Introducing the Early Learning Together @ Home project

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  Published on Wednesday, 04 November 2020

Introducing the Early Learning Together @ Home project

Library Home  >  Industry Interviews
  Published on Wednesday, 04 November 2020
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Home is where the heart is, and it’s also a key environment for early childhood education.

Between the ages of birth and five, much of a child’s learning and development happens in the home, and a new online platform called Early Learning Together @ Home will provide quality learning-from-home materials for under-fives.

University of Wollongong Early Start has partnered with Early Childhood Australia and Playgroup Australia to undertake this project, and to see what it promises families and those working with young children, we spoke with Leanne Gibbs, Senior Manager Engagement and Translation at Early Start.

Leanne brings decades of hands-on and high-level experience to the project, and has worked as an early childhood teacher, director, government advisor, researcher, lecturer and CEO within early childhood programs, educational institutions, and peak organisations.

Thank you for your time, Leanne, and congratulations on receiving funding for the Early Learning Together @ Home project from the Ian Potter Foundation.

Could you please explain why home learning is so important for young children, and what content will be offered on this online platform?

Thank you! It’s a wonderful opportunity to do this very important work for children and families.

Around 90 per cent of brain development occurs in the first five years of a child’s life, which make this an exciting time for learning and development! So much of this learning happens in the home, but this can be a confusing time for families as they ask themselves things like, “What should I teach my child?” and “Should they learn to read and write before they go to school?”

The great news is that children learn through everyday experiences at home, at playgroup and within early childhood education settings. And what’s most important to know, is that secure relationships form the foundations for children’s learning. When they’re surrounded by strong relationships with parents, carers and educators, children learn important knowledge, skills and values.

To this end, Early Learning Together @ Home is an exciting and innovative project that will help families and educators to support children’s learning in the home environment.

We are creating an online platform that’s focused on play-based learning and the family’s role in children’s early development, and it will include:

  • Ideas on how to have a great day of learning with a young child
  • Ideas for play experiences that help children develop
  • What a typical day looks like for children at every age
  • How to set up play spaces
  • How to develop children’s language and thinking skills, and so on.

There will be so much content backed by world class research, and families will find endless opportunities and experiences on the platform!

When will Early Learning Together @ Home be freely accessible for families and educators, and what do you hope it will achieve in the coming years?

We anticipate we will be ready to launch in May 2021, and our plan is that this is the start of something big!

The content will always be free and we’ll grow the platform (with additional support) to make Early Learning Together @ Home a ‘go to’ resource for families and educators as they share the learning journey with young children.

We’ll know we’ve been successful when all families across Australia feel included and supported with knowledge to learn and partner with their children in play.

What are some play-based learning activities that you recommend for babies, toddlers and preschoolers at home?

I recommend anything that builds relationships, language and thinking skills, including:

  • Reading books together (reading foundations are built by listening to stories and looking at symbols and print on pages)
  • Singing simple songs and rhymes (which is great for language development)
  • Cooking (all that measuring and weighing develops maths skills)
  • Playing games outside, walking and running (which makes strong bodies), and
  • Looking for patterns and shapes in the environment (which develops maths and science skills).

There are endless possibilities with simple materials in the home and it’s important for parents and carers to spend time talking and listening. Questions like, “I wonder what will happen if we …?” help children to think of solutions to problems; and turn-taking, when babies are babbling, is the start of conversation.

By the time children are two, they have a potential vocabulary of hundreds of words, but this development comes through talking and interacting at home, at playgroup and within early childhood education settings, such as long day care centres and preschool.

Parents are often described as their child’s first educator. What are the key things mums and dads should be doing in their child’s early years to help them learn and develop to the best of their potential?

There are many valuable things that parents can do, including:

  • Providing different experiences and social interactions for their child
  • Engaging in different types of play with them
  • Forming quality relationships with their child’s educators, and
  • Creating good routines around things like sleep and nutrition.

We’ll be exploring so many of these aspects of a child’s day and their play via Early Learning Together @ Home.

Overall, we can think of a child’s learning journey as starting at home, then expanding to other learning environments, such as playgroup and early childhood settings.

Children are on a learning continuum from birth that is enhanced by rich, secure relationships and experiences, and by the time they reach school, the most important foundations are in place.

This year’s pandemic has given many families an experience with home learning. What is your practical advice for parents who are trying to juggle work, other pressures and their under-five’s home learning?

2020 has definitely been the year of the juggle!

Families have had additional worries with work and financial stress, and I would say to them: “You don’t need to add to this by worrying about your child’s development”.

Playing and learning with young children might be just the stress-release parents and carers need, so try to set aside some time, no matter how small, to be emotionally present with your child. Use that time to share a story or play a game.

Also, where possible, share time with friends. Rich and secure relationships are everything! And of course, check out the Early Learning Together @ Home platform when we launch for great ideas and tips – all supported by research!

Thank you, Leanne. This is sage advice and we’re excited to see the platform in mid-2021.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Sunday, 01 November 2020

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