Play And Learning In Childrens Education Young People Essay

From 2008, child minders, nurseries, pre-schools and reception classes are required to pursue the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), and will be checked under this framework by OfSTED. The EYFS has been planned to provide support and direction to all those working with children up to the age of 5 in how best to enable children to feel safe and supported and to extend their learning and development.

In EYFS, stress is placed upon understanding that each child and their family are unique, with different needs and concerns. Effective practitioners should be asking themselves ‘What sort of child is this and how am I going to support their development and learning?’ The EYFS has rightly set the relationship between practitioner and child at its core because we have a very special, influential and vitally important role as we support, facilitate, model, reflect, evaluate and engage with children along their learning journey.

Children’s learning and development is presented in 6 areas (personal social & emotional development; communication, language and literacy; problem solving, reasoning and numeracy; knowledge and understanding of the world; creative development; physical development) which bring together the skills, knowledge and experiences appropriate for babies and children as they grow, learn and develop.

Children’s development is presented under six overlapping phases (birth – 11 months, 8 – 20 months, 16 – 26 months, 22 – 36 months, 30 – 50 months and 40 – 60 months). This overlap is intended to emphasise the fact that there can be big differences between the development of children in different areas of learning, and between children of similar ages.

I particularly like this fact as it reinforces the important principle that children learn and develop in different ways and at varying rates but also that all areas of learning and development are equally important and inextricably interconnected.

E2 –

Forest Schools

The are a number of points where Forest Schools encourage and inspire children of any age through positive outdoor experiences.

Forest Schools aim to develop:

The personal development of the children so that there personal confidence, self esteem, self awareness, and social skills improve

A wider range of physical skills

Understanding of natural and man made environments

Understanding of environmental issues

Self Regulation, Intrinsic Motivation, Empathy, Good social communication skills, Independence and a positive mental attitude.

Forest School create a unique learning environment that is used to encourage a range of individuals, community groups and larger organisations to utilise their local open space for interactive play, health, recreation and personal development uses. The children would be encouraged to learn through play in the forests and develop their imagination through play

Forest Schools originated in Sweden in the 1950s when children started to be taught outside. They learnt about the natural world and the environment through songs, stories and practical activities with woodland materials. The first Forest School in Britain was initiated by Bridgwater College ten years ago.

Forest Schools use the outdoors to help children learn practical and social skills as well as independence. From as young as five years old, children can sit around a camp fire and learn how important it is to treat fire respectfully.

Child Care and Education – pg 289

Reggio Emilia

Started in Italy in the late 1940’s after the war. The aim is based on the ideas that a child is creative competent learner who discover in collaboration with adults and other children so they develop social learning. The basic idea of Reggio is believing in the importance of discovery, both indoor and outdoor, learning environments are stimulating and that children should reflect on their learning and document their own learning.

There are seven points that Reggio is based on

Creative thinking / using their imagination

Exploring and discovery / finding things out on their own

Free play

Following childrens interests / doing what they enjoy

Valuing, encouraging all ways children express themselves

Asking children to talk about ideas and to expand on them

Asking children to re-visit their ideas

There are also some central approaches to the Reggio Emelia approach

Low adult to children ratios

Teachers as learners and reflective practioners.

Child Care and Education – pg 289

Child Development – pg 155

What is child development theories?

Child development theories are an organized set of principles that are designed to explain and predict something. Over the years, psychologists and other scientists have devised a variety of theories with which to explain observations and discoveries about child development.

In addition to providing a broader framework of understanding, a good theory permits educated guesses-or hypotheses-about aspects of development that are not yet clearly understood.

These hypotheses provide the basis for further research. A theory also has practical value. When a parent, educator, therapist, or policymaker makes decisions that affect the lives of children, a well-founded theory can guide them in responsible ways.

Child development theories can also limit understanding, such as when a poor theory misleadingly emphasizes unimportant influences on development and underestimates the significance of other factors.

It is therefore essential that theories are carefully evaluated and tested through research, whose results often lead to improvements in theoretical claims. In addition, when theories are compared and contrasted, their strengths and limitations can be more easily identified.

There are four primary child development theories: psychoanalytic, learning, cognitive, and sociocultural. Each offers insights into the forces guiding childhood growth.

Each also has limitations, which is why many developmental scientists use more than one theory to guide their thinking about the growth of children.

Below are some major child development theorists and their theories.

Arnold Gesell

Main Theory

Development genetically determined by universal “maturation patterns” which occur in a predictable sequence.

Gesell’s classic study involved twin girls, both given training for motor skills but one given training for longer than the other.

There was no measurable difference in the age at which either child acquired the skills, suggesting that development had happened in a genetically programmed way, irrespective of the training given.

A child learns to whether or not an adult teaches him/her, suggesting physical development at least is largely pre-programmed.

By studying thousands of children over many years, Gesell came up with “milestones of development” – stages by which normal children can accomplish different tasks. These are still used today.

Sigmund Freud

Main Theory

Experiences in early childhood influence later development. Assumes sexual factors are major factors, even in early childhood.

Freud’s work was heavily criticised for lack of substantial evidence. He regarded basic sexual instincts as being the driving force behind virtually all behaviour.

He regarded the development of personality as being the balance between the Id, the Ego and the SuperEgo. The Id strives for unrealistic gratification of basic desires, the SuperEgo strives for unrealistic moral responsibility and conscience while the Ego acts to compromise these two opposing forces.

There are many unproven aspects to Freud’s work, for example Freud theorised that characteristics like generosity or possessiveness were related to childhood factors like parental attitudes to toilet training.


Main Theory

Reinforcement and punishment moulds behaviour. Children are conditioned by their experiences.

Skinner maintained that learning occurred as a result of the organism responding to, or operating on, its environment, and coined the term operant conditioning to describe this phenomenon.

He did extensive research with animals, notably rats and pigeons, and invented the famous Skinner box, in which a rat learns to press a lever in order to obtain food.

Alfred Bandura

Main Theory

Learning takes place by imitation. This differs from Skinner’s “conditioning” because there is more emphasis on inner motivational factors.

Bandura’s theory known as “Social Learning Theory” has been renamed “Social Cognitive Theory” to accomodate later developments of the theory.

Bandura is seen by many as a cognitive psychologist because of his focus on motivational factors and self-regulatory mechanisms that contribute to a person’s behaviour, rather than just environmental factors.

This focus on cognition is what differentiates social cognitive theory from Skinner’s purely behaviouristic viewpoint.

Lev Vygotsky

Main Theory

Development is primarily driven by language, social context and adult guidance.

Lev Vygotski was a Russian psychologist who died prematurely. His most productive years were at the Institute of Psychology in Moscow (1924-34), where he developed ideas on cognitive development, particularly the relationship between language and thinking.

His writings emphasised the roles of historical, cultural, and social factors in cognition and argued that language was the most important symbolic tool provided by society.

Jean Piaget

Main Theory

Development takes place in distinct stages of cognitive development. Adults influence but the child is building their own thinking systems.

Jean Piaget is known for his research in developmental psychology. He studied under C. G. Jung and Eugen Bleuler.

He was involved in the administration of intelligence tests to children and became interested in the types of mistakes children of various ages were likely to make.

Piaget began to study the reasoning processes of children at various ages. Piaget theorized that cognitive development proceeds in four genetically determined stages that always follow the same sequential order.

Erik Erikson

Theorist Erik Erikson also proposed a stage theory of development, but his theory encompassed development throughout the human lifespan.

Erikson believed that each stage of development is focused on overcoming a conflict. Success or failure in dealing with conflicts can impact overall functioning.

E3 –

The guidance states that “Play underpins the delivery of all the EYFS” and there are constant reminders throughout the guidance for practitioners to facilitate child initiated learning through play. As the keystone to being an effective practitioner is tuning into children’s interests and thoughts so that we can tap into what they know and love to stimulate and inspire, play is also at the heart of the EYFS’s delivery and can be so motivational for everyone involved. Just as an onion adds essential flavour to hundreds of recipes, so too can the EYFS. By using it, delving deep into the many layers and learning from all of the supporting materials we can enrich young childrens’ lives by being reflective and well equipped facilitators enjoying the learning journey with them!

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is about improving life chances for all children, by giving them the opportunity to have the best possible start, regardless of their family circumstances or the setting they attend. The EYFS will be designed to deliver improved outcomes for all children, across every area of learning and development. We know that there are particular gains for disadvantaged children from early access to high quality care and education and we will focus on closing the achievement gap between those children and others.

2. Through the Childcare Bill, we seek to establish a single coherent phase of development for all young children, as announced in the 10 year strategy for childcare ‘Choice for parents, the best start for children’. We will provide a flexible system that fosters and supports their development from birth, where they will interact with adults that are appropriately trained and experienced; in environments that are safe, caring and loving. The approach of practitioners will be age appropriate, ensuring that there are different activities for children of different ages and at different stages of their development. Through the EYFS parents can feel secure knowing that all settings will allow children to progress at a pace that’s right for them as individuals, taking account of any particular needs they may have.

3. For young children, care and learning are indistinguishable. Care cannot be considered to be of good quality unless it provides opportunities for children to learn and develop. Learning cannot be considered to be of good quality unless it is provided within an environment where all children feel safe, secure and included. By applying the same system to all providers we will ensure a level of consistency and quality across all settings. The child’s needs do not change depending on the setting and nor should the standards and quality experienced by the child

The Early Years Foundation Stage – is a central part of the ten year childcare strategy:

– Ensuring a consistent approach to care and learning from birth to the end of the Foundation Stage.

– Incorporating elements of the National Standards.

– Has a play-based approach

– Focuses on stages of development rather than chronological, age based teaching and learning

The overarching aim of the EYFS is to help children achieve the Every Child Matters five outcomes:


1. Staying safe

2. Being healthy

3. Enjoying and achieving

4. Making a positive contribution

5. Achieving economic wellbeing


The EYFS aims to help children achieve the 5 outcomes by:

1. Setting standards

2. Promoting Equality of opportunity

3. Creating a framework for partnership working

4. Improving quality and consistency

5. Laying a secure foundation for future learning and development


The EYFS principles are grouped into 4 themes

1. A unique child.

Principle – Every child is a competent learner from birth who can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured

2. Positive Relationships

Principle – Children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships with parents and/or a key person

3. Enabling Environments

Principle – The environment plays a key role in supporting and extending children’s development and learning

4. Learning and Development

Principle – Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates and all areas of learning and development are equally important and inter-connected.



There are 5 Welfare Requirements

1. Safeguarding and promoting children’s welfare

2. Suitable person

3. Suitable premises, environment and equipment

4. Organisation

5. Documentation


For each Welfare requirement there are:

General requirements

Specific requirements

Statutory Guidance to which providers should have regard (Further information is provided in the Practice guidance)



There are six stages of development and each one is matched, in all 6 areas of learning, to a photo of a baby or child in the practice guidance. The stages overlap: 


1. Birth to 11 months

2. 8 to 20 months

3. 16 to 26 months

4. 22 to 36 months

5. 30 to 50 months

6. 40 to 60 months (can be 71 mths for a September born child)

Stages are more important than ages and every area of development IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT; 

Physical, cognitive, linguistic, spiritual, social, emotional.

In order for children to learn successfully they need to be in a secure environment which is physically comfortable. Children can spend long days in a setting and need to have space where they can relax and rest.

Babies and young children make learning connections in their brains faster and better in an enriched environment. Adult interactions which help support and extend their learning make a big difference to learning, as does physical activity during the session.

E4 and B1 –

The theorists, Piaget, and Vygotsky, both had views on the significance about the role of play and learning in the early years, and both found it to be a crucial part of a child’s development. Piaget’s idea of self discovery proposed that children needed minimal adult interactions to help them learn through life, this was his lone scientist theory’ (Lindon 2001). He believed that the children tried, without adult help, to make sense of the world and understand what was going on around them. He had similar thoughts on his theory of child language acquisition. Not only this, but he had a notion that play was a window that reflected the goings on in the life of a child. However, Vygotsky argued differently. He proposed that children are social learners, and liked to explore and discover new things with the help of adults, not without. This was his scaffolding theory and the zone of proximal development’, the ZPD (Whitebread, 2003). Furthermore, Bruner argued that when the children are older they stop learning new things, and start to build on what they already know (Lindon, 2001). If children were left to teach themselves, as Piaget suggests, the children may not learn all they need to know, such as Maths. The subject of Maths needs adult interaction and teachings thus making sure that the children understand correctly, and that the necessary information is being learnt. Furthermore, some children, even in a play situation, will continually return to the same area and objects because it is their comfort zone. Evidently this way the child will fail to benefit from the learning

A number of ‘popular theorists’ had different approaches to a child’s learning and development which is linked to intellectual and social development.

Bowlby popularised the ideas that a baby must have an emotional bond with its mother during the first two years of its life.  He said that if this bond was not developed during that time there would be a negative impact for the child and would lead to a lack of ‘social, emotional and intellectual’ development. Bowlby was the first theory to focus on the formation of parent-child relationships. It explained the connection between relationships that occur early in our lives and those that happen later, including romantic ones. Attachment theory has generated thousands of scientific studies, and has led to changes in many childcare policies, such as those allowing parents to stay with their children in hospitals.

Bandura took a very different approach to developmental psychology and demonstrated that children learn development from role models.   Bandura’s approach is an extension of behavioral theories which emphasise the way we learn behaviour from others, our environment, experiences and so on.   Bandura was particularly interested in the way children learn new behaviours through observing and imitating role models. They learn from sibling, brothers, sisters,friends.

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory modified traditional learning theory which was based on stimulus-response relationships. It considered learning to be no different among infants, children, adults, or even animals. Bandura’s approach is influential in the treatment of problem behaviors and disorders.

Piaget was cognitive development. His influential approach to child development is called the structuralist approach. He argued that younger children do not have the capabilities to think in the same way as older children and those children have to go through a process of cognitive development in order to achieve the abilities of an older child or adult.   Piaget believed that there are a number of stages that all children go through in the same order.  Piaget argues that these stages are instinctive. 


Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory created a revolution in human development theory. He proposed the existence of four major stages, or “periods,” during which children and adolescents master the ability to use symbols and to reason in abstract ways.

Learning can be based on a spiral approach (Janet Moyles 1989) which starts with free-play which allows children to explore e.g. To explore water using equipment provided. If the child is ready the model  progresses to structured play where the teacher uses his/her observations of the children’s freeplay to direct the children’s exploration e.g. To explore how to change the size of a splash. Can you make a small splash, can you make a big splash? It is important to allow children the opportunity to practise the skill they have mastered through lone and peer supported play.

When the child is ready i.e. can change the size of the splash, the model moves on. The child can then have the opportunity to make sense of what they have learned by making their own decisions and choices to apply the skill to solve a problem e.g To apply their understanding of changing the size of a splash to make a controlled splash. Can they have a competition to see who can make the biggest splash and smallest splash? Children who have not developed the skill to control their splash may need more free-play and directed play. Further opportunity should be given for the child to master their skill. The child can then be further challenged by applying their skill to a different context and/or resources. Which ball/object do they think will makes the biggest/smallest splash? Predict and test. Sequence objects according to the size of splash they make.

“Children’s play reflects their wide ranging and varied interests and pre-occupations. In their play children learn at their highest level. Play with peers is important for children’s development.”

Through play our children explore and develop learning experiences, which help them make sense of the world. They practice and build up ideas, and learn how to control themselves and understand the need for rules. They have the opportunity to think creatively alongside other children as well as on their own. They communicate with others as they investigate and solve problems. They express fears or re-live anxious experiences in controlled and safe situations.

Active Learning

“Children learn best through physical and mental challenges. Active learning involves other people, objects, ideas and events that engage and involve children for sustained periods.”

Active learning occurs when children are motivated and interested. Children need to have some independence and control over their learning. As children develop their confidence they learn to make decisions. It provides children with a sense of satisfactions as they take ownership of their learning.

E5 –

Observing children is different from being alert and noticing what is happening around you. Observations have to be focused and carried out in an order to plan for and assess children in a purposeful manner

The information below gives advice on the following on some principles for observational assessment, and how to put them into practice:

1. Assessment must have a purpose.

2. Ongoing observation of children participating in everyday activities is the most reliable way of building up an accurate picture of what children know, understand, feel, are interested in and can do.

3. Practitioners should both plan observations and be ready to capture the spontaneous but important moments.

4. Judgements of children’s development and learning must be based on skills, knowledge, understanding and behaviour that are demonstrated consistently and independently.

5. Effective assessment takes equal account of all aspects of the child’s development and learning.

6. Accurate assessments are reliant upon taking account of contributions from a range of perspectives.

7. Assessments must actively engage parents in developing an accurate picture of the child’s development.

8. Children must be fully involved in their own assessment.

However observations are only as good as the importance of record keeping as a tool to help practitioners, children and their parents reflect on children’s attainment and progress.

E6 –

A multi professional approach when working with children and parents is important as it helps children not ‘to slip through the net’.

Communication is the biggest part of the multi – professional team, as everyone needs to know what is going on.

The multi professional approach team is made up of a lot of different agencies, they are agencies including Schools and teachers, Hospitals and doctors, Social workers, Police and many more. They all work together to help parents and children to stop tragic cases such as death, child abuse, etc.

Multi professional approach allows professionals share knowledge about a family needs so that the parents don’t have to ask the same questions over and over again.

The professionals are aware of each others roles in supporting the family so that conflicting advice can be minimise. It is essential that each agency communicates well and understands not only there role and responsibilities but the others agencies as well.

Parents/guardians are the most important people in a child’s life, and recognise the importance of this. We have a responsible role that involves sharing care of the child with parents/guardians; listen to parents/guardians, as they are the ‘expert’ on their child.

E7 and D1 –

Every Child Matters is a fundamental part of the curriculum. The new aims for the curriculum – agreed by school leaders, teachers and other education professionals – and the new emphasis on personal development are closely linked to Every Child Matters, promoting learners’ wellbeing and enabling them to develop their potential as healthy, enterprising and responsible citizens. The new personal, learning and thinking skills framework seeks to develop the qualities and skills that learners need for success in learning and in life.

Every Child Matters states that every child, whatever their background or circumstances, should have the support they need to: be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution, achieve economic wellbeing

These five outcomes need to be at the heart of everything a school does and reinforced through every aspect of its curriculum – lessons, events, routines, the environment in which children learn and what they do out of school.

The following sections, which can be accessed via the links on the left-hand side of this page, look at the place of Every Child Matters within the whole-school curriculum, and at the types of learning experience – both in and outside lessons – that schools can design to meet each outcome. 

ECM in the curriculum

Be healthy

Stay safe

Enjoy and achieve

Make a positive contribution

Achieve economic wellbeing

Early Years Curriculum


Early Education

Providers involved in the care and education of young children from birth to five follow statutory guidance from the Department for Children, Schools and Families.  This guidance is intended to support practitioners to meet the diverse needs of all children, enabling them to enjoy and achieve.

Children birth to three years

Care, learning and development for babies and children up to three is available at a variety of settings including day nurseries, registered pre schools and childminders. Practitioners use the Birth to Three Matters Framework to support the young children in their care.  The Framework:

values and celebrates babies and children

recognises their individuality, efforts and achievements

recognises that all children from birth develop and learning though interaction with people and exploration of the world around them

recognises the ‘holistic’ nature of development and learning

The child is at the centre of the Birth to Three Matters Framework. It identifies four Aspects, which celebrate the skill and competence of babies and young children and highlights the links between growth, learning, development and the importance of the environment in which they are cared for and educated.

These four ‘Aspects’ are

A Strong Child

A Skilful Communicator

A Competent Learner

A Healthy Child

All children, whichever provision they attend, will experience a play based curriculum of planned, independent and adult led activities.  These experiences may take place indoors and/or outdoors and will aim to develop knowledge, skills and understanding in the following areas:

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Helps children to mix and form relationships with individuals and groups, playing and learning co-operatively.  Children are supported to develop a positive sense of themselves and an awareness of the needs and feelings of others

Communication, Language and Literacy

Children are supported to develop skills in talking and listening, reading and writing.  They are introduced to a rich learning environment where these skills are valued.

Mathematical Development

Mathematical understanding is developed through a variety of practical activities based on every day situations.  Children are supported to develop mathematical ideas and use related vocabulary while taking part in sorting, matching, ordering, counting, pattern making and working with numbers, shapes and measures.

Knowledge and Understanding of the World

Children are encouraged to be curious, to ask questions, to experiment and solve problems to help them make sense of the world they live in. A variety of practical experiences build the foundation for later learning about science, design and technology, information and communication technology, history, geography and religious education.

Physical Development

Young children are supported to develop physical control, co- ordination and manipulation, confidence and ability to move in different ways and handle large and small equipment.  Children learn how their bodies work and how to stay active, safe and healthy.

Creative Development

Children have opportunities to take part in a range of creative experiences.  As their imagination develops they have opportunities to communicate and express their ideas and feelings in a number of ways through artwork, music, dance and role play. 

These six areas of learning are of equal importance and through activities and experiences children learn and develop in a holistic manner. 

E8 –

We recognise that p

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