In my experience, I continue to battle to try and engage families in their child’s learning and development.   If I can help them understand that their child will learn most now, in the formative years, then I am pleased I have jumped the first hurdle.  If I have truly achieved this then they are at the top of a hill ready to free-wheel into the excitement awaiting them at the bottom, once hooked and interested in the learning – all is well and I am more than happy!

There are a couple of main issues to overcome.

Will they find the time?

Time in today’s society seems to be eaten up – time flies!  However, we also continually strive to find ways to save time with modern inventions and technology.  What happens to the ‘saved’ time – it gets used up!

Busy lifestyles, where one parent drops off in a rush and possibly the another, tired, having spent a day at work and a journey travelling back collects their child.  Can I blame them for wanting to make a hasty retreat, rather than listen to what their child has been doing, is learning and perhaps what they will learn next?

Families generally desire for children to do well and they may also realise how important the early years are, but do they know how?

The last Parent’s Evening in our nurseries was organised around pre-writing skills, with lots of activities to try from the baby room onwards.   How I wish we could entice those that really needed to be there!

Later in the same week!  Mrs Jones took the opportunity to show her daughter how to write her name.  According to our records, she is just starting to draw lines from top to bottom.   Mrs Jones proudly produces ‘the name’ with every letter formed incorrectly while her daughter shows more interest in releasing herself from the conversation to play in the home corner.  Mrs Jones had not attended the Parent’s Evening.

Does this sound familiar? 

These issues were the main two hurdles that inspired me to devise what is now known as spark@HOME and SPARKparent.

spark@HOME was launched to complement the sparkPRO; the software for providers, followed by an independent version called SPARKparent. Both enable parents/carers to engage with their children in what is appropriate to learn next and they may upload dates, photographs and comments which eventually they can download a Learning Journal (an enhanced ‘Baby Book). SPARKparent is for those children not using a setting.  Maybe they are waiting to start and when they do the SPARKparent transforms into spark@HOME once they join the setting.

Both of the @home software particularly support parents ‘find time’ too as they are fun, quick and easy to use.  As they help their child move forward in a staged and appropriate manner they receive positive feedback from the software and this reinforces their own sense of achievement and enjoyment.

spark@HOME allows parent/carer and provider to work together, as certain information is shared.  This brings extra benefits to each party in helping the child.   Also, spark@HOME not only encourages the parent/carer at a time that suits them, to look at their child’s learning journey and next steps but also allows messages to be sent via a range of ‘communication jotters’ to the provider/key person.  This facilitates better communication that can be achieved at a busy drop off or collection times.  A wealth of information prompted by the software can be feed into the child’s learning experiences with the provider can be provided.  Such as interests, trips, important people at home etc.  Photographs and achievements are shared from provider to family.  Achievements discovered at home are communicated to the setting whereas the photographs families upload remain private to them.  As parents/carers identify progress and make comments and maybe upload a photo they build a record of precious memories to share with their child and others in the future. SPARKparent, may be given to younger siblings, or those on the waiting list, then on joining the provider, their SPARKparent software can be linked to the setting (via sparkPRO) and the child comes ‘already assessed’!

“We want to really set the foundations from day one and using the home software has really helped to encourage parents to become involved in their child’s learning and also to work with us. This has really been a unique tool when we have shown prospective parents around the nursery. The feedback has been 100% positive.”       

Hollie Pearce – Jollies House Day Nursery