Building Blocks


Supporting parents and carers to care for their child

Building Blocks is a creative, home-based programme for parents and carers of children under 7-years-old who may need extra support in gaining the skills and knowledge they need to care for their child.

Building Blocks aims to help parents and carers:

  • make their home safe
  • improve their bond with their children
  • establish good routines, including money and household management
  • develop confidence in household tasks
  • feel confident about looking after their child’s health
  • help their child grow and learn.
How it works

How Building Blocks works

Building Blocks can vary in length from two to 20 sessions depending on the amount of support a family needs.

Each family completes an assessment form before the programme begins, to determine whether Building Blocks is the right programme for them and, if so, what the sessions should focus on to achieve the best outcome for the family.

During the home-based sessions, practitioners use a modelling and mirroring approach to show parents, rather than tell them, how to manage different parenting tasks. This gives parents the opportunity to practice and observe positive behaviour.

Building Blocks practitioners work with the whole family to tailor the programme and each session to meet the family’s needs. They choose from a range of activities that are focused on five key areas:

  • physical – meal preparation; maintaining good hygiene; managing household finances
  • safety – making the family home safe; understanding how to be safe online; supervising children in and outside of the home
  • development – managing bedtimes; rewarding good behaviour; getting children ready for school
  • emotional – managing stressful situations; developing healthy relationships
  • pre-birth – self-care during pregnancy; preparing for birth.
Evidence base

The evidence base

Research highlights the links between features of early parental care and children’s intellectual, behavioural and emotional development (Axford et al, 2015; Olds, Sadler and Kitzman, 2007).

In recognition of this, the Building Blocks programme incorporates:

  • attachment theory
  • ecological and social-learning theories
  • a solution-focused approach
  • theories of child and brain development.

Research shows that home-based and home-visiting programmes can be an effective mechanism for helping parents care for their children and provide a safe home environment (Howard and Brooks-Gunn, 2009; Sweet and Appelbaum, 2004).

The Building Blocks programme is also informed by what we’ve learnt about supporting parents through delivering and evaluating other programmes:

Who it is for

Who is Building Blocks for?

Building Blocks is for parents and carers of children under 7-years-old who may need extra support to gain the skills and knowledge to care for their child. It can be used with families where children have complex needs.

Building Blocks focuses on the child identified in the initial assessment as most in need, but it takes into account all children in the family.

Building Blocks is actively inclusive and culturally sensitive. It uses tools and activities that are practical and visual, and takes into account cultural differences.

Making a referral

If you want to make a referral to Building Blocks, please get in touch with one of the service centres delivering the programme, as listed under the Locations tab.


Evaluation of Building Blocks

We’re evaluating Building Blocks to find out how the programme is delivered, what works well and whether it can be improved.

How we’re evaluating this service

Our initial evaluation focuses on the feasibility of implementing the Building Blocks model with local-authority partners. The learning from the initial evaluation will help us carry out a full impact evaluation in the future.

We’re collecting data from the three areas where we’re delivering Building Blocks. There are three main elements:

Family data

The family data includes demographic data about the families involved, as well as information about their specific needs and the way the service was delivered to them.

Case studies

We’re carrying out case studies of ten families. This will involve interviews with as many people as possible, including:

  • parents
  • children (if the child is aged 5-7 and their parents consent to them being involved)
  • NSPCC practitioners
  • local-authority practitioners
  • the person who referred the family to the service (where this is a different person to the local-authority practitioner).

Testing outcomes measures

We’ll be testing the evaluation measures we use for this initial evaluation, to see if they can be used in a full impact evaluation later on.

Evaluation tools

The evaluation uses the following measures:

  • Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2).
  • Maternal Antenatal Attachment Scale (MAAS)
  • Mother Object Relationship Scale – Short Form (MORS-SF)
  • Rosenberg self-esteem scale
  • Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).
References and resources

References and resources

Axford, N. et al (2015) The best start at home: what works to improve the quality of parent-child interactions from conception to age 5 years?: a rapid review of interventions (PDF). London: Early Intervention Foundation.

Howard, K. and Brooks-Gunn, J. (2009) The role of home-visiting programs in preventing child abuse and neglect. Future Child, 19(2): 119-146.

Olds, D.L., Sadler, L. and Kitzman, H. (2007) Programs for parents of infants and toddlers: recent evidence from randomized trials. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 48(3/4): 335-391.

Sweet, M.A. and Appelbaum, M.I. (2004) Is home visiting an effective strategy?: a meta-analytic review of home visiting programs for families with young children. Child Development, 75(5): 1435-1456.