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EYFS – ‘Learning through play … and topics!’ 

Wednesday 18th December

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This blog entry was written by Ellen Campbell, Primary School teacher & senior management for primary education.

‘Look at the state of you!’ This was the first reaction of a Dad who picked up their four year old child from my Reception Class during their first term at school. She ran out to him, arms wide open only to have to listen to how she needs to look after her school uniform, it was very expensive, you will have to have another bath tonight ……

As a fellow EYs teacher we all know how important it is for a child to learn through play. We have it drilled into us through courses, lectures, seminars, meetings etc. as well as having seen first hand the impact positive and constructive play has on a child’s learning and development and yet the messages still are not getting through to all. The amount of responses that I get about my job being ‘just finger painting all day’ or ‘you just play all day!’ Maybe that is the fault of the schools, not informing the parents enough about the EYFS curriculum, maybe it is the pressures of the government who have created a curriculum which, in my opinion, expects children to be too formal too early. Or maybe it’s people that see ‘Early Years’ as a daunting area and yet it is, in my eyes, the most important part of a child’s learning.

I also believe the EYFS starts as soon as a child is born. Parents have a responsibility to educate their children before they even get to nursery/preschool/school and yet some still see it as solely the teachers job to educate.

Again, whether this is lack of education, the pressures of parents/carers to work long hours and the impact of a busy life!

An extremely successful way of planning for ‘purposeful and powerful’ play where children not only enjoy their learning but also learn from it and extend their learning, either by themselves or through adult intervention, is by using a topic approach. Many parents will understand this approach, not only through their own school education, but perhaps through having older siblings in school. Some successful topics which I have witnessed to have had excellent results are:

  • Using Julia Donaldson books as a stimulus, e.g. going on a welly walk to collect sticks to build their own ‘stickman’
  • ‘On the farm’ where the learning has followed on from a trip to the farm where the children have been able to see and meet the animals that they are going to learn about
  • ‘Supertato’ allowed the children to talk about their own ‘hero’s’ in their lives as well as talk about things that they are good at and want to get better at

Parents could use this topic idea at home if struggling for ideas to entertain/stimulate/educate their children at home and through the holidays. Something as simple as picking a book or walking to the park can create weeks worth of learning! It can be done as cheaply as you want it to be!

I could go on and on however I know that I am preaching to the people who already know all of this and more. In my experience children learn best from being ‘hands on’, experiencing things for themselves, learning by making mistakes, going on trips to places they have never been before, even if it may seem so simple to us!

But I think the biggest thing is to work alongside parents and carers to develop their understand of how crucial the EY’s are and how we, as professionals, can work together with them so that they understand how they can impact their children’s education too, starting with ‘What learning did you do at school today?’ being asked when they are picked up from school, with play dough in their hair, because they were developing their fine motor skills and yogurt all over their jumper because they eat a range of food! (Come one, we all know what objectives they would be covering!)

You can find Ellen Campbell via her social channels using the handle @ellsbellsbooks

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