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A Great Way to Get Mums and Dads Involved in Early Learning

If you want to engage parents in their children’s education, it helps to get creative – and throw in some prizes, as Emma Davis explains…

  • A Great Way to Get Mums and Dads Involved in Early Learning

Extending children’s interests and learning by engaging with parents is a big passion of mine. It’s important for me that mums, dads and carers are fully informed of how their child is progressing, what they are learning and how they can build on this at home.

I try to come up with creative ways to encourage parents and children to learn together. Previous experience has demonstrated that these opportunities build on a child’s communication and language development, are fun for all involved and provide talking points in the setting.

Learning activity

With home learning in mind, over a recent half term I decided to set a ‘matchbox challenge’ (with prizes!). I settled on this activity after much thought, with the aim being to…

  • develop children’s fine motor skills as they used a pincer action to pick up tiny items to fit in their box;
  • encourage counting;
  • explore the concept of capacity;
  • understand the difference between big and small;
  • develop language and communication skills, with parents and children talking together and thinking about what could be included.

All the children received a standard-sized matchbox to take home, along with an explanation of what we were hoping to achieve for their parents.

Encouraging interest

The incentive of prizes was included to encourage participation. Knowing that parents would be helping, it seemed unfair to only award a prize for the most number of items in the box, so in addition to this we decided prizes would be awarded for the best photo uploaded to Tapestry and the most unusual item in the box.

When the time came to judge the winners we were astonished that one girl had managed to fit an incredible 78 items in her matchbox!

Other prizes were awarded to a two-year-old who put his suppertime peas in his box and another boy, who chose a button from Great Grandma’s coat from the 1950s to add to his.

All our winners were given a copy of An Alphabet of Stories by Oliver Jeffers.

A real success

It was very obvious from the uploads on Tapestry that both the children and parents had found the challenge fun and engaging.

Some of the comments included, “We have loved this matchbox investigation”, “Great activity, Busy Bees!” and “We had lots of fun hunting around the house for small things to put into her match box. We had fun counting them and arranging them to try and fit!”

Once the matchboxes were back at Busy Bees, the children were excited to show them off at circle time, tipping their items out on a tray for us to count and talk about. Some of them contained quite unusual items, which sparked our imagination and led to many interesting discussions.


Take it further

Break the record!
Can your children and their parents manage to top the amazing 78 items that triumphed at Emma’s setting?

Take it outdoors
Why not invite families to get some fresh air by participating in an outdoors-only matchbox challenge?

In it to win it
Brainstorm home learning ideas that harness parents’ competitive spirit – what about a cookery contest or a ‘who can grow the tallest sunflower’ project?


Emma Davis is manager at Busy Bees Ledbury. Follow her on Twitter at @BusyBeesLedbury

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