• Enrich the environment inside and out with materials, resources, natural objects, images, music, dance (via image, film) for children to inspire their imagination.
  • Make materials accessible so that children are able to imagine and develop their enquiries and ideas while they are still fresh in their minds.
  • Provide children with opportunities to develop their enquiries using materials and tools over extended periods of time. 


  • Tell stories based on children’s experiences and the people and places they know well as well as stories that stimulate the imagination.
  • Create spaces for children to respond to stories and their representing their ideas of what they hear, imagine and enjoy through a variety of art forms and materials.
  • Offer children a wide variety of materials and resources, both inside and outside that stimulate their imagination to build, to become, to represent and experiment with their imaginative play and thinking.


  • Offer a variety of stimulating resources that can be used in different ways both inside and outside e.g. fabric, boxes, sound makers, water, string bags and planks.
  • Create time and space for children to develop their own creations, e.g. photographs, sounds, movement, constructions, stories, collages.


  • Create a rich environment that enables babies and children to use all their senses.
  • Provide babies and children with a range of. experiences to feed their imaginative potential, e.g. stories, images, music, natural and urban experiences, social encounters (mealtimes, shopping, visitors).


  • Support children to gain confidence in their own way of representing and sharing ideas.
  • Be aware of the link between children’s imaginative play and how they develop a narrative structure. 
  • Recognise and promote children’s agency in expressing their unique and subjective viewpoint through the arts.
  • Support children in communicating through their bodies by responding to, and sometimes joining in with their expressive movement linked to their imaginative ideas.
  • Introduce descriptive language to support children within the context of their own imaginative experiences.
  • Celebrate children’s imaginative ideas and creations by sharing them, e.g. impromptu performances, learning journeys with families, display documentation, digital portfolios.


  • Ensure children have opportunities to experience the world outside the setting, e.g. through walks, visits, visitors, links with children’s homes.
  • Support children’s development of imaginary worlds by encouraging new experiences, inventiveness, empathy and new possibilities.
  • Share a diverse range of text, image-based and oral stories to stimulate imaginative responses.
  • Co-create stories with children based on their ideas, experiences and the people and places they know well or imaginary ones.


  • Creates representations of both imaginary and real-life ideas, events, people and objects
  • Initiates new combinations of movements and gestures in order to express and respond to feelings, ideas and experiences
  • Chooses particular movements, instruments/sounds, colours and materials for their own imaginative purposes
  • Uses combinations of art forms, e.g. moving and singing, making and dramatic play, drawing and talking, constructing and mapping
  • Responds imaginatively to art works and objects, e.g. this music sounds likes dinosaurs, that sculpture is squishy like this [child physically demonstrates], that peg looks like a mouth
  • Introduces a storyline or narrative into their play
  • Plays cooperatively as part of a group to create, develop and act out an imaginary idea or narrative


  • Uses movement and sounds to express experiences, expertise, ideas and feelings
  • Experiments and creates movement in response to music, stories and ideas
  • Sings to self and makes up simple songs
  • Creates sounds, movements, drawings to accompany stories
  • Notices what other children and adults do, mirroring what is observed, adding variations and then doing it spontaneously
  • Engages in imaginative play based on own ideas or first-hand or peer experiences.
  • Uses available resources to create props or creates imaginary ones to support play
  • Plays alongside other children who are engaged in the same theme


  • Uses everyday materials to explore, understand and represent his world – his ideas, interests and fascinations
  • Begins to make believe by pretending using sounds, movements, words, objects Beginning to describe sounds and music imaginatively, e.g. scary music
  • Creates rhythmic sounds and movements


  • Expresses self through physical actions and sound
  • Pretends that one object represents another, especially when objects have characteristics in common
  • Creates sound effects and movements, e.g. creates the sound of a car, animals


  • Offer opportunities to encounter and revisit key materials, e.g. drawing media, paper, paint, cardboard and clay in order to continue to develop expertise as tools for expression and communication.
  • Provide a range of joining materials (e.g. stapler, masking tape, glue, string, thread, split pins, treasury tags, card strips) to support children working in both 2D and 3D.
  • Supply open-ended props and materials that can easily be transformed in play.


  • Offer resources for mixing colours, joining things together and combining materials, supporting where appropriate.
  • Create a place where work in progress can be kept safely.
  • Share with children other artists’ work that connects with their ideas, interests and experiences.
  • Introduce children to a wide range of music, movement, painting and sculpture.
  • Provide a range of musical instruments that are used in different ways, for children to bang, pluck, blow, strum.
  • Offer children opportunities to use their skills and explore concepts and ideas through their representations.


  • Plan a varied and appropriate series of live performances for all young children, e.g. musicians, dancers, storytellers.
  • Draw on a wide range of art works from a variety of cultural backgrounds to extend children’s experiences and to reflect their cultural heritages, e.g. architecture, ceramics, theatre.
  • Continue to provide opportunities to encounter and revisit key materials, resources and tools through which children can further explore their properties including form, colour, texture and composition.
  • Invite children to look at and touch unusual or interesting materials, artefacts and resources in their everyday environment, chosen for their design, beauty, pattern and ability to inspire exploration.


  • Offer a variety of objects that will make different sounds, such as wood, pans and plastic bottles filled with different things.
  • Create opportunities to encounter and revisit key materials, resources and tools where children can further explore their properties including form, colour, texture, composition. 
  • Create space and time for movement and dance both indoors and outdoors.


  • Create a rich and well-ordered environment that enables babies and children to use all their senses.
  • Choose and select with intention the materials and tools available to children.
  • Create the time and space that will ensure that children can engage in depth with a diverse range of materials.


  • Draw attention to children’s choice and use of: materials, tools and techniques, experimentation with colour, design, texture, form and function.
  • Use individual, small group, and large group discussion to regularly engage children in explaining work in progress.
  • Recognise the importance of drawing in providing a bridge between imaginary play and writing, and that all are key forms of communication and tools for thinking.


  • Support children’s talk by sharing terms used by artists, potters, musicians, dancers, e.g. as children show interest in exploring colour mixing, support them in using terms such as tint, shade, hue.
  • When children have a strong intention in mind, support them in thinking about what they want to create, the processes that may be involved and the materials and resources they might need.
  • Encourage children to notice changes in properties of media as they are transformed, e.g. through becoming wet, dry, flaky or fixed. Talk about what is happening, helping them to think about cause and effect.
  • Observe, analyse and document the processes involved in a child’s creative and expressive processes, to support greater understanding, inform planning and share with families, carers, and other professionals.
  • Encourage children to notice changes in movement and sound, e.g. louder, quieter, smaller, bigger. Talk about what is happening, helping them to think about cause and effect.
  • Introduce new skills and techniques based on your observations and knowledge of children’s interests and skills.


  • Help children to listen to music and watch dance when opportunities arise, encouraging them to focus on how sound and movement develop from feelings and ideas.
  • Recognise that children can become fascinated by a pattern of actions or interactions with tools and materials, gaining confidence over extended periods of time.
  • Encourage and support the inventive ways in which children use space, combine and transform both 3D and 2D materials.
  • Be sensitive in how you support a child who is using line, colour, tone and form. It is not necessary for them to have the verbal language to explain, for example, drawing. The drawing itself is one of their multi-modal languages.


  • Listen to and enjoy with children a variety of sounds, and music from diverse cultures.
  • Sensitively introduce children to language to describe sounds and rhythm, e.g. loud and soft, fast and slow.
  • Understand that young children’s creative and expressive processes are part of their development of thinking and communicating as well as being important in their own right.
  • Become familiar with the properties and characteristics of materials and tools.
  • Observe, analyse and document the processes involved in a child’s creative and expressive processes, to support greater understanding, inform planning and share with families, carers, and other professionals.


  • Attend to how babies and children are using their whole body in sensing, exploring and experimenting with space, texture, sounds, rhythms, materials, and tools.
  • Welcome the ways in which babies and children arrange, combine, transform, group, and sequence materials that both natural and manmade.


  • Begins to build a collection of songs and dances
  • Makes music in a range of ways, e.g. plays with sounds creatively, plays along to the beat of the song they are singing or music they are listening to
  • Uses their increasing knowledge and understanding of tools and materials to explore their interests and enquiries and develop their thinking
  • Develops their own ideas through experimentation with diverse materials, e.g. light, projected image, loose parts, watercolours, powder paint, to express and communicate their discoveries and understanding.
  • Expresses and communicates working theories, feelings and understandings using a range of art forms, e.g. movement, dance, drama, music and the visual arts


  • Explores and learns how sounds and movements can be changed
  • Continues to explore moving in a range of ways, e.g. mirroring, creating own movement patterns
  • Enjoys joining in with moving, dancing and ring games
  • Sings familiar songs, e.g. pop songs, songs from TV programmes, rhymes, songs from home
  • Taps out simple repeated rhythms
  • Develops an understanding of how to create and use sounds intentionally
  • Continues to explore colour and how colours can be changed
  • Develops an understanding of using lines to enclose a space, and begins to use drawing to represent actions and objects based on imagination, observation and experience
  • Uses various construction materials, e.g. joining pieces, stacking vertically and horizontally, balancing, making enclosures and creating spaces
  • Uses tools for a purpose


  • Joins in singing songs
  • Creates sounds by rubbing, shaking, tapping, striking or blowing
  • Shows an interest in the way sound makers and instruments sound and experiments with ways of playing them, e.g. loud/quiet, fast/slow
  • Experiments with ways to enclose a space, create shapes and represent actions, sounds and objects
  • Enjoys and responds to playing with colour in a variety of ways, for example combining colours  
  • Uses 3D and 2D structures to explore materials and/or to express ideas


  • Continues to explore and experiment with an increasing range of media and movement through   multi-sensory exploration and expression
  • Moves while singing/vocalising, whilst listening to sounds and music, while playing with sound makers/instruments 
  • Mirrors and improvises actions they have observed, e.g. clapping or waving
  • Sings/vocalises whilst listening to music or playing with instruments/sound makers
  • Notices and becomes interested in the transformative effect of their action on materials and resources


  • Provide a range of materials and objects to play with that work in different ways for different purposes, for example, egg whisk, torch, other household implements, pulleys, construction kits.
  • Provide a range of programmable toys for children to play with, as well as equipment involving ICT, such as computers, touchscreen devices and internet-connected toys.


  • When out in the locality, ask children to help to press the button at the pelican crossing, or speak into an intercom to tell somebody you have come back.
  • When in the community and on trips to places such as the park, encourage children to take photographs and use mobile apps of things that interest them, ready to revisit later.
  • Provide a range of materials that enable children to explore cause and effect.


  • Provide safe equipment to play with, such as torches and walkie-talkies.
  • Let children use machines like the photocopier to copy their own pictures.
  • Provide a range of materials for children to “stain” and have a go at washing, rinsing and drying outside in the sunshine.
  • Provide a range of pipes, funnels, containers, water wheels and water for children to play with.


  • Encourage children to speculate on the reasons why things happen or how things work.
  • In conversation highlight technology in aspects of nature, e.g. encouraging models of birds showing purposes and functions of wing feathers, body feathers, beaks, feet reflecting differences of different kinds of birds.
  • Support children to coordinate actions to use technology, for example, call a telephone number or create a video recording.
  • Teach and encourage children to click on different icons to cause things to happen in a computer program.
  • Talk to children about their actions, and support children to understand different purposes of different technologies.
  • Retrieve content and use to facilitate discussions, allowing children to recall trips/ past events to enable them to connect to their wider community


  • Support and extend the skills children develop as they become familiar with simple equipment, such as twisting or turning a knob.
  • Draw young children’s attention to pieces of digital apparatus they see or that they use with adult supervision.
  • Talk to children about their uses of technologies at home and in other environments to begin to understand what they already know about and can do with different technologies.
  • Ask open-ended questions and have conversations about children’s interest in technological toys to enable children to learn about different technologies.
  • Support children to be curious in grappling with cause and effect, e.g. learning that pulling a string may make a puppet arm lift.


  • Support children in exploring the control technology of toys, e.g. toy electronic keyboard.
  • Talk about digital and other electric equipment, what it does, what they can do with it and how to use it safely.
  • Talk to children about “low technologies” such as washing and drying, transporting water and using water to make things “work”.


  • Comment on the ways in which young children investigate how to push, pull, lift or press parts of toys and domestic equipment.
  • Talk about the effect of children’s actions, as they investigate what things can do.


  • Completes a simple program on electronic devices
  • Uses ICT hardware to interact with age-appropriate computer software
  • Can create content such as a video recording, stories, and/or draw a picture on screen
  • Develops digital literacy skills by being able to access, understand and interact with a range of technologies
  • Can use the internet with adult supervision to find and retrieve information of interest to them


  • Knows how to operate simple equipment, e.g. turns on CD player, uses a remote control, can navigate touch-capable technology with support
  • Shows an interest in technological toys with knobs or pulleys, real objects such as cameras, and touchscreen devices such as mobile phones and tablets
  • Shows skill in making toys work by pressing parts or lifting flaps to achieve effects such as sound, movements or new images
  • Knows that information can be retrieved from digital devices and the internet
  • Plays with a range of materials to learn cause and effect, for example, makes a string puppet using dowels and string to suspend the puppet


  • Seeks to acquire basic skills in turning on and operating some digital equipment
  • Operates mechanical toys, e.g. turns the knob on a wind-up toy or pulls back on a friction car
  • Plays with water to investigate “low technology” such as washing and cleaning
  • Uses pipes, funnels and other tools to carry/transport water from one place to another


  • Anticipates repeated sounds, sights and actions, e.g. when an adult demonstrates an action toy several times
  • Shows interest in toys with buttons, flaps and simple mechanisms and begins to learn to operate them


  • Give opportunities to record and creatively represent findings by, e.g. drawing, writing, making a model or photographing, through music, dancing or dressing up.
  • Provide stories that help children to make sense of different environments.
  • Provide first-hand experiences to support children in making sense of micro environments, the specific conditions which enable each plant or animal to live and thrive.
  • Provide stimuli and resources for children to create simple maps and plans, paintings, drawings and models of observations of known and imaginary landscapes.
  • Give opportunities to design practical, attractive environments, for example, planting and taking care of flower and vegetable beds or organising equipment outdoors.
  • Make connections with places and spaces locally, such as museums, galleries, open spaces, arts centres, sports centres. Encourage parents to join you on regular outings, which can result in family visits to the same places.


  • Use the local area for exploring both the built and the natural environment. Regularly take small groups of children on local walks, taking the time to observe what involves the children’s interest.
  • Provide opportunities to observe things closely through a variety of means, e.g. magnifiers and photographs, phone apps to listen to and recognise birds.
  • Explore different habitats outdoors, e.g. scent, colour and shape of flowers attracting bees, making a wormery, planning bird feeding on the ground and higher level.
  • Provide play maps and small world equipment for children to create their own environments as well as represent the familiar environment.
  • Teach skills and knowledge in the context of practical activities, e.g. learning about the characteristics of liquids and solids by involving children in melting chocolate or cooking eggs, or observing ice outdoors.
  • Share stories related to pollution, climate change, habitat erosion, etc.


  • Make use of outdoor areas to give opportunities for investigations of the natural world, for example, provide chimes, streamers, windmills and bubbles to investigate the effects of wind.
  • Provide story and information books about places, such as a zoo or the beach, to remind children of visits to real places.


  • Develop the use of the outdoors so that young children can investigate features, e.g. a mound, a path or a wall, and experience weather, large spaces and seasonal change.
  • Provide a collection of sets of items for children to explore how objects can be combined together in heuristic play sessions.


  • Provide lift-the-flap books to show something hidden from view.
  • Play hide-and-seek outside.
  • Provide a variety of interesting things for babies to see when they are looking around them, looking up at the ceiling or peering into a corner.
  • Display and talk about photographs of babies’ favourite places.
  • Take babies on regular outings to a range of local environments.


  • Provide a range of everyday and natural objects to explore such as in treasure baskets for sitting babies.
  • Provide additional interest – make small changes in the predictable environment.
  • Provide spaces that give young babies different views of their surroundings, such as a soft play area, under a tree, on a lap, looking at bushes and flowers in a garden or park.
  • Ensure that babies and toddlers experience the natural world around them: the wind, the sun, the moon, the movement of the leaves in the trees and different sounds such as birdsong and insect sounds.


  • Help children to notice and discuss patterns around them, e.g. tree bark, flower petal or leaf shapes, grates, covers, or bricks.
  • Examine change over time, for example, growing plants, and change that may be reversed, e.g. melting ice.
  • Use appropriate words, e.g. town, village, path, house, flat, cinema, skyscraper, hydrant, cirrus, cumulonimbus,  temple  and synagogue, to help children make distinctions in their observations. 
  • Help children to find out about the environment by talking to people, examining photographs and simple maps and visiting local places.
  • Encourage children to express opinions on natural and built environments and give opportunities for them to hear different points of view on the quality of the environment.
  • Encourage the use of words that help children to express opinions, e.g. busy, quiet and pollution.
  • Use correct terms so that, e.g. children will enjoy naming a chrysalis if the practitioner uses its correct name.
  • Pose carefully framed open-ended questions and prompts, such as How can we…?What would happen if…? I wonder…


  • Use parents’ knowledge  to extend children’s experiences of the world
  • Support children with sensory impairment by providing supplementary experience and information to enhance their learning about the world around them.
  • Arouse awareness of features of the environment in the setting and immediate local area, e.g. make visits to shops or a park.
  • Use conversation with children to extend their vocabulary to help them talk about their observations and to ask questions.
  • Ensure adults know and use the widest vocabulary that they can, e.g. using the correct name for a plant or geographical feature.


  • Talk with children about their responses to sights, sounds and smells in the environment indoors, in playgrounds, with nature in gardens and parks and discover what they like about playing outdoors.
  • Encourage young children to explore puddles, trees and surfaces such as grass, concrete or pebbles.
  • Introduce principles of recycling, planting and care for our resources.


  • Play hiding and finding games inside and outdoors.
  • Plan varied arrangements of equipment and materials that can be used with babies in a variety of ways to maintain interest and provide challenges.
  • Draw attention to things in different areas that stimulate interest, such as a patterned surface.


  • Encourage young babies’ movements through your interactions, e.g. touching their fingers and toes and showing delight at their kicking and waving.

 See also Characteristics of Effective Learning – Playing and Exploring, and Physical Development


  • Looks closely at similarities, differences, patterns and change in nature
  • Knows about similarities and differences in relation to places, objects, materials and living things
  • Talks about the features of their own immediate environment and how environments might vary from one another
  • Makes observations of animals and plants and explains why some things occur, and talks about changes


  • Comments and asks questions about aspects of their familiar world such as the place where they live or the natural world
  • Talks about why things happen and how things work
  • Developing an understanding of growth, decay and changes over time
  • Shows care and concern for living things and the environment
  • Begin to understand the effect their behaviour can have on the environment


  • Notices detailed features of objects in their environment
  • Can talk about some of the things they have observed such as plants, animals, natural and found objects
  • Enjoys playing with small world reconstructions, building on first-hand experiences, e.g. visiting farms, garages, train tracks, walking by river or lake


  • Is curious and interested to explore new and familiar experiences in nature: grass, mud, puddles, plants, animal life 
  • Explores objects by linking together different approaches: shaking, hitting, looking, feeling, tasting, mouthing, pulling, turning and poking
  • Remembers where objects belong
  • Matches parts of objects that fit together, e.g. puts lid on teapot


  • Closely observes what animals, people and vehicles do
  • Watches toy being hidden and tries to find it, watches intently where a spider has scuttled away under leaves
  • Looks for dropped objects
  • Becomes absorbed in combining objects, e.g. banging two objects or placing objects into containers
  • Knows things are used in different ways, e.g. a ball for rolling or throwing, a toy car for pushing


  • Moves eyes, then head, to follow moving objects
  • Reacts with abrupt change when a face or object suddenly disappears from view
  • Looks around with interest when in a room, garden, balcony or park, visually scanning the environment for novel, interesting objects and events
  • Smiles with pleasure at recognisable playthings
  • Repeats actions that have an effect, e.g. kicking or hitting a mobile or shaking a rattle


  • Plan extra time for helping children in transition, such as when they move from one setting to another or between different groups in the same setting.
  • Provide activities and opportunities for children to share experiences and knowledge from different parts of their lives with each other.
  • Provide ways of preserving memories of special events, e.g. making a book, collecting photographs, sound or video recording, drawing and writing.
  • Invite children and families with experiences of living in other countries to bring in photographs and objects from their home cultures including those from family members living in different areas of the UK and abroad.
  • Ensure the use of up-to-date, appropriate photographs of parts of the world that are commonly stereotyped and misrepresented.
  • Help children to learn positive attitudes and challenge negative attitudes and stereotypes, e.g. using puppets, Persona Dolls, stories and books showing black heroes or disabled kings or queens or families with same sex parents, having a visit from a male midwife or female fire fighter.
  • Visit different parts of the local community, including areas where some children may be very knowledgeable, e.g. Chinese supermarket, local church, elders lunch club, Greek café.
  • Provide role-play areas with a variety of resources reflecting diversity.
  • Make a display with the children, showing all the people who make up the community of the setting.
  • Share stories that reflect the diversity of children’s experiences.
  • Invite people from a range of cultural backgrounds to talk about aspects of their lives or the things they do in their work, such as a volunteer who helps people become familiar with the local area.


  • Share photographs of children’s families, friends, pets or favourite people, both indoors and out.
  • Support children’s understanding of difference and of empathy by using props such as puppets and dolls to tell stories about diverse experiences, ensuring that negative stereotyping is avoided.
  • Ensure children have resources so that they can imitate everyday actions and events from their lives and that represent their culture.


  • Collect stories for, and make books about, children in the group, showing things they like to do and things that are important to them, in languages that are relevant to them wherever possible.
  • Provide books and resources which represent children’s diverse backgrounds and which avoid negative stereotypes, ensuring different cultures are represented but especially the backgrounds of the children in the room.
  • Make photographic books about the children in the setting and encourage parents to contribute to these.
  • Provide positive images of all children including those with diverse physical characteristics, including disabilities.
  • Support good ecological habits in daily life by providing first-hand experiences, e.g. waste disposal by putting papers in recycling bins, helping planting flowers and seeds, provisioning bird tables, leaf piles for hedgehogs and woodlice.


  • Encourage children to share their feelings and talk about why they respond to experiences in particular ways.
  • Explain carefully why some children may need extra help or support for some things, or why some children feel upset by a particular thing.
  • Help children and parents to see the ways in which their cultures and beliefs are similar, sharing and discussing practices, resources, celebrations and experiences.
  • Strengthen the positive impressions children have of their own cultures and faiths, and those of others in their community, by sharing and celebrating a range of practices and special events.


  • Encourage children to talk about their own home and community life, and to find out about other children’s experiences. Be aware that some children’s home lives may be complicated or disrupted, and talking about them may be difficult.
  • Ensure that children learning English as an additional language have opportunities to express themselves in their home language some of the time.
  • Encourage children to develop positive relationships with community members who visit the setting, such as fire fighters, refuse collectors, delivery personnel, care home resident, artists.
  • Share stories about people from the past who have an influence on the present


  • Talk to children about their friends, their families, and why they are important.
  • Be sensitive to the possibility of children who may have lost special people or pets, either through death, separation, displacement or fostering/adoption.


  • Help children to learn each other’s names, e.g. through songs and rhymes, and use them when addressing children.
  • Be positive about differences between people and support children’s acceptance of difference. Be aware that negative attitudes towards difference are learned from examples the children witness.
  • Ensure that each child is recognised as a valuable contributor to the group.
  • Celebrate and value cultural, religious and community events and experiences.


  • Enjoys joining in with family customs and routines
  • Talks about past and present events in their own life and in the lives of family members
  • Knows that other children do not always enjoy the same things, and is sensitive to this
  • Knows about similarities and differences between themselves and others, and among families, communities, cultures and traditions


  • Shows interest in the lives of people who are familiar to them
  • Enjoys joining in with family customs and routines
  • Remembers and talks about significant events in their own experience
  • Recognises and describes special times or events for family or friends
  • Shows interest in different occupations and ways of life indoors and outdoors
  • Knows some of the things that make them unique, and can talk about some of the similarities and differences in relation to friends or family


  • Has a sense of own immediate family and relations and pets
  • In pretend play, imitates everyday actions and events from own family and cultural background, e.g. making and drinking tea, going to the barbers, being a cat, dog or bird
  • Beginning to have their own friends
  • Learns that they have similarities and differences that connect them to, and distinguish them from, others


  • Is curious about people and shows interest in stories about people, animals or objects that they are familiar with or which fascinate them
  • Is interested in photographs of themselves and other familiar people and objects
  • Enjoys stories about people and nature (birds, bees, snails, cats, dogs, etc) and is interested in photographs of themselves with these.


  • Starts to realise they influence people, e.g. as they laugh and smile so do the people they are with
  • Develops a sense of belonging to their family and their key carer
  • Recognises key people in their own lives



  • Involve children in voting, e.g. for books to read at story time, using linking cubes with children’s names on.
  • Discuss examples and display large numbers including hundreds, thousands and a million.


  • Jump with children along a number track, counting each jump or counting on.
  • Sing counting songs and count together forwards and backwards, sometimes starting from different numbers and in different step sizes. Discuss numbers coming before, after and between and stress patterns.
  • Plan opportunities to order mixed-up numerals.
  • When counting groups as part of routines, e.g. self-registration with ten-frames, dinner chart etc,. record the final total as a label for children to see.
  • Subitise with children, talking about how they see numbers of things made up in a variety of arrangements (e.g. recognising odd and even numbers).
  • Pose everyday estimation problems and establish mental estimation benchmarks, e.g. more or less than 10.
  • Set up an estimation station where everyone records guesses; later count and order the guesses.
  • Build counting and ways of representing numbers into everyday routines.
  • Provide numeral cards for children to order on a washing line.
  • Play subitising games which involve quickly revealing and hiding numbers of objects, perhaps showing numeral cards and fingers.
  • Drop marbles into a tin and ask the children to listen (without looking) to count how many there are.
  • Provide opportunities for children to match a number of objects to the numeral, including zero, and display number lines to 100 at child height.
  • Provide dice, board and card games, sometimes involving older children, families and members of the local community.
  • Provide resources to make “staircase” patterns which show that the next counting number includes the previous number plus one.
  • Display children’s mathematical representations, including explanations of the children’s meaning making.

Spatial Awareness

  • Play barrier games (where players have an identical set of objects which are hidden from each other; one player makes an arrangement of objects and gives instructions to the other to try to make the same arrangement).
  • Plan opportunities for children to describe and recall familiar routes.
  • Engage families in taking photos of familiar things from different viewpoints


  • Provide resources for shape play including unit blocks, pattern blocks, mosaic tiles and jigsaw puzzles with different levels of challenge.
  • Teach strategies for solving shape and jigsaw puzzles, describing shape properties and modelling the mathematical vocabulary such as straight, corner, edges.
  • Play games focussing on the properties of shapes, such as hiding and partially revealing a shape, asking children to say what different shapes it could be or not, and why.


  • Provide opportunities for printing patterns using a variety of objects.
  • Using photos, challenge children to copy and continue patterns.
  • Invite children to create a pattern with the same structure using different objects (e.g. instead of a red/blue/blue pattern, create a sheep/cow/cow pattern).


  • Have areas where children can explore the properties of objects, compare lengths, weigh and measure.
  • Provide objects in a range of contexts varying in length, capacity or weight, including tall thin, short fat, large light and small heavy things.
  • Provide pictorial sequences for instructions.
  • Model using measuring tools including height charts, rulers, tape-measures, scales and timers.
  • Sing songs about the days of the week and months of the year, referring to a calendar. Countdown to events.


Comparison/ Counting

  • Provide a numeral rich environment, e.g. in role-play areas, mud-kitchen recipes, numbers on trikes and toilet doors.
  • Provide numerals that children can pick up and use within all aspects of their play.
  • Provide resources indoors and outside for children to explore and talk about higher numbers. 
  • Model using objects to illustrate counting songs, rhymes and number stories, sometimes using pictures and numerals, to enable children to use those resources independently.
  • Play with either dot or numeral dice. Discuss that six on the dice is worth more than four.
  • Provide a variety of mathematical picture books and share them as part of “warm and cuddly” maths times.
  • Explore different arrangements of the same number, e.g. partitioning five in different ways; hiding one group and “guessing” the hidden number.


  • Model counting items rhythmically, including objects into a container, claps or drumbeats.
  • Support children to choose how to arrange collections of two, three and four objects in different ways.
  • Provide spaces to display children’s ongoing mathematical thinking, e.g. their own ways of representing their thinking, and scribing children’s words.

Spatial Awareness

  • Provide spaces to display children’s ongoing mathematical thinking, e.g. their own ways of representing their thinking and scribing children’s words.
  • Provide opportunities for children to explore position themselves inside, behind, on top and so on.
  • Provide picture books to stimulate discussion about position and direction.
  • Create trails and treasure hunts with the children.
  • Organise the indoor and outdoor environment with outlines for objects or specific places for children to tidy up items by fitting them into the designated space.


  • Provide differently shaped resources to handle, carry, move and explore.
  • Provide large and small blocks and boxes for construction both indoors and outdoors.


  • Provide a range of items for free exploration of patterning indoors and outdoors including natural materials, pattern blocks, loose parts, mats, trays and strips.
  • Encourage children to join in with body patterns or repeating sections of songs.
  • Pause to encourage prediction when enjoying stories and rhymes with repeating elements, sometimes using props.
  • Emphasise the repeating pattern when turn taking.
  • Provide patterned resources including those representing a range of cultures, such as clothing, fabrics or wrapping paper.


  • Provide problem-solving opportunities indoors and outdoors for comparing length, weight and capacity, e.g. Which is the best bottle so we’ll have enough drink for everyone at the picnic?
  • Ask children to predict What happens next? using visual timetables, books and stories.
  • Provide items that can be ordered by size, such as plates and clothes in role play.


Comparison/ Counting

  • Provide buckets and bags for children to create collections of objects which they can count.
  • Provide mark-making materials indoors and outdoors for children to represent their own ideas in play.

Cardinality (How many?)

  • Provide opportunities for children to explore cardinality in the environment using self-correcting resources, e.g. jigsaw with two ducks and the number two, or displays showing the numeral and the number of items.
  • Sing counting songs and rhymes which help to develop children’s understanding of number.
  • Say the counting sequence going to higher numbers, in a variety of contexts, indoors and out, and sometimes counting backwards.

Spatial Awareness

  • Design outdoor spaces where children can learn through a variety of spatial experiences (going under, over, around, on top, through) and hear spatial language in context.
  • Encourage children to freely communicate their mathematical thinking through gesture, talk and graphical signs.
  • Plan stimulating indoor and outdoor spaces where children make choices about where to go and create their own routes. Provide materials to create trails.
  • Provide resources for transporting. 


  • Provide a range of inset and jigsaw puzzles of increasing complexity for children to choose.
  • Provide a variety of construction materials including some with identical pieces so that children freely explore same and different.


  • Provide a range of natural and everyday materials, as well as blocks and shapes, with which to make patterns.
  • Plan opportunities for children to experience pattern such as percussion, music and action games that involve repeated sounds or actions.


  • Provide similar items of contrasting sizes so that children have many opportunities to encounter the language of size.
  • Provide resources with clearly different weights to support direct comparison, and something to carry them in.
  • Provide equipment with varied capacities and shapes in the sand, water, mud kitchen and role play areas.



  • Play hiding games so children notice that something has ‘gone’.
  • Provide varied sets of objects for playful opportunities for children to independently explore ‘lots’, ‘more’, ‘not many’ and ‘not enough’.


  • Count while engaging in everyday tasks and while moving around.
  • Sing songs with counting strings.

Spatial Awareness

  • Designate specific places or spaces for items to be kept and fitted into for tidying.
  • Respect children’s urge to explore spaces, to get inside and move between.
  • Build towers up for the child to knock down.
  • Provide shape sorters and packaging where children can hide, enclose or post items through holes.


  • Provide a range of inset board and puzzles with large pieces.
  • Provide a range of construction materials for independent play.
  • Organise storage by shape, with photos or silhouettes to show where things are kept,


  • Plan to share stories and songs that contain repeated elements which help children to anticipate what might come next.


  • Provide a range of objects, including big, heavy and awkward ones that can be transported, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Provide different sizes and shapes of bags, boxes and containers  so that children can experiment with filling, experiencing weight and size.
  • Plan to share images and books which show the order of daily routines.



  • Plan to sing number rhymes with actions.Involve families in sharing number rhymes from home cultures.

Spatial Awareness

  • Play games that involve curling and stretching, popping up and bobbing down.
  • Provide boxes, cloths and bags for children to store, hide and transport items.
  • Provide nested boxes, cups and toys of different sizes that fit inside each other.
  • Share books that provide opportunities to use spatial language and describe movement.


  • Provide blocks and boxes to stack, build and solve problems with.
  • Provide a range of inset puzzles and support children as they explore matching shapes with spaces.


  • Sing familiar songs with repeated actions, jig to and tap out simple beats, encouraging children to join in.
  • Provide items for children to make repetitive sounds.


  • Provide big and little versions of objects for children to play with and compare.
  • Share picture books showing objects of contrasting sizes.



  • Model comparing numbers in problems about fair shares.


  • Play games such as hide and seek that involve counting, forwards and backwards.
  • Talk with children about the strategies they have used to solve a problem. Spot opportunities to playfully pose composition problems for children to explore.


  • Discuss the order of numbers in context, e.g. finding a page number.
  • Enjoy subitising games and sustained shared thinking about number, indoors and outdoors.
  • Encourage cardinal counting by saying how many there are after counting (…6, 7, 8.  There are 8 balls).
  • In everyday activities, ask children to count out a number of things from a group (e.g. Could you get seven cups for snacktime?)
  • Encourage children to make predictions and visualise the outcome in stories, rhymes and songs if one (or two) is added or taken away.
  • Talk to children about the marks and signs they use to represent and communicate their thinking. As appropriate, model and discuss informal and standard ways (e.g. using arrows, plus and minus signs).
  • Begin to model calculations in mathematical stories and number rhymes and in real contexts, using a range of ways of representing (e.g. five-frames).  Use both informal and standard ways to record these, including tallies and symbols. Discuss children’s own graphical strategies to solve problems, using some vocabulary of addition and subtraction.

Spatial Awareness

  • Encourage the use of relative terms (in front of, behind, before and after, in a line, next to and between).
  • Encourage children to explore what can be seen from different viewpoints.
  • Encourage children to describe position and give directions in play and in everyday routines.
  • Encourage children to create scaled-down models such as in small world play.
  • When children are fitting shapes into an outline or making a model from a 2D picture, help them to select more spatially challenging activities.
  • Encourage children to make maps of routes they have walked or travelled in some way.


  • Encourage children to use the names of shapes and their properties (e.g. straight, curved, edges) and prompt them to say what shapes remind them of.
  • Discuss different examples of the same shape (e.g. equilateral and right-angled triangles) in a variety of orientations.
  • Take opportunities to discuss the shapes that children paint, draw and collage and shapes noticed in their local environment using regular shapes and shapes with no name.
  • When acting out their own stories encourage children to make the shapes involved on their own or with others.
  • When constructing, sensitively discuss which shapes make other shapes (e.g. triangles making rectangles and hexagons with pattern blocks or mosaic tiles).
  • Challenge children to make more complex constructions such as towers of arches, a window or a staircase.


  • Encourage children to notice and appreciate a range of patterns involving repetition and symmetry in the environment, including traditional patterns from a range of cultures.
  • Model using symbols to represent a pattern in other ways (e.g. using a spot/cross/dash pattern of symbols and doing a twirl/jump/glide in response).
  • Make deliberate mistakes when creating patterns alongside children and playfully challenge them to fix the problem.
  • Make border patterns where the repeating pattern continues around an object or frame.


  • When comparing the length, weight and capacity of things in play and everyday activities, encourage children to predict and give reasons.
  • Discuss accuracy, for instance matching ends or starting points, balancing exactly or “fullness”.
  • Support timed challenges by timing runs, trails, obstacle courses, etc. and teach children how to use the stopwatch.
  • Discuss the order and sequence of events in routines and role play using the language of time (first, then, after, before, next, sooner, later).
  • Draw children’s attention to visual timetables and clock times, focusing on the hour hand.



  • Encourage children to share items between two people or toys.


  • Capitalise on children’s fascination with counting  by joining in when they count in games.
  • Enjoy counting forwards and back (sometimes to much higher numbers). Use different voices, e.g. high or growly.
  • Use opportunities within daily routines to support children’s developing sense of number.
  • Model and encourage counting and representing numbers within role play, e.g. making a telephone call using a list of numbers.
  • Value children’s own mathematical representations within their pretend play.


  • When counting with children, playfully make deliberate mistakes for fun, expecting children to correct them.
  • Model writing numerals, e.g. on badges, birthday cards and banners.
  • When counting objects with children emphasise the cardinal principle: 1, 2, 3, there are three cups.
  • Invite children to count out a number of things from a larger group, e.g. Can you get five crackers?
  • Encourage children to use their fingers to show an amount  e.g. when asking another child to share resources, to show on their fingers how many they need.
  • Emphasise the one more, one less pattern in rhymes and traditional tales, asking children to predict the next number.
  • Model wondering and talking about how you might solve a number problem.
  • Value and support children to use their own graphics when problem solving.

Spatial Awareness

  • When children are exploring, use the language of position and direction in context (in, on, inside, under, over, progressing to between, beside, next to  through, along, including relative terms which depend on where you are, e.g. behind, in front of, forwards, backwards) using equivalent terms for these in home languages through liaison with families where possible.
  • On walks, in pictures or while playing, point out how things or people that are far away look smaller.
  • Support children in their problem solving when they are creating rail tracks and road layouts. 
  • In block play, sensitively support and challenge experienced builders to make bridges and enclosures.
  • Encourage children to persevere with jigsaws, perhaps demonstrating “hovering” jigsaw pieces to check if they will fit.


  • Help children to choose shapes for a purpose, e.g. a triangular block for a roof and the wedge-shaped block for a ramp.
  • Offer an appropriate or inappropriate shape for what you think the child’s purpose might be to investigate their thinking.
  • As children experience shapes, use informal language (e.g. slanty, pointy, twisty, wiggly, bumpy), common shape names (e.g. cylinder, cone, circle, square) and “nearly” shapes (e.g. This is almost a square but it’s got curvy corners). Find out and use equivalent terms for shapes in home languages.
  • Discuss how shapes can be partitioned in everyday contexts, e.g. cutting food in different ways.
  • Value children’s constructions and solutions to problems they have set themselves and talk about how the shapes have combined to make new shapes.


  • Whilst playing alongside children, model simple repeating patterns of two or three items and encourage children to create and continue patterns.
  • Demonstrate arranging objects in spatial patterns when building, collaging or playing with loose parts.
  • Draw children’s attention to patterns around them including from a range of cultures.
  • When making patterns, help children to solve problems.


  • During play, model comparing lengths and distances.
  • Look out for meaningful opportunities for children to compare by length, weight, capacity and time using comparative language (longer/shorter, heavier/lighter, holds more/holds less, longer time/shorter time).
  • Encourage children to participate in seesaw and balance scale play.
  • Encourage children to respond to and use words such as before, after, soon or later when talking about routines, recent events and events in a story or rhyme.


Comparison/ Counting

  • Include the number sequence in everyday contexts and songs so children experience the order of the numbers (ordinality)

Cardinality (How many?)

  • Encourage children to explore the collections they make, comparing amounts and counting some of the items, emphasising the last number, e.g. 1,2,3. There are 3 leaves.
  • Use opportunities to model and encourage counting on fingers.
  • When singing number rhymes with props, draw attention to contrasting differences and changes in numbers, checking together How many now?
  • Point out the number of things whenever possible, e.g. rather than just chairs, say four chairs.
  • Encourage children to use marks to represent their mathematical ideas in role play.
  • Help children to give or get two or three items, e.g. during snack time help children to take two pieces of fruit.

Spatial Awareness

  • Encourage children to predict what they will see next on a familiar route.
  • Take everyday opportunities to use words for position and direction accompanied by gesture (e.g. in, on, inside, under, over) using equivalent terms for these in home languages through liaison with families where possible.
  • Enjoy games involving jumping, running and hiding and make very simple obstacle courses, e.g. going up and down.
  • Model your thinking when arranging things, using some position words.
  • Help children to create simple roads and rail tracks and talk about position.
  • Value children’s explorations of spaces and viewpoints and their interest in how things look different.


  • Chat about the shape of the pieces and the holes when fitting pieces into inset puzzles.
  • Model comparing two objects to see if they have the same shape in purposeful contexts.
  • Suggest choosing a particular shaped item for a purpose.
  • Model your thinking when building.


  • Talk with children about the patterns you notice around you.
  • Comment on and help children to recognise the patterns they make in their mark making, loose parts and construction.
  • Draw children’s attention to the patterns in their routines by asking what comes next.


  • Use everyday opportunities to describe everyday items and contexts using informal language of size (giant, teeny, big, little, huge, small), length (long, tall, short), weight (heavy, light) and capacity (full, empty).
  • Observe children’s problem-solving when ordering things by size, e.g. stacking cups, sensitively supporting by offering one if they are really struggling.
  • Look out for opportunities to compare things purposefully such as finding out whether a teddy will fit in a bed.
  • When children talk about their experiences at home and in the setting, use some language of time (before, later, soon, next, after, morning, afternoon, evening, night-time). 
  • In everyday activities, make a commentary about the sequence of events.
  • When sharing stories and books, draw attention to routines and time sequences within them.



  • Talk with young children about lots, more, not many and not enough as they play.
  • Draw attention to contrasting differences and changes in amounts e.g. adding more bricks to a tower or eating things up.


  • Model counting things in everyday situations and routines.
  • Take opportunities to say number words in order with children as they play, e.g. 1,2,3 go!


  • Use number words in meaningful contexts, e.g. Here is your other mitten. Now we have two.

Spatial Awareness

  • Model thinking during tidy up routines to promote logic and reasoning about where things fit in or are kept.
  • Support children’s interest in body-sized spaces and provide commentary on the child going inside,  under, over, between and squeezing through,.
  • Look for opportunities to use spatial language during play activities.


  • Model thinking about the properties of shapes when selecting them to fit into spaces, e.g. Oh look, we need a round one.
  • When playing alongside children who are building, provide commentary about the shapes you are using.


  • Highlight different times of the day and talk about what comes next within the pattern of the day.
  • Leave a space for children to do the next action or word in familiar songs and stories with repeating elements.
  • Comment on what is the same and what is over and over again in patterns found in the environment.


  • Use the language of size and weight as children are involved in everyday play and routines.
  • Use the language of capacity as children explore water or sand to encourage them to think about when something is full, empty or holds more.
  • Emphasise the sequence within familiar activities or routines.



  • Take opportunities during play to sing number rhymes..
  • During personal care routines make a point of using numbers.
  • Play “peek-a-boo” hiding games with toys and people.

Spatial Awareness

  • Use spatial words during everyday play and routines.or one-word comments e.g.as you get children in and out of a highchair.
  • Take opportunities to play hide and reveal games with objects in boxes and under cups.
  • Support babies’ physical experience of positions and direction, e.g. describing up and down.


  • When playing with malleable materials draw attention to shapes as they are created and changed.


  • Talk about patterns in the environment e.g. spots and stripes on clothing or bumps in the pavement.
  • Spot opportunities to play “back and forth” and repetitive “again” games.


  • During play and everyday contexts, comment on the sizes and weights of objects using a range of language such as big, huge, enormous, long, tall, heavy.
  • Talk about what is going to happen and what has happened during the day using first, next and then.



  • Uses number names and symbols when comparing numbers, showing interest in large numbers
  • Estimates of numbers of things, showing understanding of relative size


  • Enjoys reciting numbers from 0 to 10 (and beyond) and back from 10 to 0
  • Increasingly confident at putting numerals in order 0 to 10 (ordinality)


  • Engages in subitising numbers to four and maybe five
  • Counts out up to 10 objects from a larger group.
  • Matches the numeral with a group of items to show how many there are (up to 10)


  • Shows awareness that numbers are made up (composed) of smaller numbers, exploring partitioning in different ways with a wide range of objects
  • Begins to conceptually subitise larger numbers by subitising smaller groups within the number, e.g. sees six raisins on a plate as three and three
  • In practical activities, adds one and subtracts one with numbers to 10
  • Begins to explore and work out mathematical problems, using signs and strategies of their own choice, including (when appropriate) standard numerals, tallies and  “+” or “-“

Spatial Awareness

  • Uses spatial language, including following and giving directions, using relative terms and describing what they see from different viewpoints
  • Investigates turning and flipping objects in order to make shapes fit and create models; predicting and visualising how they will look (spatial reasoning)
  • May enjoy making simple maps of familiar and imaginative environments, with landmarks


  • Uses informal language and analogies, (e.g. heart-shaped and hand-shaped leaves), as well as mathematical terms to describe shapes
  • Enjoys composing and decomposing shapes, learning which shapes combine to make other shapes
  • Uses own ideas to make models of increasing complexity, selecting blocks needed, solving problems and visualising what they will build


  • Spots patterns in the environment, beginning to identify the pattern “rule”
  • Chooses familiar objects to create and recreate repeating patterns beyond AB patterns and begins to identify the unit of repeat


  • Enjoys tackling problems involving prediction and discussion of comparisons of length, weight or capacity, paying attention to fairness and accuracy
  • Becomes familiar with measuring tools in everyday experiences and play
  • Is increasingly able to order and sequence events using everyday language related to time
  • Beginning to experience measuring time with timers and calendars



  • Compares two small groups of up to five objects, saying when there are the same number of objects in each group, e.g. You’ve got two, I’ve got two. Same!


  • May enjoy counting verbally as far as they can go
  • Points or touches (tags) each item, saying one number for each item, using the stable order of 1,2,3,4,5.
  • Uses some number names and number language within play, and may show fascination with large numbers
  • Begin to recognise numerals 0 to 10


  • Subitises one, two and three objects (without counting)
  • Counts up to five items, recognising that the last number said represents the total counted so far (cardinal principle)
  • Links numerals with amounts up to 5 and maybe beyond
  • Explores using a range of their own marks and signs to which they ascribe mathematical meanings


  • Through play and exploration, beginning to learn that numbers are made up (composed) of smaller numbers
  • Beginning to use understanding of number to solve practical problems in play and meaningful activities
  • Beginning to recognise that each counting number is one more than the one before
  • Separates a group of three or four objects in different ways, beginning to recognise that the total is still the same

Spatial Awareness

  • Responds to and uses language of position and direction
  • Predicts, moves and rotates objects to fit the space or create the shape they would like


  • Chooses items based on their shape which are appropriate for the child’s purpose
  • Responds to both informal language and common shape names
  • Shows awareness of shape similarities and differences between objects
  • Enjoys partitioning and combining shapes to make new shapes with 2D and 3D shapes
  • Attempts to create arches and enclosures when building, using trial and improvement to select blocks


  • Creates their own spatial patterns showing some organisation or regularity
  • Explores and adds to simple linear patterns of two or three repeating items, e.g. stick, leaf (AB) or stick, leaf, stone (ABC)
  • Joins in with simple patterns in sounds, objects, games and stories dance and movement, predicting what comes next


  • In meaningful contexts, finds the longer or shorter, heavier or lighter and more/less full of two items
  • Recalls a sequence of events in everyday life and stories



  • Beginning to compare and recognise changes in numbers of things, using words like more, lots or same


  • Begins to say numbers in order, some of which are in the right order (ordinality)

Cardinality (How many?)

  • In everyday situations, takes or gives two or three objects from a group
  • Beginning to notice numerals (number symbols)
  • Beginning to count on their fingers.

Spatial Awareness

  • Moves their bodies and toys around objects and explores fitting into spaces
  • Begins to remember their way around familiar environments
  • Responds to some spatial and positional language
  • Explores how things look from different viewpoints including things that are near or far away


  • Chooses puzzle pieces and tries to fit them in
  • Recognises that two objects have the same shape
  • Makes simple constructions


  • Joins in and anticipates repeated sound and action patterns
  • Is interested in  what happens next using the pattern of everyday routines


  • Explores differences in size, length, weight and capacity
  • Beginning to understand some talk about immediate past and future
  • Beginning to anticipate times of the day such as mealtimes or home time



  • Responds to words like lots or more


  • Says some counting words
  • May engage in counting-like behaviour, making sounds and pointing or saying some numbers in sequence


  • May use number words like one or two and sometimes responds accurately when asked to give one or two things

Spatial Awareness

  • Enjoys filling and emptying containers
  • Investigates fitting themselves inside and moving through spaces


  • Pushes objects through different shaped holes, and attempts to fit shapes into spaces on inset boards or puzzles
  • Beginning to select a shape for a specific space
  • Enjoys using blocks to create their own simple structures and arrangements


  • Becoming familiar with patterns in daily routines
  • Joins in with and predicts what comes next in a familiar story or rhyme
  • Beginning to arrange items in their own patterns, e.g. lining up toys


  • Shows an interest in size and weight
  • Explores capacity by selecting, filling and emptying containers e.g. fitting toys in a pram
  • Beginning to understand that things might happen now or at another time, in routines



  • May be aware of number names through their enjoyment of action rhymes and songs that relate to numbers
  • Looks for things which have moved out of sight

Spatial Awareness

  • Explores space around them and engages with position and direction, such as pointing to where they would like to go


  • Stacks objects using flat surfaces
  • Responds to changes of shape
  • Attempts, sometimes successfully, to match shapes with spaces on inset puzzles


  • Joins in with repeated actions in songs and stories
  • Initiates and continues repeated actions


  • Shows an interest in objects of contrasting sizes in meaningful contexts
  • Gets to know and enjoys daily routine
  • Shows an interest in emptying containers


  • Provide word banks, notebooks, clipboards, post-its and other writing resources for both indoor and outdoor play.
  • Ensure resources enable children to draw on their out-of-school practices and personal interests, such as children’s popular culture or sports teams.
  • Include oral stories and explore ways for both adults and children to develop oral storytelling skills.
  • Provide a range of opportunities to write for different purposes about things that interest children.
  • Resource role-play areas with listening and writing equipment, and ensure that role-play areas encourage writing of signs with a real purpose, e.g. a pet shop.
  • Plan enjoyable activities and games that help children create rhyming strings of real and imaginary words, e.g. Maddie, daddy, baddie, laddie.
  • Support children to understand that the letter shapes they write (graphemes) link to units of sound (phonemes).
  • Provide regular playful multisensory systematic phonics activities that help children to represent phonemes in their writing.
  • When reading stories, talk with children about the author and illustrator, to help children identify with these roles. For example, ask children why they think the author wrote the story, if the author knew the people in the story, or why the illustrator chose to draw a particular moment in the story. Ask children if they would like to be an author and/or illustrator.


  • Write down things children say to support their developing understanding that what they say can be written down, and then read and understood by someone else. Encourage parents to do this as well.
  • Set up environments of offices, dens in the garden, library, shop, home corner with greetings cards, etc., so that children engage in literacy events in which they spontaneously participate.
  • Provide a range of accessible materials and tools for writing as part of everyday play activity, including role play, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Write poems and short stories together with the children, writing down ideas they suggest.
  • Scribe children’s stories and re-read and enact their stories in small group activities.
  • Involve children when you make lists or write notes and messages.
  • Think out loud and talk through what you are doing when writing on typing on screen.
  • Break down your flow of speech into individual words, exemplifying the correspondence between the spoken and written word.
  • Provide activities during which children can experiment with writing, for example, leaving a message.
  • Encourage children to use their phonic knowledge when writing, and model this in your own writing.


  • Draw attention to marks, signs and symbols in the environment and talk about what they represent. Ensure this involves recognition of English, other languages and scripts.
  • Provide materials which reflect cultural diversity, so children see symbols and marks with which they are familiar, and learn that there are many different script systems e.g. Arabic, Chinese, Greek and Braille.
  • Try to have a notepad to hand (e.g. A5 size) in which you can scribe children’s stories and special words and share these stories and words with children.
  • Ensure children see you writing for a purpose, e.g. a shopping list, message for parents, labels in children’s play areas or reminders for ourselves.


  • Introduce a range of appropriate implements including large brushes, chalk and crayons, sticks and sponges for children to trace patterns and shapes.
  • Offer children a range of different surfaces to make marks on, inside and out, e.g. chalkboards, light boxes, sand and pathways.
  • Provide a broad range of opportunities for early writing experiences through sensory and symbolic play.

L W EE R1 R2

  • Provide a range of materials: sand, paint, early writing apps etc. for babies and toddlers to make marks with their hands and fingers, feet and bodies.
  • Give children large sheets of paper, trays of gloop, paint, soil etc. to make marks collaboratively.


  • Find out about, show interest in and legitimise children’s out-of-school writing practices and interests. Remember that not all writing formats go from left to right.
  • Talk to children about things they might write to support their play inside and outside, e.g. they might make a map for a journey, a job list for a builder, or spells for potion making.
  • Write stories, poems, jokes, lists, plans, maps etc. together with children on paper and using digital technology so that children they can see authorship and spelling in action.
  • Talk to children about the letters that represent the sounds they hear at the beginning of their own names and other familiar words.
  • Model how to segment the sounds(phonemes) in simple words and how the sounds are represented by letters (graphemes).
  • Encourage children to apply their own grapheme/phoneme knowledge to what they write in meaningful contexts.
  • Support and scaffold individual children’s writing as opportunities arise.


  • Notice and encourage children’s drawing, painting and early writing and the meanings that they give to them, such as when a child covers a whole piece of paper and says, “I’m writing”.
  • Celebrate and value children’s early attempts at graphic representation – focusing on the meaning and content rather than letter formation.
  • Model and include children in using signs and writing to expand playful experiences such as making signs for a shop or car wash, instructions for a ball game, a list of names for a taking turns.
  • Support children in recognising and writing their own names.
  • Make paper and digital books with children of activities they have been doing, using photographs of them as illustrations.


  • Listen and support what children tell you about their drawings and early writing.
  • Write down (scribe) the words that children use and display these words, for example, with photos
  • Co-create stories orally with individual children and in small groups. Scribe the stories and display them for children to look at independently or with a parent or friend.
  • Encourage children to make recordings of their own stories (e.g. on a digital tablet) and create opportunities for children to perform their stories to each other.