What children learn through play

Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured. Babies and young children mature in every area of development at their own pace and in their own individual ways.

Every Child Matters

The first five years of a child’s life are the most important in terms of development, and is often referred to as the ‘foundation stage’ on which the rest of a child’s education can be built on. Just like with a building – the stronger the foundation, the stronger the construction can be built; the stronger the foundation years of a child’s life, the more likely the child is to go on and reach their full potential. All nurseries, childminders, preschools and Reception classes follow an education programme called the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS), which ensures that all children’s early education is engaging, fun, active, and most importantly, play-based.

The EYFS is worth understanding as children are not only learning when they are in an educational or childcare setting; they are learning all the time; through every experience and every time they play.

Areas of Learning

You are probably very familiar with the subjects that are taught in most schools; Maths, English and Science for example. The EYFS identifies a number of subjects too, called Areas of Learning.

There are seven Areas of Learning. These are broken into two categories; prime and specific.

Prime Areas

  • Communication and Language – The development of a child’s speech and vocabulary.
  • Physical Development – Gross Motor Development (whole body movements such as climbing and balancing); and Fine Motor Development (the development of hand and finger strength).
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development – Through strong, warm, and supportive relationships; a child will develop the ability to understand and manage their own feelings and emotions, and build friendships.

Specific Areas

  • Literacy -Developing a love of reading (fiction and non-fiction books, rhymes and poetry), which provides the foundation for learning writing and reading skills.
  • Mathematics – Developing an understanding and knowledge of numbers, quantities, shapes and pattern.
  • Understand the World – Through a wide range of different experiences and through sharing books, a child will develop an understanding of the world around them and their community.
  • Expressive Arts and Design -Development of imagination and creativity through art, music, dance, drama and self-expression.

The prime areas are particularly important for building a foundation for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning… providers must also support children in the four specific areas, through which the three prime areas are strengthened and applied.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework 2021

Within these Areas of Learning there are three age bands; birth to 3 years old, 3 and 4 year olds, and children in Reception at school. There is a guidance called Development Matters which settings use alongside the EYFS educational programme to monitor a child’s progress.

Throughout the PlayWorth Blog, Development Matters is referenced to help to explain what the learning opportuinities of an activity are.

At the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage, children who are at the expected level of development will achieve the Early Learning Goals. Find out more here about what these are.

Follow the PlayWorth Blog for more in-depth information about how a child can be supported at home in each Area of Learning and for each age band.

How children learn through play