Play and Learn Together is a collaboration between Playgroup Australia, Early Childhood Australia and Early Start at the University of Wollongong, funded by the Ian Potter Foundation. These organisations wanted to bring their considerable expertise together to create an online destination for parents, carers and educators with detailed information about high quality play experiences backed by research and practice.
A key objective was to make it as easy as possible for parents to find the most suitable play experience for their particular needs, such as the child's age, skills they wish to help their child develop, and how much time they have available, from just 5 minutes to more than an hour.
The project started with the creation of a brand, including a device, background patterns and a colour palette that is playful yet not too garish, bearing in mind that the target audience for the destination website is busy parents and educators. Incorporating beige and white alongside the accent colours of purple and red enabled us to create a website design that is fun yet not overwhelming, seeking to present the features and content in an intuitive, easy to follow way.
The focus of the website itself is the Play Experiences, and we created a custom-built search and filtering options to enable parents to browse and narrow down experiences easily by the time they have available; skills or focus areas (e.g. by cognitive skills such as counting or memory, or physical skills such as sensory, fine motor or gross motor); by developmental level (Babies, Toddlers or Preschoolers), and by interest or theme (seasons, animals, pirates etc).
Each Play Experience has an easy-to-scan profile summarising who it is suitable for, how long it takes, the skills it develops – and most importantly for parents and carers – the energy level required and even a messiness rating! The materials required are listed and any preparation explained, then step by step instructions given for the activity. Prompts for what to talk about with their child and how to build on the experience enable parents to further extend the positive impact on their child. For educators, noting which outcomes the activity relates to in the Early Years Learning Framework and the WHO Guidelines for physical activity and sedentary behaviour helps them to streamline their reporting.
We also build a 'Save to Favourites' function so parents and educators can easily return to experiences they want to do again, the ability for parents to review experiences they have completed to help inform other parents; a way for early childhood educators to contribute play experiences to the site, and a blog with related insights and articles, all drawing on the evidence-based work of the organisers and researchers behind the scene and guest contributors.