Early Years Foundation Stage

The early years foundation stage is how the government and early years professionals describe the time in your child’s life between birth and age five

The early years foundation stage framework explains how and what your child will be learning to support their healthy development. This is used in all childcare settings and primary school classes who look after children up to the age of five.

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

What does it mean for me as a parent?

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

Children will mostly develop within the three prime areas first.

These are:

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

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

As children grow, the prime areas will help them to develop skills in four specific areas.

These are:

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

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

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

How can I help with my child’s learning?

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

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

  • Sharing books together
  • Playing outside
  • Joining in with their games
  • Invite their friends over
  • Talking about everyday things
  • Having fun together

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

Within day nurseries and pre-schools, children are often cared for within smaller groups based on their age and development. This allows staff to tailor activities depending on where each child is within their development. Outdoor play should be accessible throughout the session.