Taking time out before the new school year starts, Susie Hayes is Headteacher at St German’s Primary School in Kings Lynn, Norfolk.
Back to school has a whole new meaning for me this year. My eldest child is starting school and for the first time I’ve joined the masses of excited parents buying uniforms and shoes in preparation for the big day.
This summer holiday, I’ve given careful consideration to what I can do as a parent to support this transition in my daughter’s life. As a Headteacher, I have first-hand experience in the importance of the relationship between home and school life to encourage a love of learning, and I can’t wait for my daughter’s journey of discovery to start.
We’ve enjoyed a wonderful summer filled with all kinds of activities and adventures. Whether it was our travels, or something as simple as baking a cake at home or planting seeds, I’ve focused on empowering her to be independent. As a result, I’ve watched her confidence grow, and seen how she’s beginning to mature in everything from an increased concentration span, to becoming more patient and co-operative. I’ve witnessed the beginning of self-discipline and self-trust, skills that will be vital through her school life and beyond.
Over the years countless parents have asked me what they can do to support their children outside of school hours especially during periods like the summer holidays. My answer often takes them by surprise: share your time and play with them.
Learning & developing through different types of play
Children can learn and develop through play – be it indoors, outdoors, playing alone or with friends and family. Research has shown that more and more parents are seeking educational toys to supplement their children’s education, and that a high proportion of parents have purchased an educational toy in the past year.
We know that young children learn best by doing and that creative play is an essential part of learning. Providing your child with educational toys that are hands on fuels curiosity and drives their imagination, which is vital in developing key skills such as fine motor skills, sensory and tactile development.
Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, never underestimate the impact of seemingly simple pastimes like talking more, sharing experiences, and going on mini voyages of discovery. An activity like bug hunting using GeoSafari® Jr. Bug Vac ‘n’ View™ or stargazing at the night sky with GeoSafari® Jr. My First Telescope sparks a child’s imagination and teaches them about the world around them. And who knows, measuring sticks in the park with 5-in-1 Outdoor Measure-Mate may spark an interest in natural science. You won’t know until you try!
Why indoor games are great!
Indoor games are another option. I like playing them with my daughter because they teach children so many skills including patience, negotiation, strategy and how to win and lose gracefully.
The trick is to find toys and activities that children will find fun whilst learning through exploration and discovery. There is a strong future for traditional play, and there is a strong need for it. Traditional play is social and involves playing with other children or adults and is critical to our development as people. Find toys that are easily accessible and appealing to children and you are on a good grounding. Children can learn by themselves as well as with others, giving them a real sense of satisfaction through play whilst developing STEM skills largely without realising it.
Sharing books is also a fun way to get talking. Reading is a daily highlight in our family bedtime routine, but the holidays mean a lot more opportunity to read during the day. To encourage your little reader, remember to give lots of praise for trying. Guaranteed it will inspire them to keep going, even when they make mistakes.
We’re planning to make the most of what’s left of our summer holidays and make more memories together. Hope you are, too.
See you at the school gates!