A recent study* from leading retailer, Officeworks, has revealed that while Australian parents consider themselves to be the most responsible for their child's development, 90 percent don't have as much time as they would like to dedicate to their child's at-home learning.
The main barriers preventing parents and carers from supporting their child's at-home learning (outside of officially school homework) include work pressures, household duties and fatigue.
The study of more than 1,000 parents and carers showed that although 35 per cent saw at-home learning as part of their child's daily routine, these activities were actually only happening two hours each day over the weekend.
Teacher, learn through play expert and mum of two, Christie Burnett, said: "As parents, we absolutely want to give our kids the best start in life. Having access to educational products that encourage learning through play helps parents make the most of the available time they have with their kids to encourage their educational development.
"Learning through play is critical to child development, not just for babies or toddlers but for preschool and school-aged children also. Supporting your child's learning at-home doesn't need to be difficult – simple activities, games, arts and crafts, reading, family outings – these are the types of experiences our children will not only enjoy, but also learn from," she said.
Three quarters of parents stated they like to actively assist their children to learn through the exploration of education activities at home, however one in five admit their child needs to be coerced to participate in such activities. Interestingly almost 20 per cent of parents also stated they didn't have access to the appropriate materials to do this in the home.
"Officeworks brand new Learn & Grow range supports parents in making these educational experiences happen in the home. The range includes a broad collection of products that encourage kids to think, problem solve, experiment, read, create and learn more about the world – all while playing and having fun."
Christie has partnered with Officeworks to help launch Learn & Grow, which features more than 4,000 products including everything from art and craft, painting and drawing through to numeracy, literacy and science, as well as dough and modelling, workbooks, puzzles, games and merit and reward activities.
The leading retailer launched the range after identifying a gap in the market for a credible range of quality and affordable tools to help kids prepare for school. In the past, toy and book retailers have offered few educational learning products, but none to the extent of what's now available at Officeworks.
Officeworks Head of Office Supplies & Furniture Jim Berndelis said: "We know that parents and carers understand the important role they play in their child's education, but to-date haven't been able to easily access the support needed to make the most of time they have at home with their children.
"Our new range makes learning fun, interactive and part of family play time. Its colourful, bright and appealing for children of a variety of ages and skill levels. For us, it's all about empowering and arming parents with the necessary tools to help their child develop and be school-ready," he said.
To take a closer look at the Learn& Grow range, visit: www.officeworks.com.au/learnandgrow
Question: Can you talk us through some of the results of the newly commissioned research by Officeworks?
Christie Burnett: Officeworks has recently released the results of their study of over 1000 Australian parents that found that despite a majority of parents (68%) seeing themselves as primarily responsible for their child's development and learning, that they struggle to make regular time available for at-home learning activities with their children. Parents reported that household duties, fatigue, work, caring for other children and lack of appropriate tools for learning were barriers that prevented at-home learning being undertaken regularly – in fact, on average parents reported spending two hours per day over the weekend with their child on at home learning. This is despite 80% of parents stating they enjoy at-home learning activities with their children in the form of sports/outdoor games, watching TV, helping with homework, facilitating play and video games.
Question: Were you surprised by any of these results?
Christie Burnett: No, not really. As a parent myself, I can totally relate to the sense of competing priorities parents face. It can be really hard to find a balance between time for family, household responsibilities and work and we are often tired from the busyness of it all.
I think that sometimes parents aren't sure which activities are the most valuable to spend time on with their children and that is why I love that the new Learn & Grow range from Officeworks includes over 4000 products across all areas of learning and development, that suit children across a wide range of ages and interests. These products are good quality, educational and well-priced.
Question: Why is it so important for parents to find time to facilitate at-home learning for their children?
Christie Burnett: As a parent, we are our child's first teacher and we know them better than anyone else in the world. This bond places us in the unique position of being about to help our children learn in the way that is best for them. I am a big believer in making learning fun and playful for all children because children learn best when they are engaged and enjoying what they are doing. So, if you are the parent of a child who likes being physically active and you know they learn best through hands-on, doing rather than watching or listening, you can choose activities and learning tools that keep your child engaged by doing – for example, for that child you might choose a science experiment kit that reinforces what they are learning in science over learning from a book or worksheet. Your neighbour or best friend's child may have a very different way of learning and they might actually prefer the book – every child is different.
Question: How can time-poor parents teach their children through play?
Christie Burnett: I would encourage parents to take the pressure off by looking for everyday opportunities to support their children's learning. It doesn't need to be difficult. There are a few things I would suggest. Firstly, playing games together regularly – everything from outdoor ball games to board games, as kids learn so much through games. Secondly, read to one another often, even once your children are independent readers. Also look for ways to support your child's learning through everyday routines – involve them in helping with household chores and responsibilities, take them grocery shopping and encourage them to help you find the items on your list – the supermarket is full of opportunities for learning to count, to identify prices, to multiply and to read, even let your child help you cook when you have time. These are all simple, everyday ways to help children learn.
Next, protect and prioritise family time. Whether it be family outings or just time hanging out at home, this time is important for children as it promotes a sense of connection which is great for emotional development, and it can be an important stress reliever too.
Once they reach school age, talk with your children about what they are learning in school. Support them when they are having difficulty by looking for fun ways to revise and practice.
Question: Can you share some of your personal experiences with play-based learning?
Christie Burnett: One recent example in our family is our daughter having a hard time learning to automatically recall multiplication tables, which she totally inherited from me! To help her out I looked for ways to make the ongoing revision fun and engaging. We don't just say the tables over and over again or rely on flashcards, instead we take time, focusing on learning and mastering small chunks before moving on, and use lots of games and puzzles, even songs, to take the pressure off and make it less stressful. Kids learn best when they are not stressed and when the learning is fun – in fact, that's true of adults too!
Question: What are some of the toys in the Learn and Grow range?
Christie Burnett: There are over 4000 quality, educational products in the Officeworks Learn and Grow range including products that help children develop skills across a range of learning areas. The range covers everything from literacy to numeracy, science to social studies, as well as including art and craft materials, books, puzzles and games, for children of prior to school age right through to children within primary school grades.
Question: What are some of your families favourite products from the Learn and Grow range?
Christie Burnett: We love the huge array of art and craft materials – our five year old loves to create and she is always making pictures, paintings and cards for her friends and family. Our ten year old is really interested in geography– she is dreaming of all of the countries she would like to visit - and so the globes and reference books are perfect for her right now. I love the range of science and STEM kits for encouraging hands-on exploration and learning, and think the assortment of learning games is just fabulous. Games are such a low-stress way for families to come together and learn and the Learn & Grow range includes games that help to develop all different types of learning.
Interview by Brooke Hunter