Early Years Update focuses on development and learning as part of a range of practical ideas to underpin the information in the Early Years Foundation Stage Principles into Practice cards

PiP Card Theme: A Unique Child
‘Every child is a competent learner from birth who can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.’

Commitment: 1.1 Child Development

‘Babies and children develop in individual ways and at varying rates. Every area of development – physical, cognitive, linguistic, spiritual, social and emotional is equally important.’

Areas of knowledge covered:

  • Child development
  • A skilful communicator
  • A competent learner

This commitment is supported by a range of reference material on the EYFS CD-Rom including two short video clips, information about the Early Support programme and special educational needs, and a range of research papers on child development.

Supporting effective practice

The following practical advice will help you to demonstrate effective practice in your work with babies, toddlers and three- to five-year-olds.

In order to understand the processes involved in babies’ and children’s growth, development and learning it is important to build up one’s own professional knowledge. Practitioners can achieve this by:

  • reading the research papers on the EYFS CD-Rom
  • observing children on a daily basis to see how theory translates into practice
  • sharing observations with colleagues to gain the benefit of different viewpoints and understandings
  • working with children of different ages to see how children’s learning and development progresses
  • being aware of the role model which they present to children in all that they do.

Working with babies Mirrors are an essential resource to support babies’ search for identity and self- awareness. Mirrors can be wall mounted with a pull-up bar, placed along a wall at crawling height or positioned on two adjacent walls to create a reflective corner. Try putting a large acrylic mirror flat on the floor for babies to sit or lie on, or to crawl over. Babies will also enjoy communicating with their reflections in hand-held mirrors. Babies communicate their ideas and feelings in many different ways – through expression, gesture, stance and posture. Practise ‘listening’ and responding to all the modes of communication which babies use to help you recognise their interests, likes and dislikes. Capture ‘conversations’ in photographs and videos as a valuable resource to share with parents. Think about ways to create an environment which accommodates the different preferences or learning styles that babies display. From a very early age babies will demonstrate their preferred ways of doing things – some enjoy being part of a social group, others prefer to explore the world by themselves. Some babies like noise and boisterous games; others prefer to be quiet. Many babies will concentrate for long periods of time when they are given the opportunity to investigate something which interests them.

Ideas to use with toddlers

Close observation of toddlers during their play will often provide evidence of their schemas, or preferred way of doing things. Provide open-ended resources including blocks, boxes, bags, small containers, rings of different sizes, tubes of different lengths and diameters objects which role. Give toddlers plenty of time, and frequent opportunities, to become fully engaged in this heuristic play. Observe how they manipulate the resources and use this information to extend the opportunities you offer to individual children in the future. A family book for each child containing photographs of their immediate family will provide a reassuring reminder of the most important people in a child’s life. These books can be referred to at times during the day and can help to calm and reassure a child who becomes upset. As the child get older more photos can be added to create starting points for conversations about their special people, places and events. Build children’s communication skills by weaving songs and action rhymes into your daily routines. Encourage children to look at and listen to one another and value opportunities for children to learn from each other. Older children in a group can be effective ‘teachers’ of their younger peers and can build their own self-confidence and self-esteem in the process.

Working with three- to five-years-olds

The ideas and theories that children come up with are the ideal starting points for building their skills as competent learners. Try holding a group discussion at the beginning of a session to discuss the opportunities on offer to the children during the day. Follow this up with a group discussion at the end of the day when individual children or small groups can share their experiences and plan for what might happen the following day. These are ideal opportunities to develop children’s communication and reasoning skills as well as fostering social interaction. To support young children’s learning and development it is essential to create an environment which affords choice and independence. This includes organising the physical space to make resources attractive and easily accessible and managing daily routines to allow sufficient time for children to become involved in activities which interest them.

Be aware of, and plan for, all the different learning preferences that young children demonstrate. Although some children will enjoy being part of a small group, others may prefer to work individually – when exploring open-ended resources a large place mat can be used to help to create a ‘personal space’ for a child. Designate a place in the setting where ‘work in progress’ can safely be stored so children can return to their investigations and explorations over an extended period of time. For some children the outdoors is their most effective learning environment so it is important to provide as wide a range of outdoor learning opportunities as possible. Review the range of learning opportunities normally provided indoors in your setting and think about ways in which the same opportunities could be presented outdoors, whatever the weather.