This guide was born out of discussion with many parents and teachers and following on from this we have put together our ideas and suggestions for ways that parents can be involved and nurture their child’s learning.
From our own research and data gathered by others we have seen a direct correlation between parent participation and a child’s ability to learn. Parent participation is not being a pushy parent but it is enthusiastically joining your child in activities that subtly exercise the child’s cognitive functions. We have found that the best learning happens when a student is unaware of being taught but instead they are immersed in their own play, self-expression and problem solving.
Reading and writing
Our highest demand from parents is them wanting us to help them to support their child’s literacy and to help instill confidence. In our often fast paced world of on demand cartoons and captivating games, it can be easy to forget to make space for the written word and oral storytelling. The language that children develop over time is often used to cultivate their emotions and ideas, with this language we can then not only exchange information, but deeply connect with one another.
This exercise is ideally for children who have begun to talk. The parent takes the lead in creating a simple narrative, allowing the child to explain what happens next. This is a lovely exercise which can be carried out with a group of children. This activity encourages improvisation, confidence in expressing one’s ideas, patience and listening, with the ability to allow the narrative to unfold rather being under one person’s control. For children that are not yet able or old enough to participate they can either listen within a group setting and/or a parent can make up a simple story using some props from their toy collection.
Take turns to read and/or perform limericks and poems from some great well known authors such as, Edward Lear, Robert Louis Stevenson, Spike Milligan and Christina Rossetti. Reading and listening to rhyme is a great way to support spelling and learning phonetics. This activity demonstrates to the child that poetry and language can be playful and enjoyable, creating positive memories associated with speaking in front of others.
This is an exercise we are currently using with many of our students and it is proving to have great success as well as being enjoyable for both the teachers and students. To do this at home I suggest finding three pieces of instrumental music that are very different to each other in mood and tempo. Ask your child to close their eyes and listen to the sounds for 10-20 seconds before beginning to write. We find that it can take a few rounds of doing it before the child fully understands and relaxes into the process. The aim is to write a free flowing list of words that come into the imagination without judging what is written. If your child struggles you can give your child prompts by suggesting they describe: smells, tastes, sounds, colours, atmosphere, time of day, weather, characters, country, place etc. We have discovered that these lists become fantastic sources of ideas for story writing, taking a child out of their normal comfort zones into intricate and believable descriptive scenes.
Further reading: I recommend researching ‘Dialogic Reading’.
Numbers, shape and space
Numbers, shape and pattern is a language. A formula of measuring and explaining the world without words and verbal meaning. Mathematics can be a way in which students can use mother nature’s code to help build pine cones, cauliflowers and ferns. For a student to truly excel in their numeracy, we believe in the impotence of both recognising numbers, shape and pattern in the world around us and then embodying the understanding of these facts and systems. In early years, numeracy is still taught in a very physical and tangible way, however we have seen the National Curriculum lacking in concrete learning as children move from Key Stage 1 and 2. Even the children labelled as the most competent in Maths seem to struggle with estimation of size, finding surface areas of 3d shapes and worded problems. We therefore emphasise to parents the importance of frequent activity at home that involves measuring and working with values and amounts to help reinforce their learning as well as making the subject fun.
This activity is probably best suited to children aged between 2 and 5 years old. Rather than spending money on expensive educational toys you can use objects from around the house, from boxes of cereal to hair brushes to tin cans. Ask as well as help your child to place the objects in order of size, height, guessed weight, actual weight.
Hands and Feet, Lengths and Height.
Continuing with the theme of measuring, embark on recording the height and lengths of everything in your home, garden or local park. When measuring the length of a bedroom or kitchen use feet lengths and for ‘floor to door handle’ heights, use hand-spans. This exercise is a good opportunity to facilitate recording on paper by showing your child how to use a tally and table to list everything you’ve measured. You can extend the activity by having a column in the table that records the heights and lengths measured in adult sized feet lengths and hand-spans. All these activites will begin to embed the idea of scale and proportion into your child’s mind.
Shapes and Nets
Ask your child to find objects in the house that have different shapes. Aim to find: cylinders, triangular prisms (you might need to treat yourself to some Toblerone), cubes and cuboids, spheres, cones. Using brown packing paper or old wrapping paper, show your child how to make a net of the shape. If your child is confident, you can extend the activity by asking them to make 2 or more different nets for the same shape. If your child is struggling with the making aspect of this activity, be their helper so they can concentrate on the thinking part. This activity is extremely beneficial to students and will help with their Math’s problem solving right up to GCSE level.
Further reading: Help Your Kids With Maths by Carol Vorderman.
Our definition of creative play is the opportunity for children to express themselves through various types of play such as modelling and painting. There is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling for children than being able to express themselves openly and without judgment. This type of play allows children to use their senses to find personal expression and to explore their perception of the world around them.
This exercise involves the child using watercolours to express themselves through painting, this form of painting we believe nourishes the soul as well as providing healthy out-breathing and creating an inner flexibility. For this activity you need to soak a piece of watercolour paper in a basin of water for about 10 minutes. Whilst the paper is soaking, mix one or two colours in separate jars with a little water until the paint is diluted. When the paper is ready, place it onto a clean flat surface and wipe it with a sponge. Wiping it will remove excess water and any air bubbles between the paper and the work surface.
Before giving your child the paint and brushes, the parent/carer can read a verse of a poem to act as a stimulus, we recommend “Color” by Christina Rossetti. After reading, pass your child the paint and brushes and allow them to paint freely exploring colour more than form.
KS1 & KS2
This activity is inspired by Courteny Adamo’s instagram feed, who was inspired by her friend’s blog, who was inspired by somebody else’s and we like to carry on the tradition.
This activity is a little bit more involved than our other suggestions but we thought we would still include it as it is suitable for children aged 5 years and up – we’re sure pre-teens would love this just as much as little ones. Before you set upon trying this project, begin to collect wishbone shaped sticks. (see illustration) When you have found the right number of sticks per child, the parent/carer needs to make little cuts on the outer sides of the branches. Make sure they are evenly spaced and that you have the same number on each branch. These cuts will act as a place holder for the string or cord that you wrap around to make the framework or ‘warp’ onto which you’ll be weaving. Starting from the bottom of the ‘V’ of the wishbone, begin to wind the cord around the wishbone making sure the cord sits in the cuts. The cord needs to be wrapped so it is taut. Once you have reached the top, make a knot around one of the branches. Thread a needle with your chosen wool, a thicker wool would be easier to work with and would suit younger children. Begin at the bottom of the ‘V’ weave from the back, underneath your first row of string, then start weaving over and under. To keep it simple, repeat this step. To extend the activity you can try using different coloured wool.
Further reading: Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up by Ken Robinson
Outdoor learning/Forest School
Forest School is an inspirational process, offering all learners the opportunity to gain confidence and develop their self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural setting with trees. The concept of Forest school is a specialised learning approach which goes hand in hand in complimenting outdoor and woodland education. We have found that children who are allowed to learn outdoors learn the value of being equal to others as well as being competent in their own explorations and discoveries. This type of learning also allows the child to experience appropriate risks and challenges which in turn helps them to initiate and drive their own learning in their natural world.
On both a mental and emotional level, we believe equipping a child with the confidence to play in the wild and to experience the multitude of health benefits of being in nature, counteracts the potentially harmful side effects of living in a technology fuelled/ cerebal age of childhood. It is just as important for a child to manage their negative emotions and learn about the meaning of well-being as it is for them to read and memorise their times tables. We strongly believe that being surrounded by nature we can allow ourselves to learn about compassion.
Under the Canopy
A very easy to do activity to do with babies. Simply make time during the day to stop under a tree’s canopy and allow your little one to gaze up at the shapes and listen to the sounds of the branches and leaves above them. You can vary the experience for your child by finding trees of different heights and shapes. If you continue this throughout the year, your baby will gain a sense of the different seasons, however do take care when the weather is particularly windy.
Early Years and KS1
Within a woodland space, make a base or a “home” spot with your little crew of treasure hunters. Spend the time exploring the ground for nature’s gems – acorns, different coloured and shaped leaves, branches, stones and seed pods. With your gathered finds, begin to form a mandala on the ground or on top of a stump of wood. Children can choose to work on a shared mandala or create their own individual piece. The adult can make their own, demonstrating simple patterns and symmetry. Afterwards you can photograph them and later print them to make a little artist book full of the group’s masterpieces.
Waterproof Den Building
This is a fantastic activity to engage children in teamwork and problem solving. Set the challenge for a group of children to build a den that would keep them dry should it rain. If you have a large group of children, you can split the group into teams to make for some light hearted competition. Adults can help to, but allow the children the space to think about how to construct it so rain does not collect on the roof and what materials they could use to block any gaps.
More reading: “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv.