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

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4.1 Parents’ voices

Described image
Figure 5 A ‘stay and play’ session at a nursery in Scotland

The parents and carers who attended ‘stay and play’ sessions at a nursery in Scotland clearly felt that their children gained a great deal from the sessions, as the following comments show:

‘He gets to meet new friends and be around babies of similar ages, and just gets used to being around other children; also the things with the different shapes and music and noises and that, getting him used to that as well is really good.’

‘I think he enjoys everything here. It’s like the sand and he loves the kitchen, and he’s just worked up the courage to go through the tunnel and chute now, you know; for a long time he would go up and come back down. He’s plucked up the courage to go through there. So, I think he’s just, he’s a first trial sort of thing, it’s good for him to get out and mix with other children, so get a wee bit more independent, especially when he’s staying with Grandma …’

‘When we come to the sessions, he absolutely loves building towers, painting, playing with good things that we don’t generally do at home. He quite likes messy play, but loves interacting with other children, and I love it because it gets him used to coming to nursery and being with other kids and having the teachers here as well. I can leave and he doesn’t really mind.’

They recognised, from their children’s perspective, that attending ‘stay and play’ provided new play and social opportunities that they could not, or did not, experience at home. There was also an emphasis on the sessions being transitional, allowing the children to gradually get used to ‘being around other children’, ‘coming to nursery’ and, consequently, being ‘a wee bit more independent’ from the attachments of family and home. When asked what they themselves got from attending the sessions, the same group of parents and carers were equally positive:

‘I find it’s a good opportunity to meet other people, other mums. Being a first-time mum myself, it’s good to get a bit of advice and ask questions if there’s things that I’m not sure of, and just a good chance to catch up with other people, meet new friends.’

‘It helps me to get out with him and go somewhere that’s going to benefit both of us really. Give us a bit of other mums and grandparents to talk to, and the girls who take the club are really helpful as well if you’re worrying about anything. Or I think he’s maybe a wee bit too shy or not independent enough, they can give you hints and tips and how to help that.’

‘It’s good to do things here that you don’t have to then do in your own house, like painting things. Because on the Monday afternoons, we’ll paint a bit here, like the shaving foam, so you don’t always have to get shaving foam out at home after doing it here and things like that, and shredded paper. It’s not something I would sit at home and do, shred all loads of paper and let them play with it, so it’s nice to get an opportunity of different things that you play here and then play with different things at home.’

Interestingly, there was some emphasis on being able to develop ‘companionable’ learning with their children by sharing new play experiences that were more difficult to engage with at home, such as messy play. However, the parents and carers here also saw personal benefits from attending, which included getting child-rearing advice and making social connections with other adults with young children.