Working with families: Planting at home

Stacey McMorland
Friday, June 10, 2022

This home learning opportunity supports children to build their knowledge of growth and change with the chance to plant a sunflower at home through a ‘family time bag.’

Stacey McMorland

nursery manager of The Nursery at Whitehouse Farm Northumberland and MA student

Home learning opportunities are a crucial part of child development. From birth, a child's prime educators are their parents/carers. There is no defined point to highlight when a parent's input stops and an educators begins. By working collaboratively in partnership, children will have greater learning opportunities. The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (2021) refers to partnerships with parents, emphasising how good parenting and high-quality learning opportunities play a vital role in providing children with a strong foundation to enable them to make the most of their abilities.

At The Nursery, we provide our parents with a range of home learning opportunities to engage in, from online challenges, interactive videos, and one of our favourites – family time bags. Our main inspiration is our parents. We often receive comments such as ‘I wish we could do that at home’ or ‘how did you make that?’.

It is important to encourage all parents to engage, play and communicate with their children, by offering family time bags it provides parents with an opportunity to engage in home learning which can have a significant impact upon a child's development.



Our bags provide parents with all the resources they need to carry out a family time learning opportunity. Each term, parents can help themselves to a bag from our parent area. All the resources are inclusive, and all the needs of our children are catered for. Our sustainable bags can be recycled and reused. The family time bags are extremely popular, practitioners create learning opportunities which are not typically provided at home. Our springtime family bag provided all of our families with plant pots, soil and seeds to plant and watch their sunflower grow.


Children naturally observe the changes within their environment, this can spark a wide range of learning opportunities. The children's key workers informed parents of the learning opportunities and encouraged parents to observe and listen to their children allowing them to take the lead on their play. This avoided the parents directing and doing it themselves. The babies enjoyed the sensory opportunities exploring different textures of dry and wet soil. Our toddlers developed mathematical language skills as they filled and emptied the pots, using words such as more and less, full and empty. The preschool children also developed their numeracy and literacy skills, measuring and counting while planting and following simple instructions.


Reflecting with parents

Parents provided us with photos on their online learning journals of the children engaged in the activity, and we were able to extend the learning gained within the setting and individually at home. For example, one child developed an interest in how the sunflower grew and how he needed to care for it, at home we supported this by encouraging the parents to help the child understand what the plant needed to grow and be healthy such as water and sunlight, we encouraged the parents to measure the plant to support mathematical development. At nursery this sparked an interest in growing our own vegetables and encouraged a learning opportunity of what we need to do to keep us healthy.

The role of the key worker plays a vital part in children's home learning. Early years settings must have strong and respectful relationships to ensure that children can thrive. A key worker must seek to engage and support home learning as this will support children's individual development and help families who may need specialist support. This view is supported by Mickelburgh (2011) who writes that the role of the key worker is to form a secure base with the family, someone who the child and parent/carers can relate to and rely on. Not all children get the support needed to engage in home learning, by understanding all the children and families within the setting we can offer additional support to those who need it.



Department for Education. (2021) Early Years Foundation Stage. London.

Mickelburgh, J. (2011) Attachment Theory and the Key Person Approach. [online] available at

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