A report compiled for Paramount as part of a wider partnership between the National Literacy Trust and Blues Clues & You! shows that parents of young children engaged in fewer home learning activities in 2021 than did in 2019 – despite spending more time with them at home during the coronavirus lockdowns.
A survey conducted for the National Literacy Trust in 2021 asked 1,562 parents of children aged up to five-years-old across the UK about how often they carried out seven key home learning activities: reading, chatting, playing, singing, painting/drawing, looking at the alphabet and playing outside the home (eg, at a library or play group).
The findings revealed an overall trend of fewer parents engaging in all seven home learning activities in 2021 compared to in 2019, despite spending greater periods in the home and with their children due to restrictions put in place to fight Covid-19.
The study asked parents about their activities over the previous week finding that a quarter of parents reported that they didn’t chat with their child every day in 2021, compared to 10% in 2019. Similarly, only half of parents said that they read with their child at least once a day in 2021 compared with two-thirds in 2019.
Impact of the pandemic
The negative effect of Covid-19 restrictions on the learning development of young children has been established by studies such as a new Ofsted report (2022), which looked at education recovery in early years providers, and found that the pandemic had affected children’s communication and language development.
The Education Endowment Foundation’s study echoed this, revealing the negative effect of pandemic restrictions on the vocabulary development of young children due to children being less exposed to conversations and everyday experiences in more typical education settings.
Further research by Pro Bono Economics (Kerr & Franklin, 2021), commissioned by KPMG UK in collaboration with the National Literacy Trust and BBC Tiny Happy People, has shown the wider societal impact that improving young children’s pre-school language skills could have, reporting an economic boost of up to £1.2 billion to the UK economy over the course of their lifetimes, while failing to support these children could cost up to £327 million for each cohort of three-year-olds over the same period.
Early Words Together
In response to this growing problem, Nick Jr. and Blue’s Clues & You! are partnering with the National Literacy Trust to run Early Words Together programmes in some of the most-affected areas in the country. With toolkits and activities inspired by Blue’s Clues & You!, the programmes are proven to help children’s early language and communication and phonological awareness skills.
In addition, a further 500 Early Years Settings nationwide will receive free Blue’s Clues & You! learning materials and activity guides to improve their skills within their setting and at home to build parent’s confidence as their child’s first teacher and help their children be ready for school.
Venetia Davie, vice president, UK & Ireland at Paramount Consumer Products, said: “The Early Words Together programme is a wonderful way for young children across the UK to have fun with their favourite Blue’s Clues & You! characters whilst learning vital language and communication skills to help them prepare for school and beyond.
“The findings of this research have highlighted the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on children’s language development and we’re determined to be part of the solution by creating a series of creative toolkits and activity guides built around children’s curiosity and appetite to learn new things.”
Kirsty Cunnington, programme manager for Early Years at the National Literacy Trust, comments on this exciting new programme: “The pandemic has had a drastic impact on families with young children, with early years vocabulary and social development hit particularly hard and jeopardising their future development for decades to come.
“During this difficult time, parents and carers have been unable to access key support networks that can give them the confidence and knowledge to create a strong home learning environment. The Early Words Together programme is dedicated to reaching and supporting parents and carers to create an engaging and lively home learning space and giving them the knowledge and skills to confidently help young children overcome the obstacles of the last two years.”
Read the full report here.