All activities mean learning - just have fun!

Theresa Johnson, Together for Twos Project Manager

Tying shoelaces, learning how to tell the time, eating with cutlery and buttoning a button are among the hardest things to teach parents, according to a PACEY poll of over 2,000 parents.

For children who are in regular childcare, many of these life skills would ordinarily form part of their every day learning experiences. Children who attend a nursery, pre-school or are with a childminder are involved in a whole range of play-based activities which can help them acquire essential life skills.

But now that so many children are at home with their parents because of the coronavirus pandemic, many parents may be feeling the pressure to take on the role of childcarer and teacher as well as parent and worker. This is an impossible task!

It’s a challenging and uncertain time for everyone – and parents need to be kind to themselves and try and take the pressure off. Parents need to be reassured that every child grows and develops differently, doing things at their own pace. Children develop particular skills at different times and parents should be wary of comparing their children to siblings or friends.

For some of the skills identified by parents in our poll as being tricky to teach, there are many children – and even adults - who are still struggling to master them. Things like whistling, doing a forward roll and riding a bike can remain a challenge for many! Equally, depending on your cultural background, other skills identified in the survey may not be considered as important. For instance, some cultures might use a spoon as a preferred utensil to a knife and fork, or even to use your hands.

What’s most important for parents to realise is that every activity you do together with your child is an opportunity to acquire a whole host of learning and development skills. Children are naturally curious and love to “have a go” For instance – having fun baking cakes together with your child will develop maths skills – measuring out ingredients and counting eggs; coordination of muscles known as fine/gross motor skills (stirring with a wooden spoon, adding ingredients with a teaspoon); as well as health and safety skills (understanding how an oven is hot, using a knife safely etc). Equally, encouraging your child from an early age to make marks using anything you can find – scribbling with pens on paper, using a paint brush, writing with a stick in sand or mud – provides the basic foundations that will help your child to develop their writing and literacy skills as they grow.

Once we are through this coronavirus pandemic and our children can return to school and childcare, children will rapidly acquire the education they need to reach their potential. We hope that parents will be able to take the pressure off in thinking that they have to cram in as many activity sheets and online learning modules as possible. Whilst these have their place, nothing beats the experience of having fun together to give your child the best possible learning experience.

We’ve put together a selection of our best early years resources and activities – developed by PACEY members and expert childcare and early years experts. We also recognise that the summer term is a crucial time of transition for those children who will be starting school in September. Ordinarily, schools and childcare settings will use the summer term to help children prepare for school, but there’s lots you can do at home to support your child. We’ve put together a range of information and resources to help you.

We hope parents will find our ideas and suggestions helpful. However, just being there, sharing things together and having fun is the best thing you can do for your child through this unsettling time.

You can find the resources at:

Also join our Play to Learn Facebook group for loads of ideas of fun learning activities you can do at home.