7 simple materials for ‘home-based learning’ in the Early Years

For early years educators, online home-based learning is unchartered territory. We spend so much of our time trying to minimise screen time, prioritise child-initiated play and inquiry based learning and we rely so heavily on our physical ‘prepared environment’ and using the environment as ‘the third teacher’. Online home-based learning doesn’t tick any of these boxes, I hear you, I do. It raises our children’s screen time quota, it relies on teacher-initiated, direct instruction and it certainly isn’t your ‘third teacher’.

Under the circumstances, I think it is easy to lose sight of our principles and what we value in early years education. We still need to be prioritising relationships with the children, their parents and with fellow educators. We really need to listen, to everyone, and collaborate. One size is not going to fit all for the families we work with and we have to be sensitive to their circumstances during this time of unprecedented uncertainty and change. In light of this, now more than ever we need to ensure our practice is underpinned by collective critical reflection. We need to open up dialogue about what works for OUR families, RIGHT NOW and be flexible.

I am all too aware that many families won’t have the materials and resources they need to enact our pedagogical practices at home and going out and spending money on materials just isn’t an option right now. If I could, these are the 6 materials I would send home to children in my early years class in order to allow parents to foster play and learning that is in line with our philosophies and pedagogical practices.

A role of paper

A set of paint brushes

Liquid paints

A block of air dry clay (this 12.5kg block can be divided up and sent home in a ziplock bag) or play dough ingredients

A squeezy bottle of PVA glue

A stack of school library books

I believe that, just as we support children’s autonomy in our classroom, we should be supporting parents autonomy in their own homes. As educators we should not be adding to the overwhelm we are all likely feeling right now. We instead should be making available the guidance and resources parents might need during this period of adjustment.

These 7 simple materials would allow educators to suggest to parents, simple invitations to play and provocations that would likely take less time to set up than a zoom session (although I do believe a short ‘morning time’ session to connect with children every day is extremely valuable right now). I plan to elaborate on the emphasis on ‘suggest’ and what I believe might be an appropriate use of video platforms with young children in the weeks to come, but for now I want to encourage educators to really, really reflect, together and draw on that strong partnership with parents that you have cultivated, give parents a voice. And parents, don’t be afraid to make yourself heard. After all, we are listening.

What materials would you love to send home to your children and if you’re a parent reading this, what kind of support would you appreciate right now?