Our Early Years Lead Laura Barbour explains how you can build a great home learning environment. 

Many parents this week were grappling with a new challenge: how to juggle their child’s education and care with remote working. It is a challenge that will no doubt leave most of us with even more respect for our early years staff and teachers. But it is one that brings the issue of the home learning environment – and what makes a positive one – to the fore.

Over the years, research by the Sutton Trust has continuously highlighted the importance of a positive home learning environment in the early years. It is already the most significant predictor of a child’s long-term outcomes. And, as childminders and early years providers across the country shut their doors, it will be more important than ever for this cohort of children.

For most parents, it will be daunting to suddenly become responsible for your child’s education. But the most important thing to remember is that what parents do with their children is much more important than who they are, what job they have, how much money they earn or what education they had. This is backed up by our research that found a supportive home learning environment was a more powerful indicator of outcomes at school than family background.

There are obvious challenges to having to keep pre-school children confined mainly to the home, but every parent and carer has the potential to have a positive impact on their child’s learning. A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that it is in the years before school starts that offer parents the greatest opportunities have a significant impact on their child’s future life chances.

All parents want the best for their child. They are uniquely placed to build on this loving relationship. This is not about parents being expert early years teachers, they can transform their children’s lives by building on everyday learning experiences, like sorting socks for the washing or counting peas on the plate. It’s about listening, talking, playing, singing and sharing books and stories together.

There are now lots of resources available online to support parents over the coming weeks. To their credit, many commercial companies have made their resources freely available. But the sheer volume available means it can be difficult to know where to start. Many of the early years projects the Sutton Trust has supported have resources available online to support the home learning environment. To help, we’ve collected them together:

Resources that are particularly useful for practitioners:

So while the next few months will undoubtedly hold challenges for parents and carers of pre-school children, it also presents an opportunity to build a positive home learning environment that has a long-lasting impact on their children. It’s not how educated parents are or how much money they have that matters. It’s the simple activities – like reading stories and singing nursery rhymes – that will make the biggest difference.

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