No job is more important than working with children in the early years.

Development Matters is for all early years practitioners, for childminders and staff in nurseries, nursery schools, and nursery and reception classes in school. It offers a top-level view of how children develop and learn. It can help you to design an effective early years curriculum, building on the strengths and meeting the needs of the children you work with. It guides but does not replace, professional judgement.

The curriculum consists of everything you want children to experience, learn and be able to do. It must meet the requirements of the educational programmes in the statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (EYFS). These are included throughout Development Matters for ease of reference.

How to use this guidance

This guidance sets out the pathways of children’s development in broad ages and stages. The actual learning of young children is not so neat and orderly. For that reason, accurate and proportionate assessment is vital. It helps you to make informed decisions about what a child needs to learn and be able to do next. It is not designed to be used as a tick list for generating lots of data.

You can use your professional knowledge to help children make progress without needing to record lots of next steps The guidance can help you check that children are secure in all the earlier steps of learning before you look at their ‘age band’. Depth in learning matters much more than moving from one band to the next or trying to cover everything. For example, it is important to give a child many opportunities to deepen their understanding of numbers to 5. There is no value in rushing to 10.

Children who may struggle in their early learning are not ‘low ability’. We do not know what their potential might be. Every child can make progress with the right support.

The observation checkpoints can help you to notice whether a child is at risk of falling behind. You can make all the difference by acting quickly. By monitoring a child’s progress closely, you can make the right decisions about what sort of extra help is needed. Through sensitive dialogue with parents (‘parent’ is used throughout this document to refer to parents, carers, and guardians), you can understand the child better and offer helpful suggestions to support learning at home within the family.

Health colleagues, like health visitors or speech and language therapists, offer vital support to this work.

Development Matters is not a long list of everything a child needs to know and do. It guides but does not replace, your professional judgement.

Reforms to the early years foundation stage

The reforms to the early years foundation stage are statutory from September 2021. They will help you to improve outcomes for all children, especially disadvantaged children. They put early language at the heart of a broad curriculum. They help you to reduce the time you spend on unnecessary assessment paperwork. That means you can spend more time with the children.

The aim is to improve outcomes for all children and help close the gap for disadvantaged children.

Why high-quality early years education is important

Development Matters includes more guidance about children’s communication and language. Language is the foundation of children’s thinking and learning.

High-quality early years education, with a strong focus on communication, is good for every child. It is especially positive for disadvantaged children. By reducing workload expectations, this guidance can free up time. You can use that time to help children who are struggling with their learning. This can stop gaps in learning from opening and widening. Gaps by the end of the early years will, on average, double by the end of primary schooling. The early years are the crucial years for making a difference.

The EYFS is about how children learn, as well as what they learn. Children need opportunities to develop their own play and independent exploration. This is enjoyable and motivating. They also need adults to ‘scaffold’ their learning by giving them just enough help to achieve something they could not do independently. Helping children to think, discuss and plan ahead is important, like gathering the materials they need to make a den before they start building. These are ways of helping children to develop the characteristics of effective learning.

When children are at earlier stages of development than expected, it is important to notice what they enjoy doing and also find out where their difficulties may lie. They need extra help so that they become secure in the earlier stages of development. It is not helpful to wait for them to become ‘ready’. For example, children who are not speaking in sentences are not going to be able to write in sentences. They will need lots of stimulating experiences to help them develop their communication. That’s why the time you spend listening to them and having conversations with them is so important.

Children learn and develop more from birth to 5 years old than at any other time in their lives. If children are at risk of falling behind the majority, the best time to help them to catch up and keep up is in the early years. Every child can make progress if they are given the right support.

When we give every child the best start in their early years, we give them what they need today. We also set them up with every chance of success tomorrow.

Seven key features of effective practice

1.The best for every child

All children deserve to have an equal chance of success.

High-quality early education is good for all children. It is especially important for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

When they start school, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are, on average, 4 months[footnote 1] behind their peers. We need to do more to narrow that gap.

Children who have lived through difficult experiences can begin to grow stronger when they experience high-quality early education and care.

High-quality early education and care is inclusive. Children’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are identified quickly. All children promptly receive any extra help they need, so they can progress well in their learning.

2. High-quality care

The child’s experience must always be central to the thinking of every practitioner.

Babies, toddlers and young children thrive when they are loved and well cared for.

High-quality care is consistent. Every practitioner needs to enjoy spending time with young children.

Effective practitioners are responsive to children and babies. They notice when a baby looks towards them and gurgles and respond with pleasure.

Practitioners understand that toddlers are learning to be independent, so they will sometimes get frustrated.

Practitioners know that starting school, and all the other transitions in the early years, are big steps for small children.

3. The curriculum: what we want children to learn

The curriculum is a top-level plan of everything the early years setting wants the children to learn.

Planning to help every child to develop their language is vital.

The curriculum needs to be ambitious. Careful sequencing will help children to build their learning over time.

Young children’s learning is often driven by their interests. Plans need to be flexible.

Babies and young children do not develop in a fixed way. Their development is like a spider’s web with many strands, not a straight line.

Depth in early learning is much more important than covering lots of things in a superficial way.

4. Pedagogy: helping children to learn

Children are powerful learners. Every child can make progress in their learning, with the right help.

Effective pedagogy is a mix of different approaches. Children learn through play, by adults modelling, by observing each other, and through guided learning and direct teaching.

Practitioners carefully organise enabling environments for high-quality play. Sometimes, they make time and space available for children to invent their own play. Sometimes, they join in to sensitively support and extend children’s learning.

Children in the early years also learn through group work, when practitioners guide their learning.

Older children need more of this guided learning.

A well-planned learning environment, indoors and outside, is an important aspect of pedagogy.

5. Assessment: checking what children have learnt

Assessment is about noticing what children can do and what they know. It is not about lots of data and evidence.

Effective assessment requires practitioners to understand child development. Practitioners also need to be clear about what they want children to know and be able to do.

Accurate assessment can highlight whether a child has a special educational need and needs extra help.

Before assessing children, it’s a good idea to think about whether the assessments will be useful.

Assessment should not take practitioners away from the children for long periods of time.

6. Self-regulation and executive function

Executive function includes the child’s ability to:

These abilities contribute to the child’s growing ability to self-regulate:

Language development is central to self-regulation: children use language to guide their actions and plans.

Pretend play gives many opportunities for children to focus their thinking, persist and plan ahead.

7. Partnership with parents

It is important for parents and early years settings to have a strong and respectful partnership. This sets the scene for children to thrive in the early years.

This includes listening regularly to parents and giving parents clear information about their children’s progress.

The help that parents give their children at home has a very significant impact on their learning.

Some children get much less support for their learning at home than others. By knowing and understanding all the children and their families, settings can offer extra help to those who need it most.

It is important to encourage all parents to chat, play and read with their children.

The characteristics of effective teaching and learning

In planning and guiding what children learn, practitioners must reflect on the different rates at which children are developing and adjust their practice appropriately.

3 characteristics of effective teaching and learning are:

Playing and exploring

Children will be learning to:

Examples of how to support this

Encourage babies’ exploration of the world around them. Suggestions: investigating the feel of their key person’s hair or reaching for a blanket in their cot.

Offer open-ended resources like large smooth shells and pebbles, blocks and lengths of fabric for babies and toddlers to play freely with, outdoors and inside.

When playing with blocks encourage children to discuss what they will make before and while making it, or draw a picture before building.

Visual aids can help children to keep track of what they need to do next, for example counting on their fingers or referring to a series of pictures on the wall to remind them what they must do before lunch.

Verbal mental aids include providing a sensitive commentary on what a child is doing.You might comment: “I see you are looking for the biggest pieces first’” or ask “how well do you think that’s going?”

Children may copy your commentary by talking out loud to themselves first. In time, this will develop into their ‘inner voice’.

Provide a well-organised environment so that children know where materials and tools are and can access them easily.

Provide enough materials and arrange spaces so that children can collaborate and learn alongside peers. Give children enough time and space to engage in large-scale projects that may continue over several days.

Explore the reasons behind children’s choices, for example,‘I’m interested that you’re using a paintbrush rather than a pencil to make your picture.’

Extend children’s interests by providing stimulating resources for them to play with, on their own and with peers, in response to their fascinations.

Join in with children’s play and investigations, without taking over. Talk with them about what they are doing and what they are noticing.

Provide appropriate non-fiction books and links to information online to help them follow their interests.

Regularly provide new materials and interesting things for children to explore and investigate.

Introduce children to different styles of music and art. Give them the opportunity to observe changes in living things in the setting, and around the local environment. Take children to new places, like a local theatre, a museum, a National Trust heritage site, a fire station,a farm or an elderly people’s home.

Involve children in making decisions about science experiments: what might we feed the plants to make them grow? Why do you think fizzy water might work? How will we know if one is growing faster than another?’.

Active learning

Children will be learning to:

  • begin to correct their mistakes themselves, for example, instead of using increasing force to push a puzzle piece into the slot, they try another piece to see if it will fit
  • keep on trying when things are difficult
  • Examples of how to support this

    Help babies, toddlers and young children feel safe, secure and treasured as individuals.

    The key person approach gives children a secure base of care and affection, together with supportive routines. That can help them to explore and play confidently.

    Provide furniture and boxes at the right height to encourage babies to pull themselves up and reach for objects.

    Opportunities to play and explore freely, indoors and outside, are fun. They also help babies, toddlers and young children to develop their self-regulation as they enjoy hands-on learning and sometimes talk about what they are doing.

    Help young children to develop by accepting the pace of their learning. Give them plenty of time to make connections and repeat activities.

    Help children to think about what will support them most, taking care not to offer help too soon. The following strategies will help children at different times, depending on their confidence, how much previous experience they’ve had with an activity, and how motivated, or distracted, they are:

    At times, children respond well to open-ended activities which they choose. Other times, they benefit from a supportive structure established by an adult. It is important to provide both kinds of opportunities.

    Adults can teach children to use self-calming to help them deal with intense emotions. For example, you could introduce a ‘calming jar’. Or you could introduce ‘zones of regulation’. These can help children to become more aware of their emotions and think about how to calm themselves.

    Creating and thinking critically

    Children will be learning to:

    Children will also be learning to:

    For example, to share 9 strawberries between 3 friends, they might put one in front of each, then a second, and finally a third. Finally, they might check at the end that everyone has the same number of strawberries.

    Examples of how to support this

    Help babies, toddlers and young children to find their own ideas by providing open-ended resources that can be used in many ways.

    Encourage, support and enjoy children’s creative thinking as they find new ways to do things.

    Children need consistent routines and plenty of time so that play is not constantly interrupted. It is important to be reflective and flexible.

    Help children to extend their ideas through sustained discussion that goes beyond what they, and you, have noticed. Consider ‘how’ and ‘why’ things happen, and ‘what might happen next.’

    Help children to come up with their own ideas and explanations. For example, you could look together at woodlice and caterpillars outdoors with the magnifying app on a tablet. You could ask: “What’s similar about caterpillars and other insects?” You could use and explain terms like ‘antennae’ and ‘thorax’.

    Offer children many different experiences and opportunities to play freely and to explore and investigate. Make time and space for children to become deeply involved in imaginative play, indoors and outside.

    Help children to reflect on and talk about their learning through using photographs and learning journeys. Share in children’s pride about their achievements and their enjoyment of special memories.

    Suggestion: you could prompt a conversation with questions like: “Do you remember when…?”, “How would you do that now?” or “I wonder what you were thinking then?”

    Communication and language

    The development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development. Children’s back-and-forth interactions from an early age form the foundations for language and cognitive development.

    The number and quality of the conversations they have with adults and peers throughout the day in a language-rich environment is crucial. By commenting on what children are interested in or doing, and echoing back what they say with new vocabulary added, practitioners will build children’s language effectively.

    Reading frequently to children, and engaging them actively in stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems, and then providing them with extensive opportunities to use and embed new words in a range of contexts, will give children the opportunity to thrive.

    Through conversation, storytelling and role play, where children share their ideas with support and modelling from their teacher, and sensitive questioning that invites them to elaborate, children become comfortable using a rich range of vocabulary and language structures.

    English as an additional language

    Speaking more than one language has lots of advantages for children. It is the norm in many countries around the world.

    Children will learn English from a strong foundation in their home language. It is important for you to encourage families to use their home language for linguistic as well as cultural reasons.

    Children learning English will typically go through a quiet phase when they do not say very much and may then use words in both languages in the same sentence. Talk to parents about what language they speak at home, try and learn a few key words and celebrate multilingualism in your setting.

    Birth to 3

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Babies and toddlers thrive when you show a genuine interest in them, join in and respond warmly.

    Using exaggerated intonation and a sing-song voice (infant-directed speech) helps babies tune in to language.

    Regularly using the babies and toddlers’ names helps them to pay attention to what the practitioner is saying for example, “Chloe, have some milk.” It is important to minimise background noise, so do not have music playing all the time.

    Babies love singing and music. Sing a range of songs and play a wide range of different types of music. Move with babies to music.

    Babies and toddlers love action rhymes and games like ‘Peepo’. As they begin to join in with the words and the actions, they are developing their attention and listening. Allow babies time to anticipate words and actions in favourite songs.

    Observation checkpoint

    Around 6 months, does the baby respond to familiar voices, turn to their own name and ‘take turns’ in conversations with babbling?

    Around 12 months, does the baby ‘take turns’ by babbling and using single words? Does the baby point to things and use gestures to show things to adults and share interests?

    Around 18 months, is the toddler listening and responding to a simple instruction like: “Adam, put on your shoes?”

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Take time and ‘tune in’ to the messages babies are giving you through their vocalisations, body language and gestures.

    When babies and toddlers are holding and playing with objects, say what they are doing for example: “You’ve got the ball” and “Shake the rattle.”

    Where you can, give meaning to the baby’s gestures and pointing for example: “Oh, I see, you want the teddy.”

    Chat with babies and toddlers all the time, but be careful not to overwhelm them with talk. Allow babies and toddlers to take the lead and then respond to their communications.

    Wait for the baby or toddler to speak or communicate with a sound or a look first – so that they are leading the conversation. When responding, expand on what has been said (for example, add a word). If a baby says “bottle”, you could say “milk bottle”. In a natural way, use the same word repeatedly in different contexts: “Look, a bottle of milk– oh, you’ve finished your bottle.” Adding a word while a toddler is playing gives them the model of an expanded phrase. It also keeps the conversation on their topic of interest. Suggestion: if they say “bag”, you could say: “Yes, daddy’s bag”.

    Observation checkpoint

    Is the baby using speech sounds (babbling) to communicate with adults?

    Around 12 months, is the baby beginning to use single words like mummum, dada, tete (teddy)?

    Around 15 months, can the baby say around 10 words (they may not all be clear)?

    Around 18 months, is the toddler using a range of adult-like speech patterns (jargon) and at least 20 clear words?

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    You can help babies with their understanding by using gestures and context. Suggestion: point to the cup and say “cup”.

    Talking about what you are doing helps babies learn language in context. Suggestion: “I’m pouring out your milk into the cup”.

    Observation checkpoint

    Around 12 months, can the baby choose between 2 objects: “Do you want the ball or the car?”

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Singing, action rhymes and sharing books give children rich opportunities to understand new words.

    Play with groups of objects (different small world animals, or soft toys, or tea and picnic sets). Make sure you name things whilst playing, and talk about what you are doing.

    Observation checkpoint

    Around 18 months, does the toddler understand lots of different single words and some two-word phrases, such as “give me” or “shoes on”?

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Help toddlers and young children to focus their attention by using their name: “Fatima, put your coat on”.

    You can help toddlers and young children listen and pay attention by using gestures like pointing and facial expressions.

    You can help toddlers who are having tantrums by being calm and reassuring.

    Help toddlers to express what’s angering them by suggesting words to describe their emotions, like ‘sad’ or ‘angry’. You can help further by explaining in simple terms why you think they may be feeling that emotion.

    Make time to connect with babies, toddlers and young children. Tune in and listen to them and join in with their play, indoors and outside.

    Allow plenty of time to have conversations together, rather than busily rushing from one activity to the next. When you know a young child well, it is easier to understand them and talk about their family life. For example: “OK, I see. You went to the shops with Aunty Maya”.

    Observation checkpoint

    By around 2 years old, is the child showing an interest in what other children are playing and sometimes joins in?

    By around 3 years old, can the child shift from one task to another if you get their attention? Using the child’s name can help: “Jason, please can you stop now? We’re tidying up”.

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Toddlers and young children will pronounce some words incorrectly. Instead of correcting them, reply to what they say and use the words they have mispronounced. Children will then learn from your positive model, without losing the confidence to speak.

    Toddlers and young children sometimes hesitate and repeat sounds and words when thinking about what to say.

    Listen patiently. Do not say the words for them. If the child or parents are distressed or worried by this, contact a speech and language therapist for advice.

    Encourage children to talk. Do not use too many questions - 4 comments to every question is a useful guide.

    Observation checkpoint

    Towards their second birthday, can the child use up to 50 words?

    Is the child beginning to put 2 or 3 words together: “more milk”?

    Is the child frequently asking questions, such as the names of people and objects?

    Towards their third birthday, can the child use around 300 words? These words include descriptive language. They include words for time (for example, ‘now’ and ‘later’), space (for example, ‘over there’) and function (for example, they can tell you a sponge is for washing).

    Is the child linking up to 5 words together?

    Is the child using pronouns (‘me’, ‘him’, ‘she’), and using plurals and prepositions (‘in’, ‘on’, ‘under’) – these may not always be used correctly to start with.

    Can the child follow instructions with 3 keywords like: “Can you wash dolly’s face?”

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Share picture books every day with children. Encourage them to talk about the pictures and the story. Comment on the pictures – for example: “It looks like the boy is a bit worried…” and wait for their response. You might also ask them about the pictures: “I wonder what the caterpillar is doing now?”

    Books with just pictures and no words can especially encourage conversations.

    Tell children the names of things they do not know and choose books that introduce interesting new vocabulary to them.

    When appropriate, you can check children’s understanding by asking them to point to particular pictures. Or ask them to point to particular objects in a picture. For example, “Can you show me the big boat?”

    When talking with young children, give them plenty of processing time (at least 10 seconds). This gives them time to understand what you have said and think of their reply.

    Observation checkpoint

    Around the age of 2, can the child understand many more words than they can say – between 200 to 500 words?

    Around the age of 2, can the child understand simple questions and instructions like: “Where’s your hat?” or “What’s the boy in the picture doing?”

    Around the age of 3, can the child show that they understand action words by pointing to the right picture in a book. For example: “Who’s jumping?”

    Watch out for children whose speech is not easily understood by unfamiliar adults. Monitor their progress and consider whether a hearing test might be needed.

    3 and4-year-olds

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Offer children at least a daily story time as well as sharing books throughout the session.

    If they are busy in their play, children may not be able to switch their attention and listen to what you say. When you need to, help young children to switch their attention from what they are doing to what you are saying.

    Give them a clear prompt. Suggestion: say the child’s name and then: “Please stop and listen”.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Extend children’s vocabulary, explaining unfamiliar words and concepts and making sure children have understood what they mean through stories and other activities. These should include words and concepts which occur frequently in books and other contexts but are not used every day by many young children. For example, use scientific vocabulary when talking about the parts of a flower or an insect, or different types of rocks. Examples from ‘The Gruffalo’ include: ‘stroll’, ‘roasted’, ‘knobbly’, ‘wart’ and ‘feast’.

    Provide children with a rich language environment by sharing books and activities with them. Encourage children to talk about what is happening and give their own ideas. High-quality picture books are a rich source for learning new vocabulary and more complex forms of language: “Excuse me, I’m very hungry. Do you think I could have tea with you?”

    Shared book-reading is a powerful way of having extended conversations with children. It helps children to build their vocabulary.

    Offer children lots of interesting things to investigate, like different living things. This will encourage them to ask questions.

    Observation checkpoint

    Around the age of 3, can the child shift from one task to another if you fully obtain their attention, for example, by using their name?

    Around the age of 4, is the child using sentences of 4 to 6 words – “I want to play with cars” or “What’s that thing called?”?

    Can the child use sentences joined up with words like ‘because’, ‘or’, ‘and’? For example, “I like ice cream because it makes my tongue shiver”.

    Is the child using the future and past tense: “I am going to the park” and “I went to the shop”?Can the child answer simple ‘why’ questions?

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

  • use longer sentences of 4 to 6 words
  • Examples of how to support this

    Consider which core books, songs and rhymes you want children to become familiar with and grow to love. The BookTrust’s ‘Bookfinder’ website can help you to pick high-quality books.

    Activities planned around those core books will help the children to practise the vocabulary and language from those books. It will also support their creativity and play.

    Outdoor play themed around ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ might lead to the children creating their own ‘hunts’ and inventing their own rhymes.

    Children may use ungrammatical forms like ‘I swimmed’. Instead of correcting them, recast what the child said. For example: “How lovely that you swam in the sea on holiday”.

    When children have difficulties with correct pronunciation, reply naturally to what they say. Pronounce the word correctly so they hear the correct model.

    Expand on children’s phrases. For example, if a child says, “going out shop”, you could reply: “Yes, Henna is going to the shop”. As well as adding language, add new ideas. For example: “I wonder if they’ll get the 26 bus?”

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Model language that promotes thinking and challenges children: “I can see that’s empty – I wonder what happened to the snail that used to be in that shell?”

    Open-ended questions like “I wonder what would happen if….?” encourage more thinking and longer responses. Sustained shared thinking is especially powerful. This is when 2 or more individuals (adult and child, or children) ‘work together’ in an intellectual way to:

    Help children to elaborate on how they are feeling: “You look sad. Are you upset because Jasmin doesn’t want to do the same thing as you?”

    Children in reception

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Promote and model active listening skills: “Wait a minute, I need to get into a good position for listening, I can’t see you. Let’s be quiet so I can concentrate on what you’re saying.”

    Signal when you want children to listen: “Listen carefully now for how many animals are on the broom.” Link listening with learning: “I could tell you were going to say the right answer, you were listening so carefully.”

    Identify new vocabulary before planning activities, for example, changes in materials: ‘dissolving’, ‘drying’, ‘evaporating’, in music: ‘percussion’, ‘tambourine’.

    Bring in objects, pictures and photographs to talk about, for example, vegetables to taste, smell and feel. Discuss which category the word is in, for example: “A cabbage is a kind of vegetable. It’s a bit like a sprout but much bigger”. Have fun saying the word in an exaggerated manner.

    Use picture cue cards to talk about an object: “What colour is it? Where would you find it? What shape is it? What does it smell like? What does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it sound like? What does it taste like?”

    Model words and phrases relevant to the area being taught, deliberately and systematically: “I’m thrilled that everyone’s on time today”, “I can see that you’re delighted with your new trainers”, “Stop shrieking, you’re hurting my ears!”, “What a downpour – I’ve never seen so much rain!”, “It looks as if the sun has caused the puddles to evaporate”, “Have you ever heard such a booming voice?” Use the vocabulary repeatedly throughout the week. Keep a list of previously taught vocabulary and review it in different contexts.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Show genuine interest in knowing more: “This looks amazing, I need to know more about this.”

    Think out loud, ask questions to check your understanding; make sure children can answer who, where and when questions before you move on to why and ‘how do you know’ questions: “I wonder why this jellyfish is so dangerous? Ahh, it has poison in its tentacles.”

    Use complete sentences in your everyday talk.

    Help children build sentences using new vocabulary by rephrasing what they say and structuring their responses using sentence starters.

    Narrate your own and children’s actions: “I’ve never seen so many beautiful bubbles, I can see all the colours of the rainbow in them.”

    Build upon their incidental talk: “Your tower is definitely the tallest I’ve seen all week. Do you think you’ll make it any higher?”

    Ask open questions - “How did you make that? Why does the wheel move so easily? What will happen if you do that?”

    Instead of correcting, model accurate irregular grammar such as past tense, plurals, complex sentences: “That’s right: you drank your milk quickly; you were quicker than Darren.”

    Narrate events and actions, for example, “I knew it must be cold outside because he was putting on his coat and hat.”

    Remind children of previous events: “Do you remember when we forgot to wear our raincoats last week? It poured so much that we got drenched!”

    Extend their thinking: “You’ve thought really hard about building your tower, but how will you stop it from falling down?”

    Make deliberate mistakes highlighting to children that sometimes you might get it wrong: “It’s important to get things in the right order so that people know what I’m talking about. Listen carefully to see if I have things in the right order: ‘last week…’

    Use sequencing words with emphasis in your own stories: “Before school, I had a lovely big breakfast, then I had a biscuit at break time and after that, I had 2 pieces of fruit after lunch. I’m so full!”

    Think out loud about how to work things out. Encourage children to talk about a problem together and come up with ideas for how to solve it.

    Give children problem-solving words and phrases to use in their explanations: ‘so that’, ‘because’, ‘I think it’s…’, ‘you could…’, ‘it might be…’

    Model talk routines throughout the day. For example, arriving in school: “Good morning, how are you?”

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Timetable a storytime at least once a day. Draw up a list of books that you enjoy reading aloud to children, including traditional and modern stories. Choose books that will develop their vocabulary. Display quality books in attractive book corners.

    Send home familiar and good-quality books for parents to read aloud and talk about with their children. Show parents how to share stories with their children.

    Read and re-read selected stories.

    Show enjoyment of the story using your voice and manner to make the meaning clear. Use different voices for the narrator and each character. Make asides, commenting on what is happening in a story: “That looks dangerous – I’m sure they’re all going to fall off that broom!”

    Link events in a story to your own experiences. Talk about the plot and the main problem in the story. Identify the main characters in the story, and talk about their feelings, actions and motives.

    Take on different roles in imaginative play, to interact and negotiate with people in longer conversations. Practise possible conversations between characters.

    Make familiar books available for children to share at school and at home.

    Make time for children to tell each other stories they have heard, or to visitors.

    Have fun with phrases from the story through the day: “I searched for a pencil, but no pencil could be found.” Explain new vocabulary in the context of a story, rather than in word lists.

    Read aloud books to children that will extend their knowledge of the world and illustrate a current topic. Select books containing photographs and pictures, for example, places in different weather conditions and seasons.

    Re-read some books so children learn the language necessary to talk about what is happening in each illustration and relate it to their own lives. Make the books available for children to share at school and at home.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Show your enjoyment of poems using your voice and manner to give emphasis to carefully chosen words and phrases.

    Model noticing how some words sound: “That poem was about a frog on a log, those words sound a bit the same at the end don’t they? They rhyme.”

    In poems and rhymes with very regular rhythm patterns, pause before the rhyming word to allow children to join in or predict the word coming next.

    Encourage children to have fun with rhyme, even if their suggestions don’t make complete sense.

    Choose a few interesting longer words from the poem, rhyme or song and clap out their beat structure, helping children to join in with the correct number of ‘claps’.

    Select traditional and contemporary poems and rhymes to read aloud to children. Help children to join in with refrains and learn some verses by heart using call and response.

    When singing songs by heart, talk about words in repeated phrases from within a refrain or verse so that word boundaries are noticed and not blurred: “Listen carefully, what words can you hear? Oncesuppona time: once – upon – a – time.”

    Personal, social and emotional development

    Children’s personal, social and emotional development (PSED) is crucial for children to lead healthy and happy lives, and is fundamental to their cognitive development. Underpinning their personal development are the important attachments that shape their social world. Strong, warm and supportive relationships with adults enable children to learn how to understand their own feelings and those of others.

    Children should be supported to manage emotions, develop a positive sense of self, set themselves simple goals, have confidence in their own abilities, to persist and wait for what they want and direct attention as necessary.

    Through adult modelling and guidance, they will learn how to look after their bodies, including healthy eating, and manage personal needs independently.

    Through supported interaction with other children, they learn how to make good friendships, co-operate and resolve conflicts peaceably.

    These attributes will provide a secure platform from which children can achieve at school and in later life.

    Birth to 3

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    When settling a baby or toddler into nursery, the top priority is for the key person to develop a strong and loving relationship with the young child. Learn from the family about what they do to soothe their child and what to look out for – for example, a baby who scratches at their head when they are getting tired.

    Find out what calms a baby – rocking, cuddling or singing. Make sure babies and toddlers can get hold of their comfort object when they need it.

    Explain to parents that once babies establish ‘object permanence’, they become more aware of the presence or absence of their parents. Object permanence means knowing that something continues to exist even when out of sight. This can make separations much more distressing and difficult between 6 to 24 months.

    Babies develop a sense of self by interacting with others, and by exploring their bodies and objects around them, inside and outdoors.

    Respond and build on babies’ expressions and gestures, playfully exploring the idea of self and other. Point to your own nose, eyes and mouth, point to the baby’s.

    Be positive and interested in what babies do as they develop their confidence in trying new things.

    Help toddlers and young children to make informed choices from a limited range of options. Enable children to choose which song to sing from a set of 4 song cards, by pointing. Enable children to choose whether they want milk or water at snack time.

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Support children as they find their own different ways to manage feelings of sadness when their parents leave them. Some children might need to hold onto a special object from home to feel strong and confident in the setting. Some might need to snuggle in and be comforted by their key person. Some might get busy straight away in their favourite play or with another child they feel close to.

    Young children need to feel secure as they manage difficult emotions. Provide consistent and predictable routines, with flexibility when needed.

    Provide consistent, warm and responsive care. At first, centre this on the key person. In time, children can develop positive relationships with other adults.

    When the key person is not available, make sure that someone familiar provides comfort and support, and carries out intimate care routines.

    Acknowledge babies’ and toddlers’ brief need for reassurance as they move away from their key person. Encourage babies and toddlers to explore, indoors and outside. Help them to become more independent by smiling and looking encouraging, for example when a baby keeps crawling towards a rattle.

    Arrange resources inside and outdoors to encourage children’s independence and growing self-confidence. Treasure basket play allows babies who can sit up to choose what to play with. Store resources so that children can access them freely, without needing help.

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Help children to feel emotionally safe with a key person and, gradually, with other members of staff. Show warmth and affection, combined with clear and appropriate boundaries and routines. Develop a spirit of friendly co-operation amongst children and adults.

    Encourage children to express their feelings through words like ‘sad’, ‘upset’ or ‘angry’. Toddlers and young children may have periods of time when their favourite word is ‘no’ and when they want to carry out their wishes straight away. Maintain sensible routines and boundaries for children during these testing times. Negative or harsh responses can cause children to feel unduly anxious and emotionally vulnerable.

    Offer supervision or work discussion sessions to staff. Staff will need to talk about the strong feelings that children may express. How are practitioners feeling about these and developing their understanding of the children’s feelings?

    When appropriate, notice and talk about children’s feelings. For example: “I can see it’s hard to wait, just a minute and then it’s your turn to go down the slide.” Model useful phrases like “Can I have a turn?” or “My turn next.”

    You cannot force a child to use the potty or toilet. You need to establish friendly co-operation with the child. That will help them take this important step. Children can generally control their bowels before their bladder.

    Notice when young children are ready to begin toilet training and discuss this with their parents:

    Potty training is fastest if you start it when the child is at the last stage.

    By the age of 3, 9 out of 10 children are dry most days. All children will have the occasional ‘accident’, though, especially when excited, busy or upset.

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Be open to what children say about differences and answer their questions straightforwardly. Help children develop positive attitudes towards diversity and inclusion.

    Help all children to feel that they are valued, and they belong.

    Support children to find ways into the play and friendship groups of others. For example, encourage them to stand and watch from the side with you. Talk about what you see, and suggest ways for the child to join in.

    Story times with props can engage children in a range of emotions. They can feel the family’s fear as the bear chases them at the end of ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. They can feel relief when the Gruffalo is scared away by the mouse.

    Recognise, talk about and expand on children’s emotions. For example, you might say: “Sara is smiling. She really wanted a turn with the truck.”

    Observational checkpoint

    Around 7 months, does the baby respond to their name and respond to the emotions in your voice?

    Around 12 months, does the baby start to be shy around strangers and show preferences for certain people and toys?

    Around 18 months, is the toddler increasingly curious about their world and wanting to explore it and be noticed by you?

    Around the age of 2, does the child start to see themselves as a separate person? For example, do they decide what to play with, what to eat, what to wear?

    Between the ages of 2 and 3, does the child start to enjoy the company of other children and want to play with them?

    Watch out for children who get extremely upset by certain sounds, smells or tastes, and cannot be calmed. Or children who seem worried, sad or angry for much of the time. You will need to work closely with parents and other agencies to find out more about these developmental difficulties.

    3 and4-year-olds

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Respond to children’s increasing independence and sense of responsibility. As the year proceeds, increase the range of resources and challenges, outdoors and inside. One example of this might be starting the year with light hammers, plastic golf tees and playdough. This equipment will offer children a safe experience of hammering. Wait until the children are ready to follow instructions and use tools safely. Then you could introduce hammers with short handles, nails with large heads, and soft blocks of wood.

    Widen the range of activities that children feel confident to take part in, outdoors and inside. Model inviting new activities that encourage children to come over and join in, such as folding paper to make animals, sewing or weaving.

    Give children appropriate tasks to carry out such as they can fetch milk cartons or fruit. They can wash up their own plates after their snack.

    Invite trusted people into the setting to talk about and show the work they do.

    Take children out on short walks around the neighbourhood. When ready, take them on trips to interesting places like a local museum, theatre or place of worship.

    Involve children in making decisions about room layout and resources. You could set up a special role-play area in response to children’s fascination with space. Support children to carry out decisions, respecting the wishes of the rest of the group.

    Further resource and enrich children’s play, based on their interests. Children often like to talk about their trips to hairdressers and barbers. You could provide items that reflect different ethnicities, such as combs and brushes to stimulate pretend play around their interests.

    Notice children who find it difficult to play. They may need extra help to share and manage conflicts. You could set up play opportunities in quiet spaces for them, with just one or 2 other children. You may need to model positive play and cooperation.

    Teach children ways of solving conflicts. Model how to listen to someone else and agree a compromise.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Explain why we have rules and display a small number of necessary rules visually as reminders. Display a photo showing a child taking just one piece of fruit at the snack table.

    Children who often express angry or destructive feelings need clear boundaries and routines. They also need practitioners to interact calmly and sensitively with them.

    Model ways that you calm yourself down, such as stopping and taking a few deep breaths. This can help children to learn ways to calm themselves. If adults are excessively challenging or controlling, children can become more aggressive in the group. They may increasingly ‘act out’ their feelings. For example, when they feel sad, they might hit another child to make that child feel sad as well.

    Help children explore situations from different points of view. Talk together about how others might be feeling. Bring these ideas into children’s pretend play: “I wonder how the chicken is feeling, now the fox is creeping up on her?”

    Observational checkpoint

    Around the age of 3:

    Development Matters

    Around the age of 4:

    Watch out for children who seem worried, sad or angry for much of the time, children who seem to flit from one thing to the next or children who seem to stay for over-long periods doing the same thing, and become distressed if they are encouraged to do something different You will need to work closely with parents and other agencies to find out more about these developmental difficulties.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Talk to children about the importance of eating healthily and brushing their teeth. Consider how to support oral health. For example, some settings use a toothbrushing programme.

    Talk to children about why it’s important to wash their hands carefully and throughout the day, including before they eat and after they’ve used the toilet.

    Observational checkpoint

    Look out for children who appear to be overweight or to have poor dental health, where this has not been picked up and acted on at an earlier health check. Discuss this sensitively with parents and involve the child’s health visitor. Adapt activities to suit their particular needs, so all children feel confident to move and take part in physical play.

    Most, but not all, children are reliably dry during the day by the age of 4. Support children who are struggling with toilet training, in partnership with their parents. Seek medical advice, if necessary, from a health visitor or GP.

    Children in reception

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Make time to get to know the child and their family. Ask parents about the child’s history, likes, dislikes, family members and culture.

    Take opportunities in class to highlight a child’s interests, showing you know them and about them.

    Make sure children are encouraged to listen to each other as well as the staff.

    Ensure children’s play regularly involves sharing and cooperating with friends and other peers. Congratulate children for their kindness to others and express your approval when they help, listen and support each other.

    Allow children time in friendship groups as well as other groupings.

    Have high expectations for children following instructions, with high levels of support when necessary.

    Model positive behaviour and highlight exemplary behaviour of children in class, narrating what was kind and considerate about the behaviour.

    Encourage children to express their feelings if they feel hurt or upset using descriptive vocabulary. Help and reassure them when they are distressed, upset or confused.

    Undertake specific activities that encourage talk about feelings and their opinions.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Offer constructive support and recognition of the child’s personal achievements.

    Provide opportunities for children to tell each other about their work and play. Help them reflect and self-evaluate their own work.

    Help them to develop problem-solving skills by talking through how they, you and others resolved a problem or difficulty. Show that mistakes are an important part of learning and going back is trial and error, not failure.

    Help children to set their own goals and to achieve them.

    Give children strategies for staying calm in the face of frustration. Talk them through why we take turns, wait politely, tidy up after ourselves and so on.

    Encourage them to think about their own feelings and those of others by giving explicit examples of how others might feel in particular scenarios. Give children space to calm down and return to an activity.

    Support all children to recognise when their behaviour was not in accordance with the rules and why it is important to respect class rules and behave correctly towards others.

    Use dialogic storytime (talking about the ideas arising from the story whilst reading aloud) to discuss books that deal with challenges, explaining how the different characters feel about these challenges and overcome them.

    Ask children to explain to others how they thought about a problem or an emotion and how they dealt with it.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Model practices that support good hygiene, such as insisting on washing hands before snack time.

    Narrate your own decisions about healthy foods, highlighting the importance of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.

    Help individual children to develop good personal hygiene. Acknowledge and praise their efforts. Provide regular reminders about thorough handwashing and toileting.

    Work with parents and health visitors or the school nurse to help children who are not usually clean and dry through the day.

    Talk with children about exercise, healthy eating and the importance of sleep.

    Use picture books and other resources to explain the importance of the different aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

    Explain to children and model how to travel safely in their local environment, including:

    Physical development

    Physical activity is vital in children’s all-round development, enabling them to pursue happy, healthy and active lives. Gross and fine motor experiences develop incrementally throughout early childhood, starting with sensory explorations and the development of a child’s strength, coordination and positional awareness through tummy time, crawling and play movement with both objects and adults.

    By creating games and providing opportunities for play both indoors and outdoors, adults can support children to develop their core strength, stability, balance, spatial awareness, coordination and agility.

    Gross motor skills provide the foundation for developing healthy bodies and social and emotional well-being. Fine motor control and precision help with hand-eye coordination which is later linked to early literacy.

    Repeated and varied opportunities to explore and play with small world activities, puzzles, arts and crafts and the practice of using small tools, with feedback and support from adults, allow children to develop proficiency, control and confidence.

    Birth to 3

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Some babies need constant physical contact, attention and physical intimacy. Respond warmly and patiently to them.

    Provide adequate, clean floor space for babies to experience tummy-time and back time. Offer this frequently throughout the day so that they can develop their gross motor skills (kicking, waving, rolling and reaching).

    Encourage babies to sit on you, climb over you, and rock, bounce or sway with you.

    Notice, cherish and applaud the physical achievements of babies and toddlers.

    Give babies time to move freely during care routines, like nappy-changing.

    Encourage independence, for example, offer a range of opportunities for children to move by themselves, making their own decisions about direction and speed.

    Use everyday, open-ended materials to support overall coordination. Suggestions: sponges and cloths to hold, squash and throw, or wet and squeeze.

    Provide a range of surfaces and materials for babies to explore, stimulating touch and all the senses.

    Observation checkpoint

    Does the baby move with ease and enjoyment?

    At around 12 months, can the baby pull to stand from a sitting position and sit down?

    Can the baby pick up something small with their first finger and thumb (such as a piece of string)?

    Look out for babies and young toddlers who appear underweight, overweight or to have poor dental health. You will need to work closely with parents and health visitors to help improve the child’s health.

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

  • clap and stamp to music
  • fit themselves into spaces, like tunnels, dens and large boxes, and move around in them
  • enjoy starting to kick, throw and catch balls
  • build independently with a range of appropriate resources
  • begin to walk independently – choosing appropriate props to support at first
  • walk, run, jump and climb – and start to use the stairs independently
  • spin, roll and independently use ropes and swings (for example, tyre swings)
  • sit on a push-along wheeled toy, use a scooter or ride a tricycle
  • use large and small motor skills to do things independently, for example, manage buttonsand zips, and pour drinks
  • show an increasing desire to be independent, such as wanting to feed themselves and dressor undress
  • start eating independently and learning how to use a knife and fork
  • Examples of how to support this

    Provide a wide range of opportunities for children to move throughout the day, indoors and outside, alone or with others, with and without apparatus. Include risky and rough and tumble play, as appropriate.

    Join in with children’s movement play when invited and if it is appropriate. Then you can show different ways of moving and engaging with the resources.

    Help young children learn what physical risks they are confident and able to take. Encourage children to climb unaided and to stop if they do not feel safe. If you lift them onto the apparatus and hold them so they balance, they will not develop a sense of what they can do safely.

    Offer outdoor play every day for at least 45 minutes. Include lots of opportunities for children to move freely and explore their surroundings like a slope, a large hole, puddles or a sandpit. Consider wider opportunities for movement. Suggestions include:

    Consider going to suitable local facilities.

    As soon as children are able, encourage ‘active travel’ to and from the setting – for example, walking, scooter or bike.

    Provide materials and equipment that support physical development – both large and small motor skills. Encourage children to use materials flexibly and combine them in different ways.

    Check that children’s clothing and footwear are not too tight or too large.

    Provide babies and toddlers with lots of opportunities to feed themselves. Encourage them to dress and undress independently. Be patient, do not rush and take time to talk about what they are doing and why: “It’s a bit cold and wet today – what do we need to wear to keep warm and dry?”

    At meal and snack times, encourage children to try a range of foods as they become more independent eaters. Encourage children to help with carrying, pouring drinks, cleaning and sorting.

    Encourage young children’s personal decision-making by offering real choices– water or milk, for example. They can comment on how to eat healthily, listen to children’s responses and develop conversations about this.

    Encourage good eating habits and behaviours, such as not snatching, sharing and waiting for a second helping.

    Observation checkpoint

    Around their second birthday, can the toddler run well, kick a ball, and jump with both feet off the ground at the same time?

    Around their third birthday, can the child climb confidently, catch a large ball and pedal a tricycle?

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Provide different types of paper for children to tear, make marks on and print on.

    Provide lots of different things for young children to grasp, hold and explore, like clay, finger paint, spoons, brushes, shells.

    Observation checkpoint

    Look out for children who find it difficult to sit comfortably on chairs. They may need help to develop their core muscles. You can help them by encouraging them to scoot on sit-down trikes without pedals and jump on soft-play equipment.

    3 and4-year-olds

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Encourage children to transfer physical skills learnt in one context to another one. Children might first learn to hammer in pegs to mark their forest school boundary, using a mallet. Then, they are ready to learn how to use hammers and nails on the woodwork bench.

    Encourage children to paint, chalk or make marks with water on large vertical surfaces. Use walls as well as easels to stimulate large shoulder and arm movements. These experiences help children to ‘cross the mid-line’ of their bodies. When they draw a single line from left to right, say, they do not need to pass the paintbrush from one hand to another or have to move their whole body along.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Lead movement-play activities when appropriate. These will challenge and enhance children’s physical skills and development – using both fixed and flexible resources, indoors and outside.

    Model the vocabulary of movement – ‘gallop’, ‘slither’ – and encourage children to use it. Also, model the vocabulary of instruction – ‘follow’, ‘lead’, ‘copy’ – and encourage children to use it.

    Encourage children to become more confident, competent, creative and adaptive movers. Then, extend their learning by providing opportunities to play outdoors in larger areas, such as larger parks and spaces in the local area, or through forest or beach school.

    Explain why safety is an important factor in handling tools and moving equipment and materials. Have clear and sensible rules for everybody to follow.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    You can begin by showing children how to use one-handed tools (scissors and hammers, for example) and then guide them with hand-over-hand help. Gradually reduce the help you are giving and allow the child to use the tool independently.

    The tripod grip is a comfortable way to hold a pencil or pen. It gives the child good control. The pen is pinched between the ball of the thumb and the forefinger, supported by the middle finger with the other fingers tucked into the hand. You can help children to develop this grip with specially designed pens and pencils or grippers. Encourage children to pick up small objects like individual gravel stones or tiny bits of chalk to draw with.

    Encourage children by helping them, but leaving them to do the last steps, such as pulling up their zip after you have started it off. Gradually reduce your help until the child can do each step on their own.

    Children in reception

    Children in reception will be learning to:

  • progress towards a more fluent style of moving, with developing control and grace
  • develop the overall body strength, coordination, balance and agility needed to engage successfully with future physical education sessions and other physical disciplines including dance, gymnastics, sport and swimming
  • Examples of how to support this

    Provide regular access to appropriate outdoor space. Ensure there is a range of surfaces to feel, move and balance on, such as grass, earth and bark chippings.

    Give children an experience of carrying things up and down on different levels (slopes, hills and steps).

    Provide a choice of open-ended materials to play that allows for extended, repeated and regular practising of physical skills like:

    Provide regular access to floor space indoors for movement.

    Ensure that spaces are accessible to children with varying confidence levels, skills and needs.

    Provide a wide range of activities to support a broad range of abilities.

    Allow less competent and confident children to spend time initially observing and listening, without feeling pressured to join in. Create low-pressure zones where less confident children can practise movement skills on their own, or with one or two others.

    Model precise vocabulary to describe movement and directionality, and encourage children to use it.

    Provide children with regular opportunities to practise their movement skills alone and with others.

    Challenge children with further physical challenges when they are ready, such as climbing higher, running faster and jumping further.

    Encourage children to conclude movements in balance and stillness.

    Allow for time to be still and quiet, for example, looking up at the sky, or sitting or lying in a den.

    Encourage children to be highly active and get out of breath several times every day.

    Provide opportunities for children to spin, rock, tilt, fall, slide and bounce.

    Provide a range of wheeled resources for children to balance, sit or ride on, or pull and push. Two-wheeled balance bikes and pedal bikes without stabilisers, skateboards, wheelbarrows, prams and carts are all good options.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

  • use their core muscle strength to achieve a good posture when sitting at a table or sitting on the floor
  • combine different movements with ease and fluency
  • Examples of how to support this

    Before teaching children the correct pencil grip and posture for writing, or how to use a knife and fork and cut with scissors, check:

    Help children to develop the core strength and stability they need to support their small motor skills. Encourage and model tummy-crawling, crawling on all fours, climbing, pulling themselves up on a rope and hanging on monkey bars.

    Offer children activities to develop and further refine their small motor skills. Suggestions: threading and sewing, woodwork, pouring, stirring, dancing with scarves, using spray bottles, dressing and undressing dolls, planting and caring for plants, playing with small world toys, and making models with junk materials, construction kits and malleable materials like clay.

    Regularly review the equipment for children to develop their small motor skills. Is it appropriate for the different levels of skill and confidence of children in the class? Is it challenging for the most dexterous children?

    Continuously check how children are holding pencils for writing, scissors and knives and forks. Offer regular, gentle encouragement and feedback. With regular practice, the physical skills children need to eat with a knife and fork and develop an efficient handwriting style will become increasingly automatic.

    Provide areas for sitting at a table that is quiet, purposeful and free of distraction.

    Give children regular, sensitive reminders about correct posture.

    Provide different chairs at the correct height for the range of children in the class, so that their feet are flat on the floor or a footrest. Provide different tables at the correct height for the range of children in the class. The table supports children’s forearms. The top of the table is slightly higher than the height of the child’s elbow flexed to 90 degrees.

    Create obstacle courses that demand a range of movements to complete, such as crawling through a tunnel, climbing onto a chair, jumping into a hoop and running and lying on a cushion.

    Provide opportunities to move that require quick changes of speed and direction. For example, run around in a circle, stop, change direction and walk on your knees going the other way.

    Encourage precision and accuracy when beginning and ending movements.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

  • develop confidence, competence, precision and accuracy when engaging in activities that involvea ball
  • develop the foundations of a handwriting style which is fast, accurate and efficient
  • further develop the skills they need to manage the school day successfully such as lining up and queuing, and mealtimes
  • Examples of how to support this

    Encourage children to use a range of equipment. These might include:

    Provide a range of different sized ‘balls’ made from familiar materials like socks, paper bags and jumpers that are softer and slower than real balls. Introduce full-sized balls when children are confident to engage with them. Introduce tennis balls, ping pong balls, beach balls and balloons. Introduce a range of resources used to bat, pat and hit a ball, modelling how to do this and giving children plenty of time for practice.

    Introduce children to balls games with teams, rules and targets when they have consolidated their ball skills.

    Encourage children to draw freely. Engage children in structured activities, guide them in what to draw, write or copy.

    Teach and model correct letter formation. Continuously check the process of children’s handwriting (pencil grip and letter formation, including directionality). Provide extra help and guidance when needed.

    Plan for regular repetition so that correct letter formation becomes automatic, efficient and fluent over time.

    Carefully explain some of the rules of lining up and queuing, such as not standing too close or touching others. Give children simple verbal and visual reminders.

    Celebrate, praise and reward children as they develop patience, turn-taking and self-control when they need to line up and wait.

    Teach and model for children how to eat with good manners in a group, taking turns and being considerate to others.


    It is crucial for children to develop a life-long love of reading. Reading consists of 2 dimensions: language comprehension and word reading.

    Language comprehension (necessary for both reading and writing) starts from birth. It only develops when adults talk with children about the world around them and the books (stories and non-fiction) they read with them and enjoy rhymes, poems and songs together.

    Skilled word reading, taught later, involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words.

    Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing).

    Birth to 3

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Song and rhyme times can happen spontaneously throughout the day, indoors and outside, with individual children, in pairs or in small groups.

    You can make song and rhyme times engaging for young children by using a wide range of props or simple instruments.

    Children can choose the songs and rhymes they would like to join in with, using picture cards or by speaking.

    You could learn songs and rhymes from parents. You could also teach parents the songs and rhymes you use in the setting, to support learning at home.

    Choose songs and rhymes which reflect the range of cultures and languages of children in the twenty-first century. Avoid songs which include gender, cultural or racial stereotypes.

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Provide enticing areas for sharing books, stocked with a wide range of high-quality books, matching the many different interests of children in the setting.

    Provide a comfortable place for sharing books, like a sofa. In warm weather, share books outside on a picnic rug or in small tents. Themed book areas can build on children’s interests. Suggestions: relevant books close to small world play about dinosaurs, or cookbooks in the home corner.

    Help children to explore favourite books through linked activities. Suggestions include:

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Point out print in the environment and talk about what it means. Suggestions: on a local walk, point out road signs, shop names and door numbers.

    Provide a wide range of stimulating equipment to encourage children’s mark-making. Suggestions include:

    Once large-muscle coordination is developing well, children can develop small-muscle coordination.

    Playground chalk, smaller brushes, pencils and felt pens will support this.

    3 and4-year-olds

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to understand the 5 key concepts about print:

    Examples of how to support this

    Draw children’s attention to a wide range of examples of print with different functions. These could be a sign to indicate a bus stop or to show danger, a menu for choosing what you want to eat, or a logo that stands for a particular shop.

    When reading to children, sensitively draw their attention to the parts of the books, for example, the cover, the author, the page number. Show children how to handle books and to turn the pages one at a time. Show children where the text is, and how English print is read left to right and top to bottom. Show children how sentences start with capital letters and end with full stops. Explain the idea of a ‘word’ to children, pointing out how some words are longer than others and how there is always a space before and after a word.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

  • engage in extended conversations about stories, learning new vocabulary
  • Examples of how to support this

    Help children tune into the different sounds in English by making changes to rhymes and songs, like changing a word so that there is still a rhyme, for example: “Twinkle, twinkle yellow car”

    Making rhymes personal to children: “Hey diddle diddle, the cat and fiddle, the cow jumped over Haroon.”

    Deliberately miss out a word in a rhyme, so the children have to fill it in: “Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread —.”

    Use magnet letters to spell a word ending like ‘at’. Encourage children to put other letters in front to create rhyming words like ‘hat’ and ‘cat’.

    Choose books which reflect diversity.

    Regular sharing of books and discussion of children’s ideas and responses (dialogic reading) helps children to develop their early enjoyment and understanding of books. Simple picture books, including those with no text, can be powerful ways of learning new vocabulary (for example, naming what’s in the picture). More complex stories will help children to learn a wider range of vocabulary. This type of vocabulary is not in everyday use but occurs frequently in books and other contexts. Examples include: ‘caterpillar’, ‘enormous’, ‘forest’, ‘roar’ and ‘invitation’.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Motivate children to write by providing opportunities in a wide range of ways. Suggestions include:

    Children enjoy having a range of pencils, crayons, chalks and pens to choose from. Apps on tablets enable children to mix marks, photos and video to express meanings and tell their own stories. Children are also motivated by simple home-made books, different coloured paper and paper decorated with fancy frames.

    Help children to learn to form their letters accurately. First, they need a wide-ranging programme of physical skills development, inside and outdoors. Include large-muscle co-ordination - whole body, leg, arm and foot. This can be through climbing, swinging, messy play and parachute games. Plan for small muscle co-ordination: hands and fingers. This can be through using scissors, learning to sew, eating with cutlery, using small brushes for painting and pencils for drawing. Children also need to know the language of direction (‘up’, ‘down’, ‘round’, ‘back’,).

    Children in reception

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Help children to read the sounds speedily. This will make sound-blending easier.

    Ask children to work out the word you say in sounds: for example, h-a-t > hat; sh-o-p > shop.

    Show how to say sounds for the letters from left to right and blend them, for example, big, stamp.

    Help children to become familiar with letter groups, such as ‘th’, ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘ee’ ‘or’ ‘igh’.

    Provide opportunities for children to read words containing familiar letter groups: ‘that’, ‘shop’, ‘chin’, ‘feet’, ‘storm’, ‘night’.

    Listen to children read some longer words made up of letter-sound correspondences they know: ‘rabbit’, ‘himself’, ‘jumping’.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Note correspondences between letters and sounds that are unusual or that they have not yet been taught, such as ‘do’, ‘said’, ‘were’.

    Listen to children read aloud, ensuring books are consistent with their developing phonic knowledge.

    Do not include words that include letter-sound correspondences that children cannot yet read, or exception words that have not been taught.

    Children should not be required to use other strategies to work out words.

    Make the books available for children to share at school and at home. Avoid asking children to read books at home they cannot yet read.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Teach formation as they learn the sounds for each letter using a memorable phrase, encouraging an effective pen grip. When forming letters, the starting point and direction are more important at this stage than the size or position of the letter on a line.

    Show children how to touch each finger as they say each sound. For exception words such as ‘the’ and ‘said’, help children identify the sound that is tricky to spell.

    Support children to form the complete sentence orally before writing.

    Help children memorise the sentence before writing by repeatedly saying it aloud.

    Only ask children to write sentences when they have sufficient knowledge of letter-sound correspondences. Dictate sentences to ensure they contain only the taught sound-letter correspondences.

    Model how you read and re-read your own writing to check it makes sense.


    Developing a strong grounding in number is essential so that all children develop the necessary building blocks to excel mathematically. Children should be able to count confidently, developa deep understanding of the numbers to 10, the relationships between them and the patterns within those numbers.

    By providing frequent and varied opportunities to build and apply this understanding – such as using manipulatives, including small pebbles and tens frames for organising counting – children will develop a secure base of knowledge and vocabulary from which mastery of mathematics is built. In addition, it is important that the curriculum includes rich opportunities for children to develop their spatial reasoning skills across all areas of mathematics including shape, space and measures.

    It is important that children develop positive attitudes and interests in mathematics, look for patterns and relationships, spot connections, ‘have a go’, talk to adults and peers about what they notice and not be afraid to make mistakes.

    Birth to 3

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Encourage babies and young toddlers to play freely with a wide range of objects - toddlers engage spontaneously in mathematics during nearly half of every minute of free play. Suggestions include when appropriate, sensitively join in and comment on:

    Use available opportunities, including feeding and changing times for finger-play, outdoors and inside, such as ‘Round and round the garden’.

    Sing finger rhymes which involve hiding and returning, like ‘Two little dicky birds’.

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Draw attention to changes in amounts, for example, by adding more bricks to a tower, or eating things up.

    Offer repeated experiences with the counting sequence in meaningful and varied contexts, outside and indoors. Suggestions include counting:

    Help children to match their counting words with objects, for example, move a piece of apple to one side once they have counted it. If children are saying one number word for each object, it is not always necessary to correct them if they skip a number. Learning to count accurately takes a long time and repeated experience. Confidence is important.

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Describe children’s climbing, tunnelling and hiding using spatial words like ‘on top of’, ‘up’, ‘down’ and ‘through’.

    Provide blocks and boxes to play freely with and build with, indoors and outside.

    Provide inset puzzles and jigsaws at different levels of difficulty.

    Use the language of size and weight in everyday contexts.

    Provide objects with marked differences in size to play freely with. Suggestions include:

    Provide patterned material – gingham, polka dots, stripes, and small objects to arrange in patterns. Use words like ‘repeated’ and ‘the same’ over and over.

    3 and4-year-olds

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Point to small groups of 2 or 3 objects: “Look, there are 2!” Occasionally ask children how many there are in a small set of 2 or 3.

    Regularly say the counting sequence, in a variety of playful contexts, inside and outdoors, forwards and backwards, sometimes going to high numbers. For example, hide and seek or rocket-launch countdowns.

    Count things and then repeat the last number. For example, “1, 2, 3 – 3 cars”. Point out the number of things whenever possible, so, rather than just ‘chairs’, ‘apples’ or ‘children’, say ‘2 chairs’, ‘three apples’, ‘4 children’.

    Ask children to get you several things and emphasise the total number in your conversation with the child.

    Use small numbers to manage the learning environment, for example, have a pot labelled ‘5 pencils’ or a crate for ‘3 trucks’. Draw children’s attention to these throughout the session and especially at tidy-up time: “How many pencils should be in this pot?” or “How many have we got?”.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Encourage children in their own ways of recording, for example, how many balls they managed to throw through the hoop. Provide numerals nearby for references such as wooden numerals in a basket or a number track on the fence.

    Discuss mathematical ideas throughout the day, inside and outdoors. Suggestions include:

    Encourage children to play freely with blocks, shapes, shape puzzles and shape-sorters. Sensitively support and discuss questions like: “What is the same and what is different?”

    Encourage children to talk informally about shape properties using words like ‘sharp corner’, ‘pointy’ or ‘curvy’. Talk about shapes as you play with them: “We need a piece with a straight edge.”

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Discuss position in real contexts. Suggestions: how to shift the leaves off a path or sweep water away down the drain.

    Use spatial words in play, including ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘under’, ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘besides’ and ‘between’. For example, “Let’s put the troll under the bridge and the billy goat beside the stream.”

    Take children out to shops or the park and recall the route and the order of things seen on the way.

    Set up obstacle courses, interesting pathways and hiding places for children to play with freely. When appropriate, ask children to describe their route and give directions to each other.

    Provide complex train tracks, with loops and bridges, or water-flowing challenges with guttering that direct the flow to a water tray, for children to play freely with.

    Read stories about journeys, such as ‘Rosie’s Walk’.

    Provide experiences of size changes. Suggestions: “Can you make a puddle larger?”, “When you squeeze a sponge, does it stay small?”, “What happens when you stretch the dough, or elastic?”

    Talk with children about their everyday ways of comparing size, length, weight and capacity. Model more specific techniques, such as lining up ends of lengths and straightening ribbons, discussing accuracy: “Is it exactly…?”

    Provide a variety of construction materials like blocks and interlocking bricks. Provide den-making materials. Allow children to play freely with these materials, outdoors and inside. When appropriate, talk about the shapes and how their properties suit the purpose.

    Provide shapes that combine to make other shapes, such as pattern blocks and interlocking shapes, for children to play freely with. When appropriate, discuss the different designs that children make. Occasionally suggest challenges, so that children build increasingly more complex constructions.

    Use tidy-up time to match blocks to silhouettes or fit things in containers, describing and naming shapes. For example, “Where does this triangular one, cylinder or cuboid go?”

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Provide patterns from different cultures, such as fabrics.

    Provide a range of natural and everyday objects and materials, as well as blocks and shapes, for children to play with freely and to make patterns with. When appropriate, encourage children to continue patterns and spot mistakes.

    Engage children in following and inventing movement and music patterns, such as clap, clap, stamp.

    Talk about patterns of events, in cooking, gardening, sewing or getting dressed. Suggestions include:

    Talk about the sequence of events in stories.Use vocabulary like ‘morning’, ‘afternoon’, ‘evening’ and ‘night-time’, ‘earlier’, ‘later’, ‘too late’, ‘too soon’, ‘in a minute’.

    Count down to forthcoming events on the calendar in terms of the number of days or sleeps. Refer to the days of the week, and the day before or day after, ‘yesterday’ and ‘tomorrow’.

    Children in reception

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Develop the key skills of counting objects including saying the numbers in order and matching one number name to each item.

    Say how many there are after counting – for example, “…6, 7, 8. There are 8 balls” – to help children appreciate that the last number of the count indicates the total number of the group. This is the cardinal counting principle.

    Say how many there might be before you count to give a purpose to counting: “I think there are about 8. Shall we count to see?”

    Count out a smaller number from a larger group: “Give me seven…” Knowing when to stop shows that children understand the cardinal principle.

    Build counting into everyday routines such as register time, tidying up, lining up or counting out pieces of fruit at snack time.

    Sing counting songs and number rhymes and read stories that involve counting.

    Play games which involve counting.

    Identify children who have had less prior experience of counting and provide additional opportunities for counting practice.

    Show small quantities in familiar patterns (for example, dice) and random arrangements.

    Play games which involve quickly revealing and hiding numbers of objects.

    Put objects into 5 frames and then 10 frames to begin to familiarise children with the tens structure of the number system.

    Prompt children to subitise first when enumerating groups of up to 4 or 5 objects: “I don’t think we need to count those. They are in a square shape so there must be 4.” Count to check.

    Encourage children to show a number of fingers ‘all at once’, without counting.

    Display numerals in order alongside dot quantities or tens frame arrangements.

    Play card games such as snap or matching pairs with cards where some have numerals, and some have dot arrangements. Discuss the different ways children might record quantities (for example, scores in games), such as tallies, dots and using numeral cards.

    Count verbally beyond 20, pausing at each multiple of 10 to draw out the structure, for instance when playing hide and seek, or to time children getting ready.

    Provide images such as number tracks, calendars and hundred squares indoors and out, including painted on the ground, so children become familiar with 2-digit numbers and can start to spot patterns within them.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Provide collections to compare, starting with a very different number of things. Include more small things and fewer large things, spread them out and bunch them up, to draw attention to the number not the size of things or the space they take up. Include groups where the number of items is the same. Use vocabulary such as ‘more than’, ‘less than’, ‘fewer’, ‘the same as’, ‘equal to’. Encourage children to use these words as well.

    Distribute items evenly, for example: “Put 3 in each bag,” or give the same number of pieces of fruit to each child. Make deliberate mistakes to provoke discussion.

    Tell a story about a character distributing snacks unfairly and invite children to make sure everyone has the same.

    Make predictions about what the outcome will be in stories, rhymes and songs if one is added, or if one is taken away.

    Provide ‘staircase’ patterns which show that the next counting number includes the previous number plus one.

    Focus on the composition of 2, 3, 4 and 5 before moving onto larger numbers.

    Provide a range of visual models of numbers: for example, 6 as double 3 on dice, or the fingers on one hand and one more, or as 4 and 2 with 10 frame images.

    Model conceptual subitising: “Well, there are 3 here and 3 here, so there must be 6.”

    Emphasise the parts within the whole: “There were 8 eggs in the incubator. Two have hatched and 6 have not yet hatched.”

    Plan games which involve partitioning and recombining sets. For example, throw 5 beanbags, aiming for a hoop. How many go in and how many don’t?

    Have a sustained focus on each number to and within 5. Make visual and practical displays in the classroom showing the different ways of making numbers to 5 so that children can refer to these.

    Help children to learn number bonds through lots of hands-on experiences of partitioning and combining numbers in different contexts, and seeing subitising patterns.

    Play hiding games with a number of objects in a box, under a cloth, in a tent, in a cave, such as “6 went in the tent and 3 came out. I wonder how many are still in there?”

    Intentionally give children the wrong number of things. For example, ask each child to plant 4 seeds then give them 1, 2 or 3. “I’ve only got 1 seed, I need 3 more.”

    Spot and use opportunities for children to apply number bonds: “There are 5 of us but only 2 clipboards. How many more do we need?”

    Place objects into a 5 frame and talk about how many spaces are filled and unfilled.

    Provide high-quality pattern and building sets, including pattern blocks, tangrams, building blocks and magnetic construction tiles, as well as found materials. Challenge children to copy increasingly complex 2D pictures and patterns with these 3D resources, guided by knowledge of learning trajectories: “I bet you can’t add an arch to that,” or “Maybe tomorrow someone will build a staircase.”

    Teach children to solve a range of jigsaws of increasing challenges.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Investigate how shapes can be combined to make new shapes, for example, 2 triangles can be put together to make a square. Encourage children to predict what shapes they will make when the paper is folded. Wonder aloud how many ways there are to make a hexagon with pattern blocks.

    Find 2D shapes within 3D shapes, including through printing or shadow play.

    Make patterns with varying rules (including AB, ABB and ABBC) and objects and invite children to continue the pattern. Make a deliberate mistake and discuss how to fix it.

    Model comparative language using ‘than’ and encourage children to use this vocabulary. For example: “This is heavier than that.”

    Ask children to make and test predictions. “What if we pour the jugful into the teapot? Which holds more?”

    Understanding the world

    Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community.

    The frequency and range of children’s personal experiences increases their knowledge and sense of the world around them – from visiting parks, libraries and museums to meeting important members of society such as police officers, nurses and firefighters. In addition, listening to a broad selection of stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems will foster their understanding of our culturally, socially, technologically and ecologically diverse world.

    As well as building important knowledge, this extends their familiarity with words that support understanding across domains. Enriching and widening children’s vocabulary will support later reading comprehension.

    Birth to 3

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Encourage babies’ explorations and movements, such as touching their fingers and toes. Show delight at their kicking and waving.

    Provide open-ended play materials inside and outdoors. Suggestions include:

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to explore and respond to different natural phenomena in their setting and on trips.

    Examples of how to support this

    Encourage toddlers and young children to enjoy and explore the natural world. Suggestions include:

    Encourage children’s exploration, curiosity, appreciation and respect for living things. Suggestions include:

    Encourage children to bring natural materials into the setting, such as leaves and conkers picked up from the pavement or park during autumn.

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Be open to children talking about differences and what they notice. For example, when children ask questions like: “Why do you wear a scarf around your head?” or “How come your hair feels different to mine?” Point out the similarities between different families, as well as discussing differences.

    Model positive attitudes about the differences between people including differences in race and religion. Support children’s acceptance of difference. Have resources which include:

    3 and4-year-olds

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Provide interesting natural environments for children to explore freely outdoors.

    Make collections of natural materials to investigate and talk about. Suggestions include:

    Provide equipment to support these investigations such as magnifying glasses or a tablet with a magnifying app. Encourage children to talk about what they see.

    Model observational and investigational skills. Ask out loud: “I wonder if…?”

    Plan and introduce new vocabulary, encouraging children to use it to discuss their findings and ideas.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Spend time with children talking about photos and memories. Encourage children to retell what their parents told them about their life story and family.

    Invite different people to visit from a range of occupations, such as a plumber, a farmer, a vet, a member of the emergency services or an author.

    Plan and introduce new vocabulary related to the occupation and encourage children to use it in their speech and play. Consider opportunities to challenge gender and other stereotypes.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Provide mechanical equipment for children to play with and investigate. Suggestions: wind-up toys, pulleys, sets of cogs with pegs and boards.

    Show and explain the concepts of growth, change and decay with natural materials. Suggestions include:

    Plan and introduce new vocabulary related to the exploration. Encourage children to use it in their discussions, as they care for living things.

    Encourage children to refer to books, wall displays and online resources. This will support their investigations and extend their knowledge and ways of thinking.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Draw children’s attention to forces. Suggestions include:

    Plan and introduce new vocabulary related to the exploration and encourage children to use it.

    Provide children with opportunities to change materials from one state to another. Suggestions include:

    Explore how different materials sink and float.

    Explore how you can shine light through some materials, but not others. Investigate shadows. Plan and introduce new vocabulary related to the exploration and encourage children to use it.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Ensure that resources reflect the diversity of life in modern Britain.

    Encourage children to talk about the differences they notice between people, whilst also drawing their attention to similarities between different families and communities. Answer their questions and encourage discussion. Talk positively about different appearances, skin colours and hair types.

    Celebrate and value cultural, religious and community events and experiences.

    Help children to learn each other’s names, modelling correct pronunciation.

    Practitioners can create books and displays about children’s families around the world, or holidays they have been on. Encourage children to talk about each other’s families and ask questions.

    Use a diverse range of props, puppets, dolls and books to encourage children to notice and talk about similarities and differences.

    Children in reception

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    During dedicated talk time, listen to what children say about their family.

    Share information about your own family, giving children time to ask questions or make comments. Encourage children to share pictures of their family and listen to what they say about the pictures.

    Using examples from real life and from books, show children how there are many different families.

    Talk about people that the children may have come across within their community, such as:

    Listen to what children say about their own experiences with people who are familiar to them.

    Present children with pictures, stories, artefacts and accounts from the past, explaining similarities and differences.

    Offer hands-on experiences that deepen children’s understanding, such as visiting a local area that has historical importance. Include a focus on the lives of both women and men.

    Show images of familiar situations in the past, such as homes, schools, and transport.

    Look for opportunities to observe children talking about experiences that are familiar to them and how these may have differed in the past.

    Offer opportunities for children to begin to organise events using basic chronology, recognising that things happened before they were born.

    Frequently share texts, images, and tell oral stories that help children begin to develop an understanding of the past and present.

    Feature fictional and non-fictional characters from a range of cultures and times in storytelling. Listen to what children say about them.

    Draw out common themes from stories, such as bravery, difficult choices and kindness, and talk about children’s experiences with these themes.

    In addition to storytelling, introduce characters, including those from the past using songs, poems, puppets, role play and other storytelling methods.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Draw children’s attention to the immediate environment, introducing and modelling new vocabulary where appropriate.

    Familiarise children with the name of the road, and or village, town or city the school is located in. Look at aerial views of the school setting, encouraging children to comment on what they notice, recognising buildings, open space, roads and other simple features.

    Offer opportunities for children to choose to draw simple maps of their immediate environment, or maps from imaginary story settings they are familiar with.

    Name and explain the purpose of places of worship and places of local importance to the community to children, drawing on their own experiences where possible.

    Take children to places of worship and places of local importance to the community.

    Invite visitors from different religious and cultural communities into the classroom to share their experiences with children.

    Weave opportunities for children to engage with religious and cultural communities and their practices throughout the curriculum at appropriate times of the year.

    Help children to begin to build a rich bank of vocabulary with which to describe their own lives and the lives of others.

    Teach children about places in the world that contrast with locations they know well. Use relevant, specific vocabulary to describe contrasting locations.

    Use images, video clips, shared texts and other resources to bring the wider world into the classroom. Listen to what children say about what they see.

    Avoid stereotyping and explain how children’s lives in other countries may be similar or different in terms of how they travel to school, what they eat, where they live, and so on.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Provide children with have frequent opportunities for outdoor play and exploration. Encourage interactions with the outdoors to foster curiosity and give children the freedom to touch, smell and hear the natural world around them during hands-on experiences.

    Create opportunities to discuss how we care for the natural world around us.

    Offer opportunities to sing songs and join in with rhymes and poems about the natural world.

    After close observation, draw pictures of the natural world, including animals and plants.

    Observe and interact with natural processes, such as ice melting, a sound causing a vibration, light travelling through transparent material, an object casting a shadow, a magnet attracting an object and a boat floating on water.

    Encourage focused observation of the natural world. Listen to children describing and commenting on things they have seen whilst outside, including plants and animals.

    Encourage positive interaction with the outside world, offering children a chance to take supported risks, appropriate to themselves and the environment within which they are in.

    Name and describe some plants and animals children are likely to see, encouraging children to recognise familiar plants and animals whilst outside.

    Teach children about a range of contrasting environments within both their local and national region.

    Model the vocabulary needed to name specific features of the world, both natural and made by people.

    Share non-fiction texts that offer an insight into contrasting environments.

    Listen to how children communicate their understanding of their own environment and contrasting environments through conversation and in play.

    Guide children’s understanding by draw children’s attention to the weather and seasonal features.

    Provide opportunities for children to note and record the weather. Select texts to share with the children about the changing seasons.

    Throughout the year, take children outside to observe the natural world and encourage children to observe how animals behave differently as the seasons change.

    Look for children incorporating their understanding of the seasons and weather in their play.

    Expressive arts and design

    The development of children’s artistic and cultural awareness supports their imagination and creativity. It is important that children have regular opportunities to engage with the arts, enabling them to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials.

    The quality and variety of what children see, hear and participate in is crucial for developing their understanding, self-expression, vocabulary and ability to communicate through the arts.

    The frequency, repetition and depth of their experiences are fundamental to their progress in interpreting and appreciating what they hear, respond to and observe.

    Birth to 3

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Babies are born ready to enjoy and make music from birth.

    Stimulate their enjoyment of music through singing and playing musical and singing games which are attuned to the baby.

    Provide babies, toddlers and young children with a range of different types of singing, sounds and music from diverse cultures. Music and singing can be live as well as pre-recorded.

    Play and perform music with different:

    Introduce children to songs, including songs to go with routines. Suggestion: when washing hands, sing “This is the ways we wash our hands…”.

    Provide children with instruments and with ‘found objects’, for example, tapping a bottle onto the table or running a twig along a fence. Encourage children to experiment with different ways of playing instruments.

    Introduce children to a broad selection of action songs from different cultures and languages. Sing songs regularly so that children learn the words, melody and actions off by heart.

    Encourage children to accompany action songs. They can do this with their own movements or by playing instruments.

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Ensure that the physical environment includes objects and materials with different patterns, colours, tones and textures for babies and young children to explore.

    Stimulate babies’ and toddlers’ early interest in making marks. Offer a wide range of different materials and encourage children to make marks in different ways.

    Suggestions include:

    Babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Children generally start to understand the difference between pretend and real from around the age of 2.

    Help children to develop their pretend play by modelling, sensitively joining in and helping them to elaborate it. For example, help to develop a child’s home corner play of feeding a ‘baby’, by suggesting a nappy-change and then a song as you settle the ‘baby’ to sleep.

    Stimulate young children’s interest in modelling. Suggestions include providing:

    Encourage young children to explore materials and resources, finding out what they are, what they can do and decide how they want to use them.

    3 and4-year-olds

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Children generally start to develop pretend play with ‘rules’ when they are 3 or 4 years old. Suggestion: offer pinecones in the home corner for children to pour into pans and stir like pasta.

    Some rules are self-created (the pole is now a horse, or the pinecones are now pasta in the pot). Other rules are group-created (to play in the home corner, you must accept the rule that one of your friends is pretending to be a baby).

    Provide lots of flexible and open-ended resources for children’s imaginative play.

    Help children to negotiate roles in play and sort out conflicts.

    Notice children who are not taking part in pretend play, and help them to join in.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Offer opportunities to explore scale. Suggestions include:

    Listen and understand what children want to create before offering suggestions.

    Invite artists, musicians and craftspeople into the setting, to widen the range of ideas which children can draw on.

    Suggestions include:

    Help children to develop their drawing and modelmaking. Encourage them to develop their own creative ideas. Spend sustained time alongside them. Show interest in the meanings children give to their drawings and models. Talk together about these meanings.

    Encourage children to draw from their imagination and observation.

    Help children to add details to their drawings by selecting interesting objects to draw, and by pointing out key features to children and discussing them.

    Talk to children about the differences between colours. Help them to explore and refine their colour mixing – for example: “How does blue become green?”

    Introduce children to the work of artists from across times and cultures. Help them to notice where features of artists’ work overlap with the children’s, for example in details, colour, movement or line.

    3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Help children to develop their listening skills through a range of active listening activities. Notice ‘how’ children listen well, for example, listening whilst painting or drawing, or whilst moving.

    Play, share and perform a wide variety of music and songs from different cultures and historical periods.

    Play sound-matching games.

    When teaching songs to children be aware of your own pitch (high and low). Children’s voices are higher than adult voices. When supporting children to develop their singing voice use a limited pitch range. For example, ‘Rain rain’ uses a smaller pitch (high and low) range than many traditional nursery rhymes. Children’s singing voices and their ability to control them is developing. Encourage them to use their ‘singing’ voice - when asked to sing loudly, children often shout.

    Sing slowly, so that children clearly hear the words and the melody of the song.

    Use songs with and without words – children may pitch-match more easily without words. Try using one-syllable sounds such as ‘ba’.

    Clap or tap to the pulse of songs or music and encourage children to do this.

    Offer children a wide range of different instruments, from a range of cultures. This might also include electronic keyboards and musical apps on tablets.

    Encourage children to experiment with different ways of playing instruments. Listen carefully to their music making and value it. Suggestion: record children’s pieces, play the pieces back to the children and include them in your repertoire of music played in the setting.

    Children in reception

    Children in reception will be learning to

    Examples of how to support this

    Teach children to develop their colour-mixing techniques to enable them to match the colours they see and want to represent, with step-by-step guidance when appropriate.

    Provide opportunities to work together to develop and realise creative ideas.

    Provide children with a range of materials for children to construct with. Encourage them to think about and discuss what they want to make. Discuss problems and how they might be solved as they arise. Reflect with children on how they have achieved their aims.

    Teach children different techniques for joining materials, such as how to use adhesive tape and different sorts of glue.

    Provide a range of materials and tools and teach children to use them with care and precision. Promote independence, taking care not to introduce too many new things at once.

    Encourage children to notice features in the natural world. Help them to define colours, shapes, textures and smells in their own words. Discuss children’s responses to what they see.

    Visit galleries and museums to generate inspiration and conversation about art and artists.

    Children in reception will be learning to:

    Examples of how to support this

    Give children an insight into new musical worlds. Introduce them to different kinds of music from across the globe, including traditional and folk music from Britain.

    Invite musicians in to play music to children and talk about it.

    Encourage children to listen attentively to music. Discuss changes and patterns as a piece of music develops.

    Offer opportunities for children to go to a live performance, such as a pantomime, play, music or dance performance.

    Provide related costumes and props for children to incorporate into their pretend play.

    Play pitch-matching games, humming or singing short phrases for children to copy.

    Use songs with and without words – children may pitch match more easily with sounds like ‘ba’.

    Sing call-and-response songs, so that children can echo phrases of songs you sing. Introduce new songs gradually and repeat them regularly. Sing slowly, so that children can listen to the words and the melody of the song.

    Notice and encourage children to keep a steady beat, this may be whilst singing and tapping their knees, dancing to music, or making their own music with instruments and sound makers.

    Play movement and listening games that use different sounds for different movements. Suggestions include march to the sound of the drum or creep to the sound of the maraca.

    Model how to tap rhythms to accompany words, such as tapping the syllables of names, objects, animals and the lyrics of a song.

    Play music with a pulse for children to move in time with and encourage them to respond to changes: they could jump when the music suddenly becomes louder, for example.

    Encourage children to create their own music.

    Encourage children to replicate choreographed dances, such as pop songs and traditional dances from around the world. Encourage children to choreograph their own dance moves, using some of the steps and techniques they have learnt.

    Children in reception will be learning to develop storylines in their pretend play.

    Examples of how to support this

    Provide a wide range of props for play which encourage imagination. Suggestions include:

    Support children in deciding which role they might want to play and learning how to negotiate, be patient and solve conflicts.

    Help children who find it difficult to join in pretend play. Stay next to them and comment on the play. Model joining in. Discuss how they might get involved.