Informal early childhood education: The influences of parents and home on young children's learning

Research output: Contribution to JournalEditorial


As policymakers across the World begin to consider how we may rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic, we have heard calls for children to make up ‘lost’ learning (Schleicher, 2021; UNICEF, 2020a). This narrative focuses on children’s formal learning in education settings and disregards what they may learn when settings are closed. Yet there is acknowledgement that the COVID crisis has highlighted the valuable role informal education can play in supporting learning (UNESCO, 2020). Formal learning is an organised framework with specified outcomes, featuring an identified person who facilitates learning and assessment (Eraut, 2000). The informal learner, on the other hand, engages in activities with no pre-determined learning goals: informal education evolves in an organic way during everyday activities and there is no formal assessment (Hodkinson, Colley and Malcolm, 2003).

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the novel target focused on early childhood development within the Sustainable Development Goals proposed that by 2030, States would:
‘… ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education’ (United Nations, 2015, 4.2).
However, the coronavirus pandemic forced closure of early childhood education provision with at least 40 million children denied the opportunity to attend pre-primary settings across the World (Gromada, Richardson and Rees, 2020). Since the start of the pandemic then, young children have missed stimulating early experiences in formal education settings with potential to translate to successful lifelong outcomes (Shonkoff and Richter, 2013). At the time of writing, although some children have returned to formal pre-school education in some countries, this is not the case universally, as many countries remain in the grip of coronavirus (Garcia, Whiteside and Malli, 2021). This editorial focuses on young children learning at home, and how primary carers support their learning. I consider some of the evidence that has emerged to date of young children’s experiences of formal and informal learning in the context of COVID-19 restrictions, ahead of introducing a collection of articles focused on the role of primary carers in young children’s learning and young children’s experiences of learning in family homes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)117–123
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Early Years Education
Issue number2
Early online date21 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2021


  • Informal education
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Informal learning
  • Formal learning
  • COVID-19
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Education


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