Learning Through Play in EYFS

In EYFS children learn in a range of ways, covering the 7 areas of learning:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Communication and Language
  • Physical Development
  • Literacy
  • Mathematical Development
  • Understanding of the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design

Some of the learning is more formal due to the nature of what is being taught such as phonics, however the majority of the time children are learning through play and supported by teachers in extending this play to further their learning and experiences.

Play underpins the EYFS. It also underpins learning and all aspects of children’s development. Through play, children develop language skills, their emotions and creativity, social and intellectual skills. For most children their play is natural and spontaneous although some children may need extra help from teachers.

Play takes place indoors and outdoors and it is in these different environments that children explore and discover their immediate world. It is here they practise new ideas and skills, they take risks, show imagination and solve problems on their own or with others.

The role that teachers have is crucial. Teachers provide time and space and appropriate resources. These might include clothes, boxes, buckets, old blankets or anything that will inspire play and fire children’s imaginations. They observe play and join in when invited, watching and listening before intervening. They value play and provide safe but challenging environments that support and extend learning and development.

Providing high quality planned experiences for children’s play is an important way for teachers to support children’s learning that is both enjoyable and challenging. When children play, they are learning at the highest level. Play can extend certain areas of their learning – for example, developing language skills by promoting talk between children or introducing new vocabulary that they use and act out in their play.

Topics can be introduced to promote experiences for children such as doctors, families, animals and children can get involved with setting up and exploring role-play areas linked to the topic. 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.

Written by Mrs Grey, Reception Teacher