Home Learning Environment: Making it Count

Richard Knight, Early Years Development Manager, Early Years Alliance
7th December 2023

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What is the home learning environment?

When we talk about the ‘home learning environment’ in the early years, it is easy to assume that we are primarily referring to the physical characteristics of a child’s home and space – but it is much more than this.

The home learning environment is also the quality of the learning support that children receive from their caregivers and influential adults. Research studies have shown that everyday conversations, pretend and imaginative play and reading activities are particularly influential features of the home learning environment, while trips into the local community such as the park and visits to the library also make a positive difference to children’s learning and development.

And of course, key to the home learning environment are the warm and nurturing parenting behaviours that encourage children’s natural curiosity from adults who communicate reasonable expectations for learning and behaviour. The interactions that children have with family members and other significant adults who provide the love, encouragement, security, opportunities to communicate and act as positive role models to children play a vital role in supporting and extending their learning and development. Early years alliance

In essence, at its heart, the home learning environment is the time that children spend with their families – both inside and outside the home. It is a combination of everything that the family do together that will have a positive impact on children’s learning and development. It combines all the learning opportunities that occur in daily life: toys to play with, books to share, dens to build, conversations and times to chat, singing songs and cooking together.  

As an educator, what can you do to support the development of positive home learning environments?

  • Communicate to families that the most important element of the home learning environment is the time that the child spends interacting with family members.
  • Remind families and main carers that they provide the secure base of love, motivation and encouragement.
  • Support families to understand that an effective home learning environment encourages children and young people to have positive attitudes to learning, to be curious and to have confidence in themselves.

A simple question that it is worth taking a moment to reflect on is: how often do you have a conversation with your families about the home learning environment?

The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) describes the enabling environment as being made up of three aspects:

 1. The emotional environment: how children feel when they spend time in a space. Children need to feel safe and have that bedrock of emotional security in place before they can begin to learn.

2. The indoor environment: all family homes have many hidden opportunities to promote learning, and educators can support families to think outside of the box and discover these.

3. The outdoor environment: exploring and making the most of any outdoor space in the local community. Lots of children and adults alike come alive outside and the wellbeing benefits from being outdoors are endless.
Early years alliance

Providers who focus on how educators can teach families to see and maximise the potential learning opportunities in and around the home are going to see stronger home links and more effective partnership work with family members.

It is important, therefore, that provision leaders support the development of a whole-setting approach to engaging with families and sharing important key messages about the home learning environment.

Families make a vital difference to children’s outcomes. It is crucial that educators acknowledge family members’ commitment to their children’s early development and education and prioritise giving time to individual family members. Given that research shows that the quality of the home learning environment the single most important predictor of children’s future outcomes, involving families in their children’s learning is key to enabling children, regardless of background or circumstance, to thrive and flourish.

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