The importance of high quality play and learning environments for young children is vital to their development, a major childcare conference has been told.
The Northern Childcare Partnership Conference also heard how parental involvement in early learning is the biggest factor influencing a child’s wellbeing and achievement, with a need to engage with parents and families to stimulate children’s learning at home and in the full range of childcare settings.
Held in Ballymena, the conference was attended by more than 180 early year practitioners from local day care nurseries, Sure Start projects, preschool and school aged childcare groups who gathered to share information and best practice.
Delegates heard from leading experts including keynote speaker, June O’Sullivan MBE, London Early Years Foundation chief executive, who discussed the role of early years teachers, while early years educator and author, Allice Sharp discussed the role of child care practitioners and families in developing imagination zones to stimulate young children’s thinking and engagement.
“Evidence suggests that parental involvement in early learning has a greater impact on children’s well-being and achievement than any other factor. In our early year’s establishments, we have a glorious opportunity to encourage parents to consider a wide range of rich, meaningful and exciting play experiences. Sharing ideas, resources, activities and contexts that will support a parent’s role in scaffolding their child’s development and learning has to become a priority,” she said.
Other contributors included Pete Moorhouse, early years creative consultant, who led a practical session on working with woodwork, while Marian Molloy and Maria McGuckian, speech and language therapists from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, focused on the importance of developing language rich environments and conversational styles and how a flexible approach can help develop communication skills among children.
The conference was organised by the Northern Childcare Partnership which is supported by the Health and Social Care Board to promote the development of services for local children through an interagency partnership approach involving statutory, voluntary and community organisations.
Jenny Adair, Northern Childcare Partnership manager, said the conference was an excellent opportunity to gain insight into how to provide free access to a rich range of materials that promote open-ended opportunities for play, representation and creativity, creating environments that are physically safe but intellectually challenging, promoting curiosity, enquiry, sensory stimulation and aesthetic awareness.
Early years practitioner Pearl Millar, Ahoghill Playgroup, said: “ This event gave me a wide variety of practical ideas and a better understanding of the need to engage the whole staff team and the family in order to help stimulate children’s early development and the benefits this delivers for the child.”
For further information about the event or to learn more about the work of the Northern Childcare Partnership visit their website http://childcarepartnerships.hscni.net/ or contact Jenny Adair on (028) 9536 2807 or email Jenny.Adair@hscni.net