North Highland Kids Make Home Schooling Child’s Play

Pictured: D’arcey Taylor, 6 years old, from Scarfskerry, Thurso, enjoying some playful projects at home.

Families and carers across Caithness, Sutherland and Ross & Cromarty are being offered a new way to play and learn together at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Highland-wide Care and Learning Alliance (CALA) has been awarded a £1,000 grant from North Highland Initiative’s Community Support Programme to provide vulnerable families with ‘Playful Project Packs’, including gardening tools, seeds, compost, play and learning tasks, as well as eco-friendly tips and activities.

Distributed by post, the ‘Playful Project Packs’ will provide support and guidance to extend children’s and family learning from the home setting, whilst encouraging achievable outdoor activities in line with the aims and guidance of the Scottish Government, including Covid-19 and outdoor learning.

CALA is the largest early years membership organisation in the Highland and Moray area, working with both local and national stakeholders to provide universal and targeted children’s services.

The organisation aims to deliver early education and childcare to parents, carers and their children aged 0 to 16 years.

Supporting family learning through play and activities, CALA is active in all local communities across the North Highlands, supporting toddler groups, parenting classes and BookBug reading sessions.

Young children learn through observing, experimenting, doing and using their senses.

Research shows that where this is actively supported by parents, it has a positive impact on children’s education and life outcomes.

Through provision of these playful learning packs and the availability of virtual support, children and parents will be provided with the resources, guidance and support to engage together indoors and out giving a focus to home learning at a time of great uncertainty and change to daily routines.

Throughout the current pandemic, many families in remote and rural areas are struggling to support their young children with home learning, play materials and how to support and extend children’s play learning in purposeful ways.

Thanks to funding from the North Highland Community Support Programme, the new ‘Playful Project Packs’ will not only provide children with a series of active, exciting play and learning they can do with their parents, it will support family learning on growing, as well as parent and carer confidence as children’s first educators.

CALA believes that the packs will not only provide rich opportunities to stimulate children’s interest in growing and gardening incorporating learning in maths, literacy, sciences and develop their concentration, but has the potential to make a significant difference to the overall health and wellbeing of the children and their parents at this challenging time.

Jaci Douglas, Chief Executive of Care and Learning Alliance (CALA), said:

“On behalf of all at CALA, we want to say a huge thank you to our funders for making these positive play packs possible.

“We’re grateful that we can be providing children and families with resources that are not only fun but help with their learning and development as well.

“Anything that encourages children and families to be active and play together is to be welcomed and these little packs we know will bring a huge amount of joy.

“We’re also really grateful for the support of our local post offices.

“The ability to work together within our communities to help and support each other is vital, especially at a time such as this.

“We know families are finding the current crisis situation challenging and anxious.

“Anything we can do to alleviate that and support them is to be welcome.

“CALA’s skilled practitioners are also working hard to keep our dedicated web pages updated with new, simple and low-cost fun activities to try at home, as well as information

“We also have the option for families to contact us for any advice and support they might need at this time.”

Launched in March, The North Highland Initiative’s Community Support Programme is already awarding grants of up to £1,000 for small initiatives in the education, conservation, and community service and support sectors in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross & Cromarty.

Priority is being given to those initiatives where Government support packages are unable to help, and those ineligible for emergency grants.

David Whiteford, Chair of the North Highland Initiative, said:

“The Care and Learning Alliance is yet another great example of how North Highland communities are coming together to support each other during the pandemic.

“We’re proud to be supporting their continued efforts by providing the funding they need to distribute their new ‘Playful Project Packs’ to vulnerable families across remote parts of the region.

“Our adapted NHI Support Fund is already helping communities that are experiencing particular hardship as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

“Our aim is to target areas, projects, and local initiatives for which Government Support packages may not be able to assist, and those ineligible for emergency funding.

“With a limit of £1,000 of funding per project available, this allows us to provide multiple smaller grants aimed at reaching out to as many communities as possible and we now want to encourage even more community groups from across the North Highlands to apply.”

For more information about the North Highland Initiative’s Community Support Programme, and to apply for funding click here.

CALA is also encouraging parents and children to take photos, share their stories of how they have used their ‘Playful Project Packs’ and the difference this has made on Twitter or by email

More information can be found here.