The Early Years Foundation Stage

The Early Years Foundation Stages is a framework (Click here to read the EYFS Statutory Framework) for learning, development and care for children from birth to five. Play is vital for children. Quite literally. It is through play that babies and young children learn, grow and have fun.  It helps them to understand the world around them and to develop socially and emotionally.

By singing songs, reading together, playing games with letters and numbers, and having fun with friends gives them a head start. That means not just a happy childhood but it also helps them with their confidence, so they can handle what life may bring them.

It is not about introducing a curriculum for young children.  Or making them read or write before they’re ready.  Quite the reverse.  It means being sure each individual child is learning through high quality play, that’s tailored to them.  So they develop at their own pace, having fun, making friends and learning as they play.  Becoming confident, secure children who, when the time comes, are better prepared for school.  Not pushed, not pressured.  But ready to reach their potential!

How does the Early Years Foundation Stage work?

The EYFS has been developed with parents, carers, early years and childcare providers and academics.  It brings together their experience in a clear, straightforward way. The child is at the centre of the Early Years Foundation Stage.  The people who work with your child will pick up on their interests and abilities, and build on them through play.

They will think for instance, about fun ways to help them develop their language skills.  About what will encourage their creativity.  About how they tackle small challenges. All the while, they’ll make sure that each child in their care is getting the support they need, and above all is enjoying learning through play.

How we deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage?

At Horsted Keynes Preschool, the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum forms the underpinning and overarching framework for learning and development, for all of the children in our care. We intend to enable our children to learn holistically, through play, experimentation and exploration, while making friends, developing social skills and cultural capital. We have created an environment that fosters personal, social and emotional development, reflects British values, and the development of self-esteem and self-efficacy to take forward into school and beyond. We ensure that our curriculum is able to support children with additional needs, those who are disadvantaged or in a minority group, ensuring inclusion for all. Our team value diversity and understand how to apply the EYFS to reflect this, we will work 1:1 or obtain additional support when needed.  
Our team plan ‘In the moment’, meaning each child receives a differentiated learning experience, and ‘next steps’ occur spontaneously. This ensures that all teachable moments are utilised. The focus child approach to observation, ‘wow moments’, and detailed tracking methods, enable assessments to be made regularly and fed back to parents. We believe that our approach, in conjunction with the EYFS, provides an optimal environment that perfectly suits the way that young children learn, play and therefore thrive.  The whole team work collaboratively, with a shared vision for the continuous provision, documentation and how we care for the children at our setting, which is reflected on daily, in order to adapt to all eventualities. 

We deliver the EYFS through play, observation and planning for every individual child as well as for all the children as a group within Preschool.

Each child has a key person who is responsible for monitoring their progress within the setting and for sharing and celebrating that progress with you. Your child’s key person builds an Online Learning Journal which documents your child’s progress within the EYFS while they are with us at Preschool. You have 24/7 access to the journal once your account has been set up.

We encourage you to contribute to your child’s Learning Journal by adding comments, observations and photos from home. We love to see what the children have been up to at the weekends and in the holidays and knowing this information helps us to build relationships and provide an environment that meets your child’s individual interests.

The Areas of Development and Learning comprise:

Prime areas

  • Personal, social and emotional development

  • Physical development

  • Communication and language

Specific areas

  • Literacy

  • Mathematics

  • Understanding the world

  • Expressive arts and design

For each area, the level of progress that children are expected to have attained by the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage is defined by the Early Learning Goals. These goals state what it is expected that children will know, and be able to do, by the end of the reception year of their education.

The Development Matters guidance sets out the likely stages of progress a child makes along their learning journey towards the Early Learning Goals. Our setting has regard to these matters when we assess children and plan for their learning. Our programme supports children to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding they need for:

Communication and language

  • Listening, attention & understanding

  • Speaking


The development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development. Children’s back-and-forth interactions from an early age form the foundations for language and cognitive development. The number and quality of the conversations they have with adults and peers throughout the day in a language-rich environment is crucial.

In both small and large groups, children are encouraged to extend their vocabulary and fluency by talking and listening, and by hearing and responding to stories, songs, and rhymes. We build children's language effectively by commenting on what they are interested in or doing and echoing back what they say with new vocabulary added.

We provide opportunities for children to communicate thoughts, ideas and feelings and build up relationships with adults and each other. We give opportunities to share and enjoy a wide range of rhymes, music, songs, poetry, stories, and non-fiction books. We enable children to thrive by frequently reading to them and engaging them actively in stories, non-fiction, rhymes, and poems, and then providing them with extensive opportunities to use and embed new words in a range of contexts.


Through conversation, story-telling and role play, where children share their ideas with support and modelling from us, and sensitive questioning that invites them to elaborate, children become comfortable using a rich range of vocabulary and language structures.

Personal, social and emotional development

  • Self-Regulation

  • Managing self

  • Building relationships


Children’s personal, social, and emotional development (PSED) is crucial for children to lead healthy and happy lives and is fundamental to their cognitive development. Underpinning their personal development are the important attachments that shape their social world.

Within a nurturing environment, children are individually supported in managing emotions, developing a positive sense of self, setting themselves simple goals, having confidence in their own abilities, persisting and waiting for what they want and directing attention as necessary. They learn how to understand their own feelings and those of others.


Through adult modelling and guidance, they learn how to look after their bodies, including healthy eating, and manage personal needs independently. They are encouraged to work and concentrate independently and through supported interaction with other children, they learn how to make good friendships, co-operate and resolve conflicts peaceably.


These attributes will provide a secure platform from which children can achieve at school and in later life.


Physical development

  • Gross motor skills

  • Fine motor skills


Physical activity is vital in children’s all-round development, enabling them to pursue happy, healthy and active lives. Gross and fine motor skills develop incrementally throughout early childhood and provide the foundation for developing healthy bodies and social and emotional well-being. A range of equipment and opportunities, both indoors and outdoors and a high level of adult supervision enables children to create and meet physical challenges safely and allows them to develop their core strength, stability, balance, spatial awareness, co-ordination and agility.

Fine motor control and precision helps with hand-eye co-ordination, which is later linked to early literacy. Repeated and varied opportunities to explore and play with small world activities, puzzles, arts and crafts and the practice of using small tools, with feedback and support from adults, allow children to develop proficiency, control and confidence.



  • Comprehension

  • Word reading

  • Writing


It is crucial for children to develop a life-long love of reading. Reading consists of two dimensions: language comprehension and word reading. Language comprehension (necessary for both reading and writing) starts from birth. It only develops when adults talk with children about the world around them and the books (stories and non-fiction) they read with them, and enjoy rhymes, poems and songs together. A well-stocked book corner gives every child the opportunity and encouragement to become familiar with books, able to handle them and aware of their uses, both for reference and as a source of stories and pictures. Skilled word reading, taught later, involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. Children are helped to understand that written symbols carry meaning, to be aware of the purposes of writing and, when they are ready, to use drawn and written symbols for themselves. Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing). We provide opportunities for children to see adults writing and for children to experiment with writing for themselves through making marks, personal writing symbols and conventional script.



  • Number

  • Numerical patterns


Developing a strong grounding in number is essential so that all children develop the necessary building blocks to excel mathematically. Through activities and experiences such as cooking, children are encouraged to count confidently, develop a deep understanding of the numbers to 10, the relationships between them and the patterns within those numbers. Songs, games and picture books help children become aware of number sequences and, when they are ready, to use simple mathematical operations such as adding and subtracting.


Providing frequent and varied opportunities to build and apply this understanding - such as using manipulatives, including small pebbles and numicon for organising counting - children will develop a secure base of knowledge and vocabulary from which mastery of mathematics is built. We provide rich opportunities for children to develop their spatial reasoning skills across all areas of mathematics including shape, space and measures. It is important that children develop positive attitudes and interests in mathematics, look for patterns and relationships, spot connections, ‘have a go’, talk to adults and peers about what they notice and not be afraid to make mistakes.

Understanding the world

  • Past & present

  • People, culture and communities

  • The natural world

  • Technology

Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community. The frequency and range of children’s personal experiences increases their knowledge and sense of the world around them. Children are assisted in exploring and understanding their environment, both within the group and within the wider community such as visiting the park or our local care home. We foster children's understanding of our culturally, socially, technologically and ecologically diverse world, through listening to a broad selection of stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems. As well as building important knowledge, this extends their familiarity with words that support understanding across domains. Enriching and widening children’s vocabulary will support later reading comprehension.

Expressive arts and design

  • Creating with materials

  • Being imaginative & expressive


The development of children’s artistic and cultural awareness supports their imagination and creativity. Children have regular opportunities to engage with the arts. They are encouraged to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, including paint, glue, crayons and pencils as well as natural and discarded resources, provides for open-ended exploration of colour, shape and texture and the development of skills in painting, drawing and collage. Children join in with and respond to music and stories, and there are many opportunities for imaginative role play, both individually and as part of a group. These quality opportunities which can be repeated time and again allow children to develop their understanding, self-expression, vocabulary and ability to communicate through the arts.

How do you know how your child’s doing?

Here at Horsted Keynes Preschool we put together information on how your child is doing.  We take photographs and describe what they have been doing during the session or week and upload these to our online learning journal called Tapestry.  We also keep a scrap book for each child which we fill with the drawings and craft that they have done during the session. We hold Parent consultations once per term but we are always available for you to chat to during the sessions or email during the week.

Your child's learning will have ongoing reviews including two key assessments:

If your child moves between early years providers between the ages of two and three, the review will usually be done by the early years childcare provider where your child spends the most time. Your childcare provider must give you a short-written summary of your child's development in the three prime areas of learning and development when your child is aged between 24 and 36 months.

  • The second is in the final term of the year in which they reach the age of 5, using the EYFS Profile.

This will assess your child's development against 17 early learning goals which are linked to the goals in "Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage" between the ages of 40 and 60 months.

Your child's school or early years provider has to share the results of the profile with you. A copy will also be given to your child's Year 1 teacher to help plan activities which meet the stage of their development and learning needs.

We must also make sure your child has enough opportunities to learn and reach a good standard in English language during the EYFS. If your child's home language is not English, then we must give opportunities for your child to develop and use their home language in play and learning, supporting their language development at home.

If you're worried about your child's progress, please talk to us and together you can agree how to support your child.

In the moment planning

We believe children are at the centre of what we do and we believe that children learn best when they are interested, inquisitive and engaged, which at this age and stage of development, is best achieved through play. Play gives children the opportunity to explore their own interests, enquire, plan and take risks. Additionally, play also allows children to use their creativity, develop their imagination, build on their dexterity and physical skills, not to mention supporting the development of cognitive and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children engage and interact in the world around them.

Delivery of the 'Early Years Foundation Stage' curriculum (EYFS) involves a continuous cycle of three parts.

  • Observing children – What can they do and what do they know?

  • Assessing based on those observations - What is their next step?

  • Planning – How I am going to teach them the next step?

We respect children as individuals and understand that they all develop differently. Therefore, on reflection, we felt that our previous method of planning, with a specific learning intention in mind, and then teaching to a small group was not necessarily the most effective method.

Firstly, it often interrupted what they were doing (something they had chosen to do, that they were deeply involved in) and therefore, understandably, we were met with reluctance and little engagement in what we were trying to do. Secondly, we weren't necessarily meeting the needs of individual children, due to planning for the entire cohort.

By following 'in the moment planning', a model developed by Anna Ephgrave, rather than adults deciding what children will be learning ahead of time, we engage with the children at activities they have chosen and teach the children 'in the moment'. Through play, children have access to all aspects of the EYFS curriculum, all the time, without limits or adult agenda. This means that we can meet the needs of individuals more effectively. Adult-led activities will still occur in connection with special events such as Easter, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Bonfire night etc. These events give an experience of cultural experiences that children would be unlikely to self-initiate and enhance their understanding of the world around them.

The Teachers Role

In the model of 'in the moment planning' the role of the teacher looks a little different. The children will have free-flow access to the provision, which means that the children can choose where their learning takes place. The adult will stand back;

  • observe children during play and tune into what they are saying and doing, and to interact when appropriate to move the learning on

  • 'scaffold' the child's learning by modelling, asking questions to extend thinking, demonstrating, discussing, joining in, standing back and watching, introducing new resources or ideas,

  • supporting and encouraging children to take risks and generally being the support that child needs to be the best that they can be. 

  • assess what they need to do/know/learn next

  • plan their teaching, which will be delivered there and then

It is essential that adults take advantage of opportunities to seize the moment when a child shows a level of interest and curiosity that can be drawn out and then enhanced and built upon, “teachable moments”. Teachable moments are about recognising that children often learn in an unconscious way during casual or less formal interactions. They require us to:

  • Provide opportunities and environments that stimulate curiosity (each child will have different things that stimulate them – while one might enjoy painting, another might like dressing up)

  • Observe and listen closely so they can follow the child’s lead

  • Pick up on the thing/place/person/idea that has sparked the child’s interest

  • Use open ended questions

  • Praise and reinforce positive learning experiences


Practitioners need to be sensitive to teachable moments and mindful of how they can extend children’s thinking across all areas of the EYFS curriculum. These teachable moments allow children to achieve next steps in their learning and development and are not something that are to be delivered at a point in the future, but right there 'in the moment'.

You may notice an adult standing back and watching. This is important part of our planning as adults need to be clear what the children are doing, to ensure that they can engage appropriately and enhance, not interrupt their play.

We have 2 or 3 focus children each week, which means that these are the children our observations will be focused upon. Each half-term every child will be a focus child. This does not mean that the other children are not learning or getting adult interaction but rather that they are continuing with their own learning journeys independently, whilst we ensure that each child has equal opportunity for quality teaching and learning.

We will continue to lead sessions for phonics with children.

How you can help

At the end of each week we will email you an interest sheet.

All we ask is that you fill in the sheet, with as much detail as possible, and over the weekend add some photos of your child and family to your child’s Tapestry account. You can even fill out the interest form, take a photo and add it to Tapestry instead of handing it back the following week.

Documenting Planning

As already mentioned, our planning is ‘in the moment’ and therefore documented retrospectively. We have a weekly sheet on which we make notes about what the children have been interested in, and learning, in each area. We use this to reflect on what is going well, what could be further developed or improved and respond to this as soon as possible. Additionally, for the focus each week, we record the observations, interactions and achievements throughout the week which are then collated onto Tapestry to show the children’s learning journey for that week.

We plan sessions which are practical, engaging and active, giving the children the skills they can use when accessing the environment independently.

Shared settings

If your child attends more than one setting, we would like to work with them to discuss your child’s development and work together to provide a cohesive care package for you and your child.