Kindergarten services in Melbourne's northern suburbs have been using a range of methods – from the high tech to the more traditional – to help families support their young children's learning and development and stay connected while they've been at home during coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.
The Northern Schools Early Years Cluster (NSEYC), an early years management organisation, has been supporting its 11 kindergarten services to keep in touch with their families by repurposing an existing communications app to allow educators to create and post learning programs and activity ideas for families.
The activities suggested, include imaginative and outdoor play, arts and craft, and ways to help build children's language and early literacy skills. They often take an everyday experience (like sorting the washing, cooking or going for a walk), and give parents and carers conversational prompts about the kinds of learning that can happen during these activities. Encouraging families to use materials from around house has meant that it's been easy for all families to take part.
Educators developed learning packs for families which were well received by families. Educators have tailored the packs based on each child's learning, their interests and skills, and the resources families have available.
Using the app, families shared their children's activities and responses with the educators. This allowed educators to build on this by posting videos and other resources that parents and carers could use to extend children's play and learning on the same theme. Educators also been checked in with families via phone calls and emails to see what activities children were enjoying and engaging with best. Based on this feedback, they were able to tailor the programs to make sure each child is getting the most from their learning.
This back-and-forth exchange between educators and families led to families reporting a better understanding of and engagement with their child's learning and development. And, at a time when many families and children are feeling isolated, it's created stronger connections between families and kindergarten staff.