Seasons Magazine column, July 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

We all want our children to get the best possible start in life, and a vital part of that is preparing them to succeed in our education system.  However, some parents and caregivers lack confidence in their own ability to support their children’s education, which is why I’m a big fan of the HIPPY programme.

Home Interaction for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY) is a home-based programme that helps parents create experiences that lay the foundation for their children’s success in school and later life.

Great Potentials Foundation introduced HIPPY to New Zealand in 1992, and in 2015 it came to Hamilton thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of Liz Winslade and Hamilton Central Baptist Church.  A two-year home-based parenting and early childhood enrichment programme, HIPPY prepares pre-school children for school through resourcing parents to interact with their children’s process of learning. It works with parents whose children, aged between 3 ½ and 6 years, have been identified as being at risk of under-achievement in education, to build the confidence and skills of the parents to create a positive learning environment.

Liz is the HIPPY Co-ordinator for Hamilton, and is passionate about her role, the parents and the children.  She loves seeing them flourish and gaining confidence through working and learning together.  “The results we are seeing encourage me personally and are incredibly encouraging for parents,” she says.  “We are seeing children begin school ready to learn and settle into the environment.”

Parents and children work together for fifteen minutes a day with storybooks, puzzles and learning games that help children to become successful learners. HIPPY parents are trained, resourced and invited into a community of peers that meet regularly for encouragement and to learn a range of life skills.  The gatherings provide an opportunity for parents to come together, practise the new activities for the next week, and take part in discussions and workshops about topics related to child development, parenting, and other topics they choose to learn more about. This is also an opportunity to meet others who are caring for small children, to find out what is happening in their community and develop new friendships.

The curriculum unfolds over 60 weeks, through two years, and comprises 60 weekly workbooks with activities that develop both the cognitive and non-cognitive skills that are essential for children to become competent learners. Parents are supported by tutors who are trained and supported by a local coordinator. They meet each week to work through the next workbook that they will deliver to the parents at a home visit, or on alternate weeks at a group meeting.

Because HIPPY Tutors are from the same community and have young children, they have a deep understanding of the families they are supporting, and form trusting relationships. The tutors become role models for other parents, many of whom may become HIPPY tutors themselves.

The activities are linked to Te Whaariki, the Ministry of Education’s early childhood curriculum policy statement, and the New Zealand curriculum, enabling children to transition successfully into school. With well-supported activities, parents assist their children to develop cognitive skills including language, problem solving, logical thinking, perceptual and other school readiness skills. The 18 storybooks they read and talk about together help develop a love of literacy. Parents are encouraged to build on the information in the activities in all areas of their children’s lives.

Typically, and appropriately, parents are their child’s first-teacher, and HIPPY helps create a learning environment at home by increasing parents’ knowledge of child development and the way children learn.

“We empower parents with the skills and abilities to turn everyday activities into learning opportunities, and for finding 15 minutes a day to read with their child or learn words or vocabulary or language,” says Liz.  “The child recognises that Mum and Dad are committed to learning too. Life is so busy with work and activities and housework – we find HIPPY provides parents with opportunities to enjoy positive time with their children and be actively involved with their child’s education.”

The flow-on effect is seeing an increase in parents’ self-confidence, and an improvement in communication.  The child becomes an engaged, confident learner, and the parent a confident first-teacher, which has an overall positive impact on family relationships.  By supporting parents to meet regularly with a tutor, a sense of inclusion and connectedness with their community is promoted.

I encourage anyone who knows a family who might benefit from such guidance and encouragement to contact Liz or, to access more information on HIPPY, go to http://www.greatpotentials.org.nz/hippy