The family at the centre of early learning
The family at the centre of early learning

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

The family at the centre of early learning

The family at the centre of early learning


In this free course, The family at the centre of early learning, you will explore the effect of family on children’s early development. The eminent child psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner remarked, ‘every child needs an adult who is crazy about him (or her) in order to grow up’ (Bronfenbrenner, cited in Penn, 2008, p. 46). Such key adults are often found within the family, making this social group significant for young people throughout their childhood and beyond. For young children the family is the foundation for their developing sense of belonging and self-identity. It also stands at the centre of their early learning.

However the family is not a fixed entity. Families are made up of different ‘constellations’; they are infinitely varied, and people within family groups connect in different ways. Children themselves are also active in using relationships within their family to explore their own learning opportunities:

‘He’s not walking yet, he doesn’t have to, his brother gets him anything he wants, he’s cottoned on to that one …

He’s like “Houdini” though. Last week he climbed on top of the table. I said to his father, “Weren’t you watching him?” “No”, he replied, “I didn’t think he could do that!”’

So, thinking generally about the family as a context for children’s learning is complicated by the layers of relationships and cultural influences unique to each group.

In this course, you will begin to explore these complexities further. You will start by thinking about the ways in which childhood experiences have an impact on how, as adults, we understand and respond to children. You will then look in more detail at learning within the family, using the description of one five-year-old girl’s trip to London with her grandparents to reflect on what this involves. You will also become more familiar with looking at the findings from research studies in order to understand complex ideas – in this instance, the influence of culture on children’s learning. Finally, the course closes by looking specifically at ‘stay and play’ or ‘parent and toddler’ sessions, so that you can consider whether family learning changes as children begin to attend organised groups away from their home environment.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course E109 Exploring perspectives on young children’s lives and learning [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has over 40 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus