The home is the single most significant environmental factor in enabling children to develop the trust, attitude and skills that will help them to learn and engage positively with the world – a process that starts at birth, if not before.
It is the foundation from which babies and young children can grow to achieve their full potential.
•A good home learning environment provides the love, security, stimulation, encouragement and opportunities that help children to flourish.
•The quality of the parent-child relationship is fundamental to children's longer-term development. Warmth, encouragement and an absence of hostility are key elements in a positive home environment. (O'Connor and Scott, 2007)
•'At home good parenting' has been defined (Desforges, 2003) as providing:
- a secure and stable environment
- intellectual stimulation
- parent-child discussion
- high aspirations.
•During babyhood, a vital foundation for later learning is established when a secure attachment is formed through sensitive, responsive care-giving and parents interact with their baby through smiles, talking, touch and play.
•As children grow beyond babyhood, a positive home learning environment provides social interaction, attention and activities which promote the development of a positive attitude to learning, as well as the acquisition of physical, intellectual, language, social and emotional skills.
•The amount that parents talk to babies and young children and the way they talk to them have been shown to have a direct positive impact on children's linguistic and intellectual ability at age 3 and 10 (Hart and Risley, 1995). Parents can provide the building blocks for literacy and cognitive development by:
- chatting as much as possible during normal daily life, using a wide vocabulary
- praising rather than criticising
- talking to children about things, using language with a high information content
- giving children choices rather than simply directing them
- listening and responding to what children say.
Birth to toddlerhood: what do babies need to build a foundation for learning?
From toddlerhood to starting school: what can parents do to promote their young child's early learning?
Activities and behaviours that create a positive home learning environment:
•Developing adult-child relationships that are loving, warm and responsive.
•Listening, responding and talking from birth.
•Engaging in shared thinking as a normal part of daily life – explaining, speculating, describing, making connections and open questioning.
Opportunities to explore and learn
•Giving opportunities and encouragement to explore and develop independence whilst offering support when needed.
•Providing real experiences that make sense to children and including children in everyday routines.
•Providing opportunities to learn in meaningful, enjoyable contexts.
•Going on visits.
•Creating opportunities for children to have friends to play.
Being child focused and led
•Following a child's interests and encouraging their ideas.
•Allowing and encouraging a child to lead play whilst playing together.
•Recognising success and praising to build confidence and self-esteem.
Developing literacy and language
•Developing understanding of letter sounds and patterns.
•Oral storytelling - sharing stories at home about everyday life, past experiences etc.
•Singing songs and rhymes.
•Talking about words, letters and sounds in context e.g. environmental print, picture books.
•Using a wide variety of text – reading with and to children and encouraging repeating of favourite stories.
•Encouraging and affirming early mark making and writing attempts.
•Painting and drawing.
Adapted from Wheeler and Connor (2009) Sources: Nutbown et al. (2005); Siraj-Blatchford and McCallum (2005); Sylva et al (2004); Siraj-Blatchford et al (2002); DfES (2002); National Literacy Trust (2001)