objects or playing “pairs”

  • learning about “one-to-one correspondence”, eg laying the table

  • sorting using “difference” when unloading the washing machine

  • saying the correct number in car numbers and house numbers

  • enjoying number rhymes, such as “five currant buns”

  • counting up — 1,2,3 and counting backwards — 3,2,1

  • understanding simple time concepts, eg day, week, month, year.

When parents and practitioners work closely together and gently use everyday, naturally occurring activities, children enjoy learning and gradually progress in all areas of development.