All About Play (At Home)
Laura House is the education lead at ‘Tiny’, an organisation that recruits and leads childminders. She focuses on all things play for children from 0-5. She’s also a Mum and is perfectly placed to provide us with lots of tips and ideas to encourage our children to learn through play. Heidi asked her some questions about play in the pandemic:
How has Covid changed play for parents?
There has been more of an understanding in what tends to go on in early years settings for parents who were thrown into the deep end at the start of the pandemic and needing to lead on this themselves more at home. There has, also, been a lot of pressure on parents who may have seen brilliant tuff trays with rainbow rice set up and those who assumed this is what they needed to aspire to – but not all parents have had the time to set this up and then end up feeling guilty. There has been a lot of pressure, during multiple lockdowns, to create beautiful learning opportunities at a very pressured time. There’s not much awareness that, actually, the simple day to day things can provide really great learning opportunity for our children, without sensory or messy play taking the lead all of the time. Helping to lay the table or wipe up a spillage with a mop can be brilliant learning times and low pressure for families, yet still super valuable.
Reading a story can be one of the most important things for parents to do with their children, fostering language and understanding.
Also boredom is needed! Children don’t need activities all day long! Without an activity, children are more likely to invent something or be creative and use things around them in a new way. This is really important to support their creativity.
Items that you have around the house – such as loo roll tubes and a marble – can provide countless hours of activity for a toddler to explore. The things that you have around the house that aren’t categorised as “toys” often promote huge play opportunities for children.
We often feel like there’s so much pressure to do a craft activity with one hand, emails with the other and empty the dishwasher with our feet! But what our children need with us are strong relationships, being responsive adults who are aware of what their child’s needs are and responding to those needs. That is the most important thing that we can do, as parents, to support our children’t learning. Knowing that we are enough and exactly what our children need can be a really comforting message.
The Early Years Foundation Study
The Royal Foundation Study in partnership with ipsos MORI highlights that 76% of parents are not aware of the 0-5 age range for an adult’s happiness and wellbeing. The science shows that the 0-5 early years period are the most pivotal period for future health and happiness and are more important than any other period. This can feel like more pressure! But actually all it means is that children need responsive relationships with responsive caregivers. Knowing what a child needs and supporting them with that are what they need.
Responsive relationships build secure attachments, conversation skills, builds their sense of self and the back and forth conversation they need doesn’t cost a lot of money, it just takes our time. We already possess the tools we need to support our child’s development: quality time a couple of hours a day, even if it’s over the breakfast table, it is a respectful interaction and it doesn’t cost anything!
Top 3 simple activities you can do in the home
- Allow the child to show what they’re interested in and give them time to develop that interest.
- Give your child a camera or an old phone that they can use to take pictures of themselves, to help you get their perspective and they find this really exciting!
- Dialogic reading: reading a story together in a way that you’re having a conversation about the story to make it really interactive.
Is there anything that can be done at home to promote social skills in young children?
A lot of social skills from a young age are developed from a child’s sense of self. Talkative-play and imagination can best be supported with their sense of help, being responsive and playing together can really help. Play is a natural way for children to learn, they can take risks, rehearse and try things out but it’s also joyful and fun for them, too.