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Helen Wheeler of the National Children's Bureau on why domestic visits should be offered to all children in the early year...

Eva and mum are Russian speaking and Eva is very quiet at nursery school, so we were not totally sure about her language skills. What a joy to see her converse with her mother at home! Mum and I talked about the books she got from the library and Eva showed me her Russian storybooks that hergrandma had sent. Together we looked at some of the books I’d taken and told stories with the help of puppets – a really interesting visit. She is much more confident with me now at nursery.

“Home visits? We haven’t got the time” is the all-too-common response to the suggestion of visiting young children and their families at home – and if not that, “my manager wouldn’t allow it”, “we can’t afford to release staff” or even “parents don’t want us to interfere in their lives like that”. But as the account above demonstrates, the impact they can have is considerable.

The revised EYFS calls on those working with young children to work much more closely with parents to support and guide children’s development at home. This means forming relationships with all parents, sharing information and establishing regular, two-way conversations about learning. Home visits are an excellent way to make all of these a reality – even one can make a big difference:

On the home visit with Jamie and his younger brother we made a logo matching game – dad was really enthusiastic. I left glue, scissors, card and a camera for Jamie to take photos and the next week dad came in with a brilliant game he’d made with Jamie. It was a dice game and had logos and instructions to go forwards or back if you landed on certain squares. He had even made little figures as counters. We hardly saw him before at nursery, but he has really opened up now.

Home visits allow practitioners to appreciate the pressures families face, learn more about the children, give confidence, and have an impact on the development of younger siblings. The benefits are so evident that the question is can you afford not to do it?

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