Adapting delivery to enable continued support for learning and wellbeing at home

March 2020 brought significant changes for us all. Within a few short weeks, the national lockdown highlighted the inequalities for families throughout the country in access to remote school learning, recreation, digital connectivity and even food. Families faced challenges in providing a suitable environment at home for children’s learning, and struggled to find consistent, high-quality support and materials. Missing out on daily interactions and stimulation from people and places in our communities meant that everyone’s wellbeing began to suffer. Evidence from children in the ‘Lockdown Lowdown’ surveys conducted by the Children’s Parliament showed a steep decline in children agreeing that they had fun things to do in their day and an increase in those worrying about learning at home.

Adapting the focus

In normal times, Children’s University Scotland works with partner schools and local learning providers to support children’s wider learning, but with the order to stay at home, we understood that this would be almost impossible. As a small organisation, we quickly adapted our focus to consider how best to provide support to children and families in their homes, particularly those with limited online access. What would bring fun and learning into a home? What could most people do with no extra materials? What could ease the burden for parents and carers as ‘entertainers’?

Letter-box sized gift for children

We quickly developed Wonderbox, a letterbox-sized gift including 32 activity cards, a ‘wonder journal’, pencils, stickers, badges and postcards that could be delivered directly to children’s homes. The activities focus on wellbeing and learning, with extension ideas for those who are inspired by a topic and want to get really stuck in. Using their wonder journal, children reflect and develop, and have lots of opportunities to personalise it with colourful pencils and stickers. The badges allow children to celebrate the successes that are meaningful to them and recognise the achievements that build towards their goals.

My son shared all the activities with me. It made us talk a lot. Parent, South Lanarkshire

We initially received funding for 1,000 Wonderboxes, to be distributed to families identified by community-based partners as needing extra support. However, the concept was so well received that funding was secured to increase production to 5,000, enabling us to distribute boxes to many more families.

I have really enjoyed the activities and learned things from the box, especially the physical ones and the outdoors ones. Child, age 10

The response from children and parents

Responses to Wonderbox have been overwhelmingly positive. Children felt special and were thrilled to receive a ‘gift’ that was just for them. They brought immediate pleasure as activities and materials could be enjoyed straight from the box. Moreover, children were empowered to make their own choices about how to have fun and what to do with their day, offering stimulation and variety that reduced boredom and stress at home. Parents told us that the Wonderbox helped relieve the pressure and stress of finding things for children to do. Instead, the activities promoted good communication within families and provided opportunities to do fun things together. Partners delivering Wonderboxes to families also appreciated the positive reason for contacting families, building better school-family relationships and having the chance to see if more support could be provided.

I have twin boys aged ten, and they can be a handful! They wanted to see what was inside the Wonderboxes and they loved them. We did loads of the activities. It really was a great gift for them to get and kept them busy for weeks! Parent, Fife

Continuing to support children and families

Even though we are now emerging from the third lockdown, Children’s University Scotland is committed to continuing to provide resources to support families with learning, especially those most vulnerable to the effects of lockdown. During the pandemic, parents told us that finding affordable things to do was a huge challenge. We now have a one-stop page on our website where we have collated all our free home-learning resources, including ‘holiday heroes’ activity sheets for every week of the school holidays (five themed activity ideas each week), four seasonal challenges a year (nine to 18 activities each), ‘challenge of the day’ activities, and an ever-expanding collection of 30-minute challenges that require no additional materials. These are available to all children, not just Children’s University members.

It’s really fun to do with my little brother and thank you for making learning fun. Child, age 9

We continue to develop activity cards for new editions of Wonderbox, and distributed 500 winter edition Wonderboxes with bonus games and activities at Christmas. We are delighted that wellbeing has been identified as an important component of a national recovery effort. Providing practical, enjoyable resources for use at home is one part that we can play in this. We cannot solve the issues of child poverty, the digital divide or lack of opportunities for young people, on our own or with a quick fix, but resources like Wonderbox can mitigate some of the effects.

For more information email: