Learning Through Play in the Early Years - Company Message
The Early Years Foundation Stage
Play helps young children to learn and develop their physical, social, emotional and intellectual skills through doing and talking, which research has shown to be the means by which young children learn to think. It is also how they learn to socialise, as children engage in learning experiences with others.
The Early Years Foundation Stage is a play based framework that childcare providers use as a tool to ensure that children from birth to five years are developing and learning to their full potential. Providers plan and provide a range of play activities, which help children to make progress in each of the following areas of learning and development:
Prime areas
  • Personal, social and emotional development involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.
  • Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co‑ordination, control, and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity, and to make healthy choices in relation to food.
  • Communication and language development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations.
Specific areas
  • Literacy involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials (books, poems, and other written materials) to ignite their interest.
  • Mathematics involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces, and measures.
  • Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.
  • Expressive arts and design involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role‑play, and design and technology.
We will observe your child to assess how they are learning and developing. We will use this information, along with evidence from photographs and work samples, to document their progress and where this might be leading them. We will update you regularly through informal discussions when you collect your child. The following review of you child’s progress will also be shared with you, enabling you to work with us to decide how to help your child to move onto the next stage of progress:
  • Progress check at age two - when your child is aged between two and three years, your key person will work with you to prepare a summary of their development in the prime areas of learning.
There are lots of opportunities for you to help your child grow and learn. Parents can support their child’s development by choosing activities at home, which gives them a chance to explore and use their imaginations. Below are some play activities for you to try at home.
Play activities
Make believe play
Children love to have the chance to make up their own stories. You can help by supplying some simple items to aid their imaginations. For example, you could set up a mini‑kitchen area, with some pots, pans, plastic cups and plates. This offers children the chance to:
  • act out aspects of their own lives which may be puzzling them;
  • develop mathematical ideas of one‑to‑one correspondence, as they offer imaginary treats to imaginary guests “one for you and one for you”;
  • explore the idea of symbolic representation – the idea that one thing can stand for another; and
  • try out how it might feel to be someone different.
Energetic play
By setting up an obstacle course in the garden, or taking them to the local park, you can help them to develop physical skills such as:
  • a better sense of overall control and balance;
  • judgement of direction, speed and distance;
  • strength and stamina;
  • understanding of spatial relationships as they move around, through, and beside things;
  • hand‑eye co‑ordination as they throw and catch; and
  • confidence in their own skill, strength and judgement.
Small worlds
Organising small‑scale train or road layouts, dolls houses or farms, gives children the opportunity to:
  • make choices and direct outcomes;
  • plan, organise and take charge;
  • become skilful with their fingers, as they manipulate small objects;
  • form mathematical concepts of sets, as they sort the pigs from the horses in the farm or the kitchen furniture from the bedroom furniture in the dolls house; and
  • create worlds of their own, in which they can act out their present understanding of the real world.
Sounds and music
Children love rhythm, dance and singing, and helping your child to  experiment with songs and rhymes develops many skills, such as:
  • listening carefully;
  • understanding more about language by hearing and responding; and
  • repeating key phrases and anticipating the next line of a well loved song.
You can sing favourite pop songs, nursery rhymes or make up your own tunes. Gently clapping your child’s hands, or moving your knees to the rhythm as they sit on your lap, all adds to their enjoyment. You can also borrow some CDs or DVDs from the library with actions and songs on.
Playing with tipping and pouring water from one container to another helps to develop muscular strength and hand‑eye co‑ordination. Children also begin to understand the principle of conservation as they discover that the same quantity of water can fill containers of many different shapes. As they tip and pour, they also learn to think in terms of full and half‑full, more and less. You can set up a bucket or washing up bowl outdoors, with various objects such as plastic jugs and cups or watering cans, so children can experiment with pouring and filling water, or you can play with water at bath‑time.
Building blocks
Children gain powerful emotional satisfaction from knocking down a tower and then building it up again. This game also develops their mathematical skills – they learn how many blocks they need and how tall their tower is. Making estimations in this way strengthens their understanding of numbers. While building with toy bricks, children also learn about measuring and balancing, about making a plan, deciding what materials are needed for it and then carrying it out. Building activities develop hand‑eye co‑ordination and manual skills as children select and manipulate objects.
This information was taken from the Preschool Learning Alliance. Available at www.preschool.org.uk
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