Supporting nursery learning at home

By Steph Cooper, Group Editor of Pre-school titles including CBeebies Magazine and Education Advisor for Youth & Children’s at Immediate Media Co.

I’m lucky enough to have worked in lots of early years settings first as an early years teacher, then a Deputy Head at a large primary school and then as a Literacy Advisor attached to a cluster of schools and nurseries. I now have the immense privilege to work as the Editor of a large group of children’s magazines including CBeebies Magazine.

Creating literacy-rich environments for young children has been a key feature of my career. First in making sure children had plenty of opportunities for talking, listening, reading and writing at nursery and school and more recently, creating exciting magazines packed with learning opportunities that enable children to succeed and to feel good about learning. 

But parents are key to a child’s success too. Parents are their child’s first teacher. It is parents who provide that early learning environment. And for young children this continues long after those first steps into nursery and even school. As a magazine editor and an early years specialist I know how important the quality of the partnership between parents and schools is and how good it can be when both are working together well, because the one who benefits is the child.

The more you know about how your child learns at nursery, the more you can do to support their learning at home. Your child’s key worker will be able to tell you about the Early Years Curriculum and the areas of learning, and update you on your child’s progress. Ask them to share how the nursery gives your child opportunities to express their ideas, to talk about what they’re thinking, to imagine and create stories.

It’s also great to find out as much as you can about the play area at the nursery, which could be a shop, a doctor’s surgery or something else. This is handy to know so that you can relate play that happens at nursery to your own real life experiences. Are there hats and clothes for them to dress up, pretend and imagine, so that they can use play to create stories?

If you go into the nursery, the walls will be full of things that reflect what the children are learning. Are they learning about colour, transport, under the sea, animals or another topic? Is there a letter sound of the day or a story of the week? Again, your child’s key worker will tell you what the children are learning about and when so that you can talk about this and continue the learning at home.

Volunteering to pop into the nursery to spend time reading with some of the children is a brilliant way to see how the children learn, first-hand. In the nursery there should be a real buzz with plenty of talking, joining in, playing, building things, creating art, doing puzzles, reading, drawing and writing. But look around and you’ll see children just watching and thinking, too. Either way all the children should be engaged in communication and language. And the staff should be guiding the children, listening to what they are saying, intervening to ask questions that prompt and encourage the children to talk, try something new or to think and consider.

When you speak to your child’s key worker about their progress, there are lots of questions you could ask. Do they express ideas, talk to other children and adults? Do they enjoy listening to stories? Do they get involved asking and answering questions? Do they talk about pictures in books? The more you know about how they learn, the more you can do at home that ‘fits’ with what they’re doing at nursery.

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