Learning And Playing and the EYFS

Parenting – Learning and playing

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) for parents and carers

What is the Early Years Foundation Stage?

This is a very important stage as it helps your child get ready for school as well as preparing them for their future learning and successes. From when your child is born up until the age of 5, their early years experience should be happy, active, exciting, fun and secure; and support their development, care and learning needs.

Nurseries, pre-schools, reception classes and childminders registered to deliver the EYFS must follow a legal document called the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework.

What is the EYFS Framework – why do we have one?

The EYFS Framework exists to support all professionals working in the EYFS to help your child, and was developed with a number of early years experts and parents.

In 2012 the framework was revised to make it clearer and easier to use, with more focus on the things that matter most. This new framework also has a greater emphasis on your role in helping your child develop.

It sets out:

  • The legal welfare requirements that everyone registered to look after children must follow to keep your child safe and promote their welfare
  • The 7 areas of learning and development which guide professionals’ engagement with your child’s play and activities as they learn new skills and knowledge
  • Assessments that will tell you about your child’s progress through the EYFS
  • Expected levels that your child should reach at age 5, usually the end of the reception year; these expectations are called the “Early Learning Goals (ELGs)”

There is also guidance for the professionals supporting your child on planning the learning activities, and observing and assessing what and how your child is learning and developing.

What does it mean for me as a parent?

Ensuring my child’s safety

Much thought has been given to making sure that your child is as safe as possible. Within the EYFS there is a set of welfare standards that everyone must follow. These include the numbers of staff required in a nursery, how many children a childminder can look after, and things like administering medicines and carrying out risk assessments.


You can find out about the quality of your child’s nursery and other early years providers in relation to the EYFS Framework by checking what the Government’s official inspection body for early years, Ofsted,has to say about it. You can find this information at www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report.

How my child will be learning

The EYFS Framework explains how and what your child will be learning to support their healthy development.

Your child will be learning skills, acquiring new knowledge and demonstrating their understanding through 7 areas of learning and development.

Children should mostly develop the 3 prime areas first. These are:

  • Communication and language;
  • Physical development; and
  • Personal, social and emotional development.

These prime areas are those most essential for your child’s healthy development and future learning.

As children grow, the prime areas will help them to develop skills in 4 specific areas. These are:

  • Literacy;
  • Mathematics;
  • Understanding the world; and
  • Expressive arts and design.

These 7 areas are used to plan your child’s learning and activities. The professionals teaching and supporting your child will make sure that the activities are suited to your child’s unique needs. This is a little bit like a curriculum in primary and secondary schools, but it’s suitable for very young children, and it’s designed to be really flexible so that staff can follow your child’s unique needs and interests.

Children in the EYFS learn by playing and exploring, being active, and through creative and critical thinking which takes place both indoors and outside.

As a mum or dad, how can I help with my child’s learning?

All the fun activities that you do with your child at home are important in supporting their learning and development, and have a really long lasting effect on your child’s learning as they progress through school.

Even when your child is very young and is not yet able to talk, talking to them helps them to learn and understand new words and ideas. If you make the time every day to do some of the following things with your child it will make a real difference to your child’s confidence as a young learner.

If you’re looking for new ideas for things to do then find out what is on offer at your local children’s centre. Many offer ‘messy play’ activities which you and your child can join in with, and many of the activities they provide are free. Staff can also give you advice about the kinds of books or other activities your child might enjoy at different ages.

Playing with You

Young children find it hard to play alone. They need attention from someone who can play with them. Gradually theyll learn to entertain themselves for some of the time, but first they need to learn how to do that. Fortunately, children learn from everything thats going on around them, and everything they do. When youre washing up, your toddler can stand next to you on a chair and wash the saucepan lids; when you cook, make sure your baby can see and talk to you as you work. The times when theyre not learning much are the times when theyre bored. Thats as true for babies as of older children.

How can I find out how my child is getting on?

It is important that you and the professionals caring for your child work together. You need to feel comfortable about exchanging information and discussing things that will benefit your child. These conversations will either need to be with your childminder or, in a larger setting like a nursery, with your child’s “key person”. This is the person who:

  • Is your main point of contact within the setting
  • Helps your child to become settled, happy and safe
  • Is responsible for your child’s care, development and learning
  • Takes a careful note of your child’s progress, sharing this with you and giving you ideas as to how to help your child at home

You should be able to get information about your child’s development at any time and there are two stages (at age 2, and again at age 5) when the professionals caring for your child must give you written information about how he or she is doing.

When your child is 2

At some point after your child turns 2, the professionals working with your child must give you a written summary of how your child is progressing against the 3 prime areas of learning:

  • communication and language;
  • physical development; and
  • personal, social and emotional development.

This is called the progress check at age 2.

This check will highlight areas where your child is progressing well and any where they might need some extra help or support – and how mums and dads and other family members or carers can work with the key person to help. You might find it useful to share the information from the check with other professionals such as health visitors (who can use it as part of the health and development review).

When your child is 5

At the end of the EYFS – in the summer term of the reception year in school – teachers complete an assessment which is known as the EYFS Profile. This assessment is carried out by the reception teacher and is based on what they, and other staff caring for your child, have observed over a period of time.

Another important part of the EYFS Profile is your knowledge about your child’s learning and development, so do let your child’s class teacher know about what your child does with you: such as how confident your child is in writing their name, reading and talking about a favourite book, speaking to people your child is not so familiar with or their understanding of numbers.

All of the information collected is used to judge how your child is doing in the 7 areas of learning and development. Finding out at this stage how your child is doing will mean that the teacher your child has in their next school year – year 1 – will know what your child really enjoys doing and does well, as well as helping them decide if your child needs a bit of extra support, what that support should be and if they are already getting it.

The school will give you a report of your child’s progress, including information from his or her EYFS Profile.

Where can I go for further information?

The most important place to find out more is your child’s childminder or nursery – do ask as many questions as you need to. Providers really do welcome speaking with you.

You may want to find out what is on offer at your local children’s centre.

You can find the Early Years Foundation Stage which includes the early learning goals at www.foundationyears.org.uk. The foundation years website also includes a range of resources and contacts.

So what really matters?

Find a lot of different things for your child to look at, think about, and do.

Make what youre doing fun and interesting for your child, so you can get it done.

Make some time to give all your attention to what your child wants to do.

Talk about anything and everything, even about the washing-up or what to put on the shopping list, so that you share as much as possible.

Find a place and time when your child can learn how to use his or her body by running, jumping and climbing. This is especially important if you dont have much room at home.

Find other people who can spend time with your child at those times when you really do need to attend to something else.

Toy safety

It is best to buy toys that carry the British Standard Kitemark or the Lion mark, or CE mark, as these conform to safety standards.

Take care if you buy toys from car boot sales, market stalls or second hand toys as these may not conform to safety standards and could be dangerous.

Take safety measures such as Not suitable for a child under 36 months seriously (03 sign). This sign warns that a toy is unsuitable for a child under three because of small parts.

Check that the toy has no sharp edges that could hurt your child, or small parts that your child could put in his or her mouth and choke on.

Toys for children with special needs

Toys for children with special needs should match his or her mental age and ability. They should be brightly coloured and offer sound and action. If a toy made for a younger child, is used by an older child, the strength of the toy should be taken into account.

Children who have a visual impairment will need toys with different textures to explore with their hands and mouth. A child who has a hearing impairment will need toys to stimulate language.

Making time

Some things do have to happen at certain times, and your child does slowly have to learn about that. But when youre with your child try not to work to a strict timetable. Your child is unlikely to fit in with it and then youll both get frustrated. A lot of things can be pushed around to suit the mood of you and your child. Theres no rule that says the washing-up has to be done before you go to the playground, especially if the suns shining and your childs bursting with energy.

Keep your child fit

Children want to use their bodies to crawl, walk, run, jump and climb. The more opportunity you can give them, the happier theyll be, and youll probably find that they sleep better and are more cheerful and easy going when theyve had the opportunity to run off some energy. At the same time youll be helping their muscle development and general fitness and, if they start to see outdoor activities and sports as a part of their lives, youll be laying down the habits that will keep them fitter as adults. Make time for your children to exercise.

Allow your baby to lie and kick his or her legs.

Make your floor a safe place for a crawler to move around.

Make time for your toddler to walk with you rather than using the buggy.

Take toddlers and young children to the park to try climbing and swinging or just so that they have a safe space to run.

Find out whats on for parents and babies at the local leisure centre.

Take your baby swimming. There is no need to wait until your child has had his or her immunisations.

Structured Learning

When children play theyre learning what they want. Often these will also be the things you want them to learn, but for some things they may need extra encouragement, like using the potty (toilet training), washing or dressing themselves, learning what not to touch, and where its not safe to run. Its worth thinking about how you do it.

– Wait until you think your child is ready. Forcing something too soon usually ends in failure. You get cross and upset, your child gets cross and upset, and the whole thing becomes impossible. If it doesnt work out, leave it for a few weeks and try again.

– Try not to make it seem too important. Your child may learn to eat with a spoon because its fun, but still want to be fed when he or she is tired, or may enjoy the first few times on the potty because youre so pleased, and then get bored with the idea. In time he or she will see that it is worth while learning to be more grown-up and independent.

– Keep it safe. If your child is under three years old he or she cant really understand why not to touch your stereo or pull flowers off your pot plants, so keep things you dont want touched well out of the way and youll both be less frustrated. Time enough to learn about not touching when your child can understand why.

– Be encouraging. Your happiness is your childs best reward for good behaviour. If you give your child a big smile, a cuddle or praise when he or she does something right your child is much more likely to try doing it again. Giving your child attention and praise for doing something right works much better than telling him or her off for doing something wrong.

– Dont ask for perfection or for instant success. Its safest to expect everything to take much longer than you’d hoped.

– Set an example. Whatever it may look like, your child does want to be like you and do what you do. So seeing you wash in the bath, brush your teeth or use the toilet does help.

– Avoid fuss and confrontation. Once something gets blown up, it can take longer and be much more difficult for everybody to calm down.

– Be firm. Children need you to decide some things for them, and need you to stick to your decisions. They need some firm guidelines. So try not to waver. You might start something like potty training, decide your child isnt ready, and give up for a while. Thats fine. But a child who is in nappies one day, out the next and back in them the next, is bound to get confused.

– Be consistent. For the same reason, its important that everybody involved in looking after your child is teaching more or less the same things in more or less the same way. If you and your partner, or you and your childminder, do things very differently, your child wont learn so easily and may well play you off against each other.

– Do whats right for your child, for you and for the way you live. It doesnt matter what the child next door can or cant do. Dont compete and dont ask your child to compete.
No parent is perfect, and some children seem to find these lessons particularly difficult to learn. See dealing with difficult behaviour.