Supporting every child is an important concept in EYFS effective practice, and is explored within a range of practical ideas which underpin the information in the Early Years Foundation Stage Principles into Practice cards

Theme: Enabling environments
‘The environment plays a key role in supporting and extending children’s development and learning.’

Commitment 3.2 Supporting Every Child
‘The environment supports every child’s learning through planned experiences and activities that are challenging but achievable.’

Areas of knowledge covered:

  • the learning journey
  • working together
  • children’s needs.

The CD-Rom in the EYFS pack offers a range of resources to assist practitioners in developing their work in this area. There is a copy of the SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) document for the Foundation Stage entitled ‘Good to be me’. This focuses on ways to help children to develop knowledge, understanding and skills in self-awareness, managing feelings and empathy. The disc also contains the final report from the EPPE project, which looked at the impact of preschool on children’s intellectual and social/behavioural development. Guidance on the physical layout of the environment is provided in two booklets from Community Playthings, Spaces and Creating Places for Birth to Three.

An in-depth section of the disc looks in more detail at influences on children’s development, as well as providing some examples of good practice in catering for individual children’s needs, building strong relationships, managing transitions and working in partnership with parents.

Supporting effective practice
To inform their practice within this area of the EYFS, practitioners should take time to:

  • read the documents on the EYFS disc to broaden their understanding of the factors that influence young children’s learning
  • constantly review the learning environment and resources they provide to ensure that individual children’s needs are met
  • meet with colleagues to agree a whole-setting approach to supporting children during times of transition.

Working with babies
A secure emotional environment provides the foundation for young babies’ development and learning. Practitioners can create this by ‘tuning in’ to an individual child’s needs and interests through listening and observing carefully, paying attention, making eye contact and engaging in one-to-one conversations with a baby. Focused attention of this nature will build the baby’s sense of identity and self-worth, and encourage him or her to explore the world with increasing independence. Provide mirrors in many places around the setting to intrigue babies and encourage their exploration of what it means to be ‘me’. Create a balance between familiar routines (which provide comfort and reassurance) and surprising and interesting experiences (which engage and excite – bubbles from a bubble machine or exploring the grassy area outside, for example). Note how individual children respond in these situations and plan for their learning and development based on these observations. Building up a relationship with a child’s parents, sharing experiences from the setting and finding out what interests the child at home, are all essential parts of planning for individual children’s learning.

Ideas to use with toddlers
Many toddlers develop a preferred way of engaging with a learning situation, often referred to as their schema. Schemas present a way for practitioners to understand more about an individual toddler and what resources and experiences are likely to interest him. By carefully observing a young child’s preoccupation – for instance, with enveloping things or positioning objects in straight lines – it is possible to plan new learning opportunities that will both consolidate and extend his learning. From a very early age, young children learn effectively from one another. Group experiences, such as creating a large painting together or building a big construction outdoors, not only build children’s sense of belonging to a wider community but also enhance the opportunities for them to contribute their own ideas, knowledge and talents.

Working with three- to five-year-olds
Plan time for conversations and discussions with small groups of children to discover their individual interests and to tap into the wealth of interesting ideas they have. Equipping the setting with a diverse range of open- ended resources will encourage children to explore and investigate in their own way and according to their own interests. A collection of natural materials – wood, leaves, seedpods, stones, shells and sand – will be used by different children in different ways. One child may create a small- world play scenario, another might sort the materials into groups, a third child might be interested in creating pictures and patterns, a fourth child in building, a fifth in transporting, and so on. Add some reclaimed materials from a recycling centre to the collection and even more opportunities arise. Observing how different children use resources gives the practitioner vital information about what to offer next to extend interest and involvement.

The better a practitioner knows an individual child, the more support they can provide to enhance the child’s learning and development not only in the setting, but also at the key times of transition.