With changes being implemented to the Early Years Foundation Stage, what does it all mean for the children starting out on their educational journey, and how can parents help? Michelle Van Wyk shows how you can help those baby steps
The day my third and last child started nursery marked a huge, but emotional milestone, in my life. I kept thinking about how empty my heart and life felt, but I should have been thinking about her and what she was about to gain. A child’s journey through nursery is one filled with learning, growing, exploring, discovering and having fun. So I had to change my mindset and watch her develop the skills she required for her time at school.
So, you may be wondering, what exactly does a three-year-old get up to during the three hour session in nursery? Oh to be a fly on the wall. I have had the privilege of teaching in a nursery school setting. I had a very special time there and watched the children develop like a little caterpillar turning into a butterfly. There is so much more that goes on than parents and carers see when they drop off or collect their children from nursery. A stimulating setting will engage and entice children to explore all the areas of play. A nursery is a place where children are free to choose the activities they would like to take part in. You will find a sand tray, water tray, playdough table, junk modelling, block corner, home corner, a writing area, painting and of course a comfortable reading area. I would love to be a three-year-old being able to enjoy all these activities. They are not set up by default, however; all these areas and planned and given careful thought by the nursery staff. They are planned to provide the children with optimal learning experiences.
From when your child is born up until the age of five, their early years experience should be happy, active, exciting, fun and secure, and support their development, care and learning needs. Nurseries registered to deliver the EYFS must follow a legal document called the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework. Just what is this you may be asking? The EYFS Framework exists to support all professionals working in the EYFS to help your child, and was developed with a number of early years experts and parents.
There are seven areas that are used to plan your child’s learning and activities (see below). The professionals teaching and supporting your child will make sure that the activities are suited to your child’s unique needs. This is a little bit like a curriculum in primary and secondary schools, but it’s suitable for very young children, and it’s designed to be really flexible so that staff can follow your child’s unique needs and interests. Children in the EYFS learn by playing and exploring, being active, and through creative and critical thinking, which takes place both indoors and outside.
You may wonder, as a mum or dad, how you can help with your child’s learning? All the fun activities that you do with your child at home are important in supporting their learning and development, and have a really long lasting effect on your child’s learning as they progress through school. If you make the time every day to do some of the following things with your child it will make a real difference to your child’s confidence as a young learner: sharing stories and singing nursery rhymes together; on a trip to the supermarket talk about all the different packaging shapes; talk about the numbers, colours, words and letters you see when you are out and about; use the weather – shadows, rain puddles, snow, wind, mist and sun to extend your child’s vocabulary.
So as my little girl comes to the end of her journey through nursery, I reflect on how much she has learned and at how much fun she has had. She has developed special friendships and above all her confidence has grown. Enjoy your child’s journey, be there for them and listen when they talk to you.
Michelle Van Wyk is part of the team at Laidlaw Education. Laidlaw Education and Laidlaw School Search can assist you with all your educational needs; 020 8487 9517; laidlaweducation.co.uk
The EYFS Framework: the seven steps
Children should mostly develop the three prime areas first. These are:
• Communication and language;
• Physical development; and
• Personal, social and emotional development.
As children grow, the prime areas will help them to develop skills in four specific areas.
• Understanding the world; and
• Expressive arts and design.