Walking into a classroom for our youngest students, three to five-year-olds in the Foundation Stage, it is easy to see that the environment is designed to encourage exploration, independence, creativity, learning and fun. Through careful planning and a Continuous Provision layout, classrooms have different areas and resources freely accessible.
Foundation Stage settings allow children the independence to investigate their surroundings. The classroom environment is meticulously thought out to create a space that fosters curiosity and invites children to learn in ways that make sense to each individual. Children take ownership of their learning. Imaginations run wild. It’s marvellous!
”Strong relationships with the adults are prioritised, allowing the adults to guide each child as they engage in learning. Each child is unique and can thrive in the enabling environment.Jen ten WoldeFoundation Stage 2 Year Leader, Junior School Vlaskamp
The question is, without turning your house into a dedicated Early Years environment, what can parents do to support their children’s learning at home? Activities that are fun for children, allow them to revisit what they are learning at school, and are manageable for parents (i.e. do not involve creating a mud kitchen in your house or hours of set-up) can seem impossible.
We turned to our resident experts, the Foundation Stage teachers from our Junior School campuses, for help. They have compiled some of their favourite fun activities that will support your child’s learning at home. Stay tuned for a regular series of blogs sharing activities and ideas for you and your family.
The best part? It turns out ‘Learn through Play’ activities are fun for children AND parents! It’s a great way to connect with your child and observe their fantastic curiosity and creativity.
Below you will find an overview of some of the terms and elements of the Early Years curriculum and principles. In addition, we have included some helpful resources.
If you have any that you would recommend, please share these in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
What do children learn in the Foundation Stage?
The Foundation Stage is a two-year programme of learning for children aged 3 to 5 years old.
The seven areas of learning and development in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework are:
Fiona Aartsen, Achievement and Progress Leader of Foundation and Key Stage 1 at Junior School Leidschenveen, explains,
Three areas are known as the prime areas and are seen as particularly important for igniting curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and building children’s capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive.
These primes areas are Communication and Language, Physical Development, and Personal, Social and Emotional Development.
These prime areas of focus are reinforced and applied to the four specific areas: Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World and Expressive Arts and Design.
Vicki Broderick, Foundation Stage 1 Year Leader at Junior School Vlaskamp, notes,
All of our learning follows the children’s interests. They are so engaged; they don’t even know they are learning! The Early Years curriculum gives us the freedom to offer a tailored approach to all children ensuring that everyone makes progress.
What is Learn through Play?
”Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhoodFred RogersAmerican television host of the early years programme, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
Following the scientific research of children’s development, educators approach to teaching and learning in the Foundation Stage complements children’s instinctive desire to investigate, explore and ultimately, understand how their world works. Concepts and skills are introduced to the children through hands-on activities that allow experiential learning and may look like “just” play.
”Providing high quality planned experiences for children’s play is an important way for adults to support children’s learning that is both enjoyable and challenging. When children play, they are learning at the highest level… Such a playful approach to learning builds on children’s interests and responds to their ideas for play and also allows scope for structured activities to teach specific skills and knowledge.Early Years Matters
Children’s play is comparable to how scientists experiment. Rather than approaching a situation with a set goal, you can see children practising new skills, testing their ideas, and making adjustments.
“Play-based learning allows children to construct knowledge themselves, by allowing children to ‘learn through doing’. During play, everything is an experiment, and if something does not work as a child has planned, they are safe to try again,” says Fiona Aartsen.
And just like for adults, when something is fun and engaging, it becomes more meaningful for children. That is why at the heart of all teaching and learning in the Foundation Stage is play!
”We need to consider that young children learn in quite different ways [than adults]. They learn by comparing physical experiences, by interactions with other people and their own feelings. And they learn an enormous amount through their imagination… Play is what pulls together the logical and creative parts of the brain.Professor Doris FrombergDirector of Early Childhood Teacher Education at Hofstra University
Learn more about the importance of play in children’s development:
Research Outreach: Learning through play: New perspectives on early years development.
family lives: Why play matters
Early Years Matters: Play & Learning
The LEGO Foundation: Why play
The LEGO Foundation in support of UNICEF: Learning through play: Strengthening learning through play in early childhood education programmes
What is Continuous Provision?
Continuous Provision is a term that refers to the learning environment. It includes the resources and materials available to children and areas set up for specific types of activities and experiential learning that stay consistent throughout the year. Importantly, children have space, time, and opportunity to choose what activities they want to engage with. “It should enable children to bring their magic with them into the environment and shape it. Equally, it should create the conditions for collaboration and self-chosen purpose” (Bottrill, 2021).
In the Foundation Stage at the BSN, the Continuous Provision extends outside the classroom into the outdoor spaces. The outside environments are designed with the same careful planning as the indoor spaces. Furthermore, students are empowered to move and explore between these areas throughout the day.
”My definition of Continuous Provision is not ‘the provision that is continually out’. It is far more rich and complex than that. If you just put random resources out within your environment, then you are relying on a great deal of luck when it comes to children’s engagement and attainment.
Continuous Provision should ‘continue the provision for learning in the absence of an adult’. What I mean by that is the areas of provision you create should be dictated by need, linked to assessment and broadly levelled so that there is challenge and support in all areas for all children.Alistair Bryce-CleggAn established educational consultant specialising in the Early Years
What does Continuous Provision look like?
When you walk into a Foundation Stage classroom, you may notice elements of Continuous Provision without even realising it. You may see:
- A lot of open storage so that children can see what resources are available.
- Different types of materials and resources, but the cupboards are not overloaded. The motto in Continuous Provision is ‘Less is more.’
- Resources that are open-ended and could be used in a lot of different ways. Open-ended resources make for open-ended learning!
- Children are empowered! They learn to access, transport and re-set resources as they see fit for their learning.
The essential role of the adults in Continuous Provision
You may also notice that teachers support and guide children in a particular way. It is a priority for adults to build strong relationships with the children that they teach. A phrase that teachers keep at the forefront of their approach is ‘unique child’ (this stems from the 2017 statutory framework of the Early Years Foundation Stage).
Appreciating the unique child means that teachers know each child’s interests, strengths, skills and are aware of the progress that they are making. This individualised attention is important to ensure that children feel secure and open to learning.
Teachers can guide children as they engage in learning, help them build on their skills, and “… facilitate playfulness. This in itself harbours a culture of respect, collaboration, thoughtfulness, resilience, creativity and kindness: all of which are attributes we look for in our youngest learners,” explains Fiona Aartsen.
Read more about Continuous Provision:
Greg Bottrill’s blog, ‘Can I go and play now‘
Alistair Bryce-Clegg’s blog, ABCDoes
Elizabeth de Libero
Elizabeth is the Digital Marketing Coordinator and Strategy Lead at The British School in The Netherlands. After living and working in the United States and Italy, she now calls The Hague home. She brings her experience in public relations and brand management to create multi-channel marketing strategies and compelling content. Elizabeth is an avid reader in her free time, loves travelling and spending time with her family and miniature poodle, Floyd.