2 September 2022

The Early Years Foundation Stage: Blossoming through play

The Early Years Foundation Stage: Blossoming through play

Early Years foundation stage

"Every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their potential. Children develop quickly in the early years and a child’s experiences between birth and age five have a major impact on their future life chances. A secure, safe and happy childhood is important in its own right. Good parenting and high quality early learning together provide the foundation children need to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up." - EYFS Statutory Framework, 2021

This statement is part of the foreword of the EYFS Framework document, which sets the tone for what we are trying to achieve at King’s Bangkok. Early Years education is where the seeds of empathy, collaboration, respect and kindness are sown. Alongside these skills, we are also encouraging children to build the characteristics of effective learning, such as; developing perseverance, working on their own ideas and taking risks in their play. Beyond these broad skills and characteristics, we are also responsible for each child’s individual development. 

Development in the areas outlined by the EYFS are split into two areas: ‘Prime’ and ‘Specific’. The Prime areas are considered paramount, if we ensure that children are ‘secure’ in their Prime areas then they will be ready to learn the skills in the ‘Specific’ areas. In the EYFS the Prime areas are; ‘Personal, Social and Emotional Development’, ‘Communication and Language’ and ‘Physical Development’. These areas are considered crucial for children’s readiness for school and learning. The Specific areas are broken down into; ‘Literacy’, ‘Mathematics’, ‘Understanding the World’ and ‘Expressive Arts and Design’, which is what we, as adults, think of as the things children go to school to learn. However, in Early Years we look at educating the whole person, not just their brain! Therefore, it is essential that the Prime areas are woven into the fabric of the day, as we want our children to feel happy, confident and secure at school so that they are able to meet and exceed their potential. 

Whilst you can teach children knowledge and much of the specific areas by flashcards and teacher talk, you cannot help children blossom into their true selves unless you let them drive their own learning. Our children at King’s are supported to learn this wide range of skills primarily through play. Play is the vehicle through which children make sense of the world around them. With the care and support of our highly skilled Early Years practitioners, they make progress within the key areas above. Play is how we get children to learn without them even realising the skills they are developing.

In a career that spans a range of different Early Years settings, the most common question I have been asked is, “Do they just play all day?” Yes. This is exactly what children are meant to do in order for them to learn and develop the skills they need in later life. “Play is the work of childhood” is a quote from renowned psychologist Jean Piaget from the 1950’s that is even more relevant now than it was then. In a soon-to-be (hopefully!) post-COVID society, it is our youngest children who have missed out the most. Social interactions with family and friends, playgroups, music classes, visits to the aquarium and the zoo, all of these learning opportunities have been compromised. So many limitations and boundaries have been put in place that, while keeping our society safe, we have also had an impact on key areas of our children’s development. It is therefore our moral responsibility as parents and Early Years teachers to do our best to provide opportunities for our children to socialise, interact, take risks and collaborate with their adults and peers in order for them to gain the skills that they will need in later life. So how do we do this at King’s Bangkok?

Children in our Early Years centre begin their day with a ‘soft’ start, which means that the children are supported to be independent when entering their classrooms, putting away their individual belongings and then, once they have said ‘goodbye’ to their adult, join in with their classmates in an activity of their choosing. They are supported by the staff to settle into the routine of the day and helped if they are experiencing any challenges. 

Our mornings begin in Early Years with a group session that gives the children a chance to connect with one another and share their excitement about the upcoming day. After this the children are encouraged to choose an area of play which again is supported by the adults in their class. During this time the adults are conscious of the individual needs of each child, supporting them with their growth and development within the different areas of the classroom, be it indoors or outdoors. During the morning the children are provided with a snack, plenty of physical activity as well as play opportunities that inspire and extend their learning. 

In their play children are encouraged to challenge themselves, take risks, collaborate with others and bring their own ideas to life. Some of the most incredible experiences I have had with children in Early Years have been imagined by the students themselves, with my role being much more about helping them achieve their goal, rather than telling them what to do. This is the magic of play in Early Years, where children become empowered to make their own choices through the interactions they have with others. 

At King’s Bangkok, we believe in the power of our community working together. Meeting the needs of all the children in our care, as well as ensuring that they are supported to develop their next steps in their development, is a key focus for partnership with our parents. As their first teachers, you know your children best! Joining us here at King’s Bangkok means that we are embarking on a journey together, where we are asking for your insight into your children, to help us with our professional judgements on what are the appropriate next steps for your child’s learning and development. When we work together in this way, we are helping your children exceed their potential not just at home and school, but wherever they may go in the future. Being an Early Years teacher is both a privilege and a pleasure, and as someone who has spent their entire professional life in this career, I can honestly say that it is incredibly rewarding to see how, from Pre-nursery to Reception, the children grow in confidence and ability when they are supported by those that care for them. 

The Early Years experience we aim to provide here at King’s prioritises play and interaction by design, where your children are supported to interact with one another in order to develop their empathy, kindness and collaboration. The community that has grown around us shares these values. As a community, we all work together to ensure that the seeds of happy, confident, lifelong learners are sown, nurtured and cared for, to blossom - despite the challenges of a post-pandemic world.