With more early childhood centres being closed around the world due to Covid-19, many parents are suddenly finding themselves in a ‘home-schooling’ situation.

This sounds simple in theory, but the reality can be quite daunting. We want to help families navigate this, so our Education Team here at Storypark ‘virtually’ got together this week to provide some guidance and support for families to help emulate some of the learning and development experiences that early childhood educators would be guiding preschoolers through if they were in an early learning centre.

Planning for learning in your home

Your home is already a learning environment – it isn’t necessary to turn it into a classroom or service. Learning opportunities happen anywhere, every day and remember that learning should be fun! Once you have your “learning lens” switched on, we know you will see even the most simple chore activity, as one filled with rich learning opportunities.

Child reading on couch

Here’s some helpful guidelines to help each day run a little smoother:

  • Plan what your day will look like. Sit down with your child or children and work out what you will be doing together and what they will be doing alone.  
  • Discuss what works best for you and your family when planning learning experiences. Remember, learning doesn’t need to happen between 9am – 3pm, or Monday – Friday.  
  • It’s important to take regular breaks, get outside for some fresh air and do some physical activity.
  • Some things you might want to support your child with each day:
    • Read (or hear) a story. 
    • Challenge your child’s thinking on a subject or topic. 
    • Solve a problem. 
    • Do something active, walk in the rain, enjoy the fresh air and sun, explore your backyard at night with touches.   
    • Hold a conversation about a topic that is interesting to them.
    • Include your child in everyday home activities, like cooking, meal prep, washing and cleaning – wash their toys, clean the car, wash the dog
    • Have time to rest and play.
      (Source: Adapted from the Ministry of Education New Zealand guidelines)

Useful early childhood education concepts for parents at home

Child-led play

Early childhood is a time in a child’s life when they learn best through playing, exploring and doing. Child-led or child-initiated play is where the child follows their own play urges and interests. Child-led play is essential to healthy brain development and sets children up to be inquisitive, life-long learners. Adults play an important role in child-initiated play. They provide a safe environment for the child to explore and test out their ideas. Adults may use the child’s interests or next steps to develop play by offering opportunities or resources for the child to use in a variety of ways. Have discussions with your child, a good opener is “I wonder why…?” to provoke thinking and provide an insight into their theory of the world. The environment provided should encourage investigation and exploration to take place, and most importantly, be FUN!

You know your child, start with their current interest and see where it goes.

Man and child in the garden

The importance of trial and error

Making mistakes and allowing different ways of doing something provides more opportunities to learn and enables children to practice and master a physical skill, consolidate language, confirm intellectual understandings and to increasingly manage the complexity of social and emotional ‘humanness’.  They investigate possibilities and developing hypotheses, by trying things out. They have little fear of failure, and through on-going and recurring experiences, they form the framework of their learned knowledge. Over time, their competence increases, and this, in turn, helps them to develop confidence in their capability. Play allows children to be relaxed and work creatively, revisit experiences, solve problems, engage with others, and discover an endlessly new world.

Your child’s learning disposition

Dispositions are not skills but habits of mind, or the ways they respond to a situation in a certain way. Curiosity is a disposition, not a skill or a piece of knowledge. It’s a tendency to respond to an experience in a certain way. Some of the most common types of dispositions include – Trust, playfulness, courage, curiosity, perseverance, confidence, responsibility (watch Lillian Katz talk about dispositions). What is your child’s learning disposition? By understanding this you can understand why they are reacting in a particular way but also this may highlight areas that you might want to develop and further build on with your child.

Learning Dispositions What you might notice
Trust and playfulness Initiating interactions
Asking for help
Independent and involved
Transferring learning to new situations
Social competence 
Courage and curiosity Coping with change
Trying new things
Overcoming challenges
Taking the lead 
Helping others
Taking chances
Developing expert knowledge
Asking questions
Inquisitive behaviour
Involving themselves
Perseverance to tackle and persist with difficulty or uncertainty Strengthening a talent, skill or interest
Sticking at a hard task
Knowing when it is better to persevere 
Overcoming challenge
Inquisitive and inquiring
Confidence to express ideas, feelings and points of view Healthy self-esteem
Active listening
Expressing an idea feeling or opinion
Non-verbally expressing what you want
Taking another point of view 
Expressive through dance, song, creativity
Interacting positively with others
Responsibility for justice and fairness Collaborating
Leading and following 
Being fair
Conflict resolution
Participating in a group

Websites to follow for great play ideas


Ideas to do at home

Now that you’ve got an understanding of some key concepts in early childhood development and education, we want to offer you some practical ideas to do in and around your home.

Fine and gross motor skills, and problem-solving

Literacy, math and science

Outdoor adventures and using your senses

Everyday activities and dramatic play 

Music, creativity and loose parts

Posted by Sharon Carlson

Sharon's early years were supported at home by her Mum in Taranaki. She later became an ECE ICT facilitator for CORE Education, and then Storypark. Sharon has successfully supported the implementation of a diverse range of ICT products and services around the country and is helping make sure Storypark is awesome for teachers and children's development.

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