• 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.


  • Encourage different mark-making movements – big, small, hard, soft, quick and slow, and different shapes, circles, lines and dots.
  • Tell children about the marks you are making and encourage them to talk to you about theirs.
  • Value these early mark making activities by sharing them with others including parents and carers.
  • Write down (scribe) children’s words, and read them back to children.

L W PR R1 R2

  • Encourage children to use their fingers and implements to explore and trace marks on a surface, e.g. using a spoon in their food, or a finger in the sand.
  • Make marks together with babies and toddlers using a range of appropriate materials and tools.


  • Enjoys creating texts to communicate meaning for an increasingly wide range of  purposes, such as making greetings cards, tickets, lists, invitations and creating their own stories and books with images and sometimes with words, in print and digital formats
  • Gives meaning to the marks they make as they draw, write, paint and type using a keyboard or touch-screen technology
  • Begins to break the flow of speech into words, to hear and say the initial sound in words and may start to segment the sounds in words and blend them together
  • Starts to develop phonic knowledge by linking sounds to letters, naming and sounding some of the letters of the alphabet, identifying letters and writing recognisable letters in sequence, such as in their own name
  • Uses their developing phonic knowledge to write things such as labels and captions, later progressing to simple sentences


  • Makes up stories, play scenarios, and drawings in response to experiences, such as  outings
  • Sometimes gives meaning to their drawings and paintings
  • Ascribes meanings to signs, symbols and words that they see in different places, including those they make themselves
  • Includes mark making and early writing in their play
  • Imitates adults’ writing by making continuous lines of shapes and symbols (early writing) from left to right
  • Attempts to write their own name, or other names and words, using combinations of lines, circles and curves, or letter-type shapes
  • Shows interest in letters on a keyboard, identifying the initial letter of their own name and other familiar words
  • Begins to make letter-type shapes to represent the initial sound of their name and other familiar words


  • Distinguishes between the different marks they make
  • Enjoys drawing and writing on paper, on screen and on different textures, such as in sand or playdough and through using touch-screen technology.


As toddlers develop, they increase their understanding of how their marks are symbolic and convey meaning. Their marks may not yet resemble letters and words but nonetheless may carry meaning for the child. 

  • Begins to understand the cause and effect of their actions in mark making
  • Knows that the marks they make are of value
  • Enjoys the sensory experience of making marks

L W UC R1 R2

Writing systems are complicated ways to symbolise meaning, and children need to learn many skills and develop a lot of knowledge as they begin to write.  Writing skills and understanding start to develop in babies and toddlers.   Firstly, children begin to understand that written texts are symbolic and carry meaning. Later they begin to produce and read written marks purposefully (See the roots of Writing in Communication and language).

What is often referred to as ‘early mark-making’ is  the beginning of writing.  It is a sensory and physical, and cognitive experience for babies and toddlers, which enables them to see the connection between their actions and the resulting marks, recognising their own agency. (See roots of mark-making and handwriting in Playing and exploring and Physical Development).



  • Provide small groups of the same objects in treasure baskets, as well as single items.

Spatial awareness

  • Provide opportunities for babies to move freely on carpets, grass etc. Observe and sensitively support babies’ play and give them long stretches of uninterrupted time to explore.
  • Provide low mirrors to support babies to develop a body awareness.


  • Provide interestingly shaped objects to explore.
  • Make towers for children to knock down using objects that stack.


  • Plan for adults to have time to enjoy repetitive activities with babies.
  • Provide resources with high-contrast patterns.


  • Provide a range of objects of various sizes and weights in treasure baskets to excite and encourage babies’ interests including larger and smaller items.



  • Notice and mirror children’s reactions to changes in amount.
  • Add to objects & draw attention to the change in amount, using words like more.
  • When feeding babies comment on whether they would like more after being winded, e.g. Oh, you want more.
  • Use feeding, changing and bathing times for finger-play with young babies

Spatial awareness

  • Support babies’ developing awareness of their own bodies e.g. through baby massage and singing songs
  • During floor play sometimes place objects that are just in or just out of reach, including small objects on cloths that babies can pull towards themselves.


  • Encourage babies’ explorations of the characteristics of objects, e.g. by rolling a ball or sliding a block.
  • Demonstrate putting items inside others of similar shape


  • Sing patterned songs and rhymes with predictable movements or actions (including from children’s families).
  • Move with babies to the rhythm patterns in familiar songs, Encourage older babies to join in tapping and clapping along to simple rhythms.
  • Use repeated noises, movements and activities.
  • Play simple “to and fro” games, passing and rolling between the adult and child so they begin to predict which comes next.


  • Comment on the size and weight of objects when babies grasp things that are big or heavy.
  • During water play and bathing routines, show filling and emptying containers.
  • At the end of mealtimes show and comment on the empty bowl, cup or bottle: All gone!


  • Provide a rich range of quality children’s literature and dialogic shared reading experiences to involve children in critical engagement with narratives, characters and plots.
  • Provide a range of everyday signs and written texts in play areas (labels, lists, recipes, instructions, etc.) so children can include these in their play.
  • Make story books with children in print and/or digital formats to make personalised and meaningful books and ebooks to read with children, and that children can read themselves.
  • Make a classroom book of children’s own stories, scribed by an adult and/or drawn by children.
  • Ensure children have access to a wide range of literature that represents diversity in the local and global community, ensuring every child has the opportunity to find a character they can relate to.
  • Introduce children to new words, and explore their meaning together e.g. by acting out words and playing games with words.
  • Provide story sacks and boxes and make them with the children for use in the setting and at home.
  • Help children to identify the main events in a story and to enact stories, for example in their imaginative play.
  • Provide story boards and props which support children to talk about a story’s characters and sequences of events.
  • Include playful, multisensory and creative experiences and games that promote children’s interest in reading and in developing phonics skills and knowledge.
  • Demonstrate using phonics as a strategy to decode words while children can see the text, e.g. using big books or an interactive whiteboard.
  • Provide varied texts, including decodable texts, and encourage children to use all their skills including their phonic knowledge to practise reading with the skills and knowledge they have, so they experience success.
  • Begin to introduce playful systematic phonics sessions in fun ways that capture children’s interest, sustain motivation and reinforce learning and success.


  • Provide some simple poetry, song, fiction and non-fiction books, both paper copies and digital.
  • Provide fact and fiction books and possibly ebooks that children can access independently in all areas, e.g. construction area as well as the book area.
  • Provide books containing photographs that children can share with adults, peers and read on their own.
  • Add child-made books and adult-scribed children’s stories to the book area and share these stories with others.
  • Provide multimodal texts (that blend alphabetic print, images and symbols) that reflect the literacy practices that children encounter in their home and community spaces, enabling children to connect and draw on different aspects of their emerging literacy experiences.
  • Provide a range of reading materials that both enable children to draw on their home and community experiences and introduce children to a new and diverse range of texts, genre and media.
  • Ensure children can see written text, e.g. use big books, and model the language of print, such as letter, word, page, beginning, end, first, last, middle.
  • Provide a range of resources in play areas, such as empty cereal packets, labels and signs that children become familiar with and include in their play.
  • Introduce children to books and other materials that provide information or instructions. Carry out activities using instructions, such as reading a recipe to make a cake or following safety procedures.
  • Furnish the setting with diverse resources that reflect children’s home cultures and the diversity of cultures in the local community, including dual language books, as well as artefacts that children are attached to, such as special objects, sounds, images, as well as animals and insects.
  • Take storytelling into local communities as a way to build connections between the setting and children’s homes and wider lives in the local community.


  • Find quality time every day to tell and read stories to children, using puppets, soft toys, or real objects as props.
  • Provide stories, pictures and puppets which allow children to experience and talk about how characters feel.
  • Include familiar environmental print in the role play area.
  • Create frequent opportunities for singing, rhymes and music sessions.
  • Provide a range of simple musical and percussion instruments, such as tambourines, shakers or xylophones.
  • Include children in digital screen activity, for example, to recognise screen icons.


  • Provide digital recordings  of rhymes, stories, sounds and spoken words.
  • Provide picture books, books with flaps or hidden words, and books with accompanying story apps.
  • Provide story sacks for children to take home, for parents to read books with their children and talk about stories.
  • Suggest to parents they might encourage children to take part during telephone and video calls, through smiling, making sounds and words.



  • Reacts to obvious changes of amount when those amounts are significant (more than double)

Spatial awareness

  • Explores space when they are free to move, roll and stretch
  • Developing an awareness of their own bodies, that their body has different parts and where these are in relation to each other


  • Explores differently sized and shaped objects
  • Beginning to put objects inside others and take them out again


  • Shows interest in patterned songs, rhymes and movements
  • Experiences patterned objects and images
  • Begins to predict what happens next in predictable situations


  • Responds to size, reacting to very big or very small items that they see or try to pick up


  • Let children handle books and draw their attention to pictures.
  • Tell and read stories, looking at and interacting with young babies, and using voice, intonation and gesture to prompt babies’ interactions.
  • Draw on children’s home cultures to create meaningful reading experiences.
    • Make family stories using small photo albums or story apps with photos of family members, significant people in the child’s life and familiar everyday objects.
    • Expand these to include the stories, songs, rhymes and lives of those in local communities and wider histories and cultures.
  • Provide opportunities for children to explore sound with drums, other instruments, kitchen pans and wooden spoons or upcycled resources.


  • Provide mobiles, inviting displays and pictures of familiar characters in the environment, including in physical care areas, to prompt babies’ focused gaze, pointing and shared attention.
  • Collect a diverse range of board books, cloth books, picture books and stories to share with young babies.
  • Offer books that provide sensory experiences.
  • Include babies in telephone and video calls with family and close friends.


  • Read aloud to children every day, introducing children to a wide variety of literature, and talking about the print and digital books you share.
  • Encourage children to tell their own stories in their own way, to take the lead in storytelling so you can listen and learn from children about what they know and are interested in.
  • Discuss and model ways of finding out information from non-fiction texts in print books, digital resources and online.
  • Encourage children to add to their first-hand experience of the world by seeking information using print and digital sources of information.


  • Discuss with children the characters and events in books being read to them.
  • Encourage children to predict outcomes, to think of alternative endings and to compare story plots and the feelings of characters with their own experiences.
  • Focus on meaningful print (such as a child’s name, words on a cereal packet or a book title, icons on a weather app) in order to discuss similarities and differences between symbols.
  • Help children to understand what a word is by using names and labels and by pointing out words in the environment and in print and digital books.
  • Remember not all languages have written forms and not all families speak English at home, or are literate in their home language.
  • Include home language and bilingual story sessions by involving qualified bilingual adults, as well as enlisting the help of parents.
  • Read dual language books (English and another language) with all children, to raise awareness of different scripts. Try to match dual language books to languages spoken by families in the setting.
  • Remember that established literacy practices in homes might differ from those of the setting.


  • Encourage children to use and extend the stories they hear in their play, using props and dressing up clothes as they relive and reinvent stories.
  • Tune into words from stories that individual children particularly enjoy, e.g. children’s favourite words and words that are emotionally important to them. Revisit these words in meaningful interactions.
  • Read stories that children already know, pausing at intervals to encourage them to “read” the next word.
  • Encourage children to notice signs and symbols in everyday life, such as familiar logos and icons for apps.
  • Encourage children to identify the sounds they hear in the environment and to explore making rhythms with musical instruments and upcycled resources.


  • Encourage and support children’s responses to picture books and stories you read with them.
  • Use different voices to tell stories and encourage young children to join in wherever possible.


  • Notice and support babies’ developing responses, gestures and movements as they learn to anticipate and join in with finger and word play.
  • Make voice sounds and say words as babies explore print and digital books with adults –  leave pauses after words and sounds to encourage babies to begin to repeat them if they choose to.
  • Sing simple songs and nursery rhymes with children, encouraging them to join in


  • Use finger play, rhymes and familiar songs to support young babies’ enjoyment.
  • Provide enjoyable shared experiences with books and apps in ways that are emotionally secure and supportive.
  • Plan shared story and book time as a key source of nurture and attachment which will continue throughout the EYFS and beyond


  • Enjoys an increasing range of print and digital books, both fiction and non-fiction
  • Uses vocabulary and forms of speech that are increasingly influenced by their experiences of reading
  • Describes main story settings, events and principal characters in increasing detail
  • Re-enacts and reinvents stories they have heard in their play
  • Knows that information can be retrieved from books, computers and mobile digital devices
  • Is able to recall and discuss stories or information that has been read to them, or they have read themselves
  • Begins to recognise some written names of peers, siblings or “Mummy”/”Daddy” for example
  • Begins to develop phonological and phonemic awareness
    • Continues a rhyming string and identifies alliteration
    • Hears and says the initial sound in words
    • Begins to segment the sounds in simple words and blend them together and knows which letters represent some of them
    • Starts to link sounds to letters, naming and sounding the letters of the alphabet
    • Begins to link sounds to some frequently used digraphs, e.g. sh, th, ee
  • Begins to read some high frequency words, and to use developing knowledge of letters and sounds to read simple phonically decodable words and simple sentences
  • Engages with books and other reading materials at an increasingly deeper level, sometimes drawing on their phonic knowledge to decode words, and their knowledge of language structure, subject knowledge and illustrations to interpret the text
  • Includes everyday literacy artefacts in play, such as labels, instructions, signs, envelopes, etc


  • Listens to and joins in with stories and poems, when reading one-to-one and in small groups
  • Joins in with repeated refrains and anticipates key events and phrases in rhymes and stories
  • Begins to be aware of the way stories are structured, and to tell own stories
  • Talks about events and principal characters in stories and suggests how the story might end
  • Shows interest in illustrations and words in print and digital books and words in the environment
  • Recognises familiar words and signs such as own name, advertising logos and screen icons
  • Looks at and enjoys print and digital books independently
  • Knows that print carries meaning and, in English, is read from left to right and top to bottom
  • Knows information can be relayed through signs and symbols in various forms (e.g. printed materials, digital screens and environmental print)
  • Handles books and touch screen technology carefully and the correct way up with growing competence
  • Begins to navigate apps and websites on digital media using drop down menu to select websites and icons to select apps
  • Begins to develop phonological and phonemic awareness
    • Shows awareness of rhyme and alliteration
    • Recognises rhythm in spoken words, songs, poems and rhymes
    • Claps or taps the syllables in words during sound play
    • Hears and says the initial sound in words


  • Has some favourite stories, rhymes, songs, poems or jingles
  • Repeats and uses actions, words or phrases from familiar stories
  • Fills in the missing word or phrase in a known rhyme, story or game, e.g. “Humpty Dumpty sat on a …”
  • Begins to recognise familiar logos from children’s popular culture, commercial print or icons for apps
  • Enjoys rhythmic and musical activity with percussion instruments, actions, rhymes and songs, clapping along with the beat and joining in with words of familiar songs and nursery rhymes


  • Handles books, printed and digital reading material with interest
  • Responds to sounds in the environment such as cars, sirens and birds
  • Is interested in and explores the sounds made by banging and tapping familiar objects and simple instruments
  • Waves and taps arms, bounces or stamps to simple rhythms in songs and rhymes
  • Notices pictures and symbols and beginning to recognise what they stand for in their familiar experiences


  • Notices and engages with sounds and images in the environment
  • As part of sensory exploration, may touch and handle books and digital reading devices
  • Enjoys looking at books and other suitable printed or digital material with familiar people, and being read to


  • Plan opportunities, particularly after exercise, for children to talk about how their bodies feel.
  • Review enabling environments for adventure and challenge, identifying areas where children are encouraged to take physical risks.
  • Develop and make use of a variety of natural landscapes including slopes, woodland and natural dens in the undergrowth.
  • Provide outdoor resources which complement indoor provision, with an opportunity for children to play and explore on a larger scale.
  • Find ways to involve children so that they are all able to be active inside and outside in ways that interest them and match their stage of development, health and ability.
  • Use mobility aids, adapted equipment and clothing to ensure the outdoor area is fully accessible to all children; use portable fencing and zoned areas to change the size of the space to meet children’s needs.


  • Provide a cosy place with a cushion and a soft light where a child can rest quietly if they need to.
  • Plan so that children can be active in a range of ways, including while using a wheelchair.
  • Encourage children to be active and energetic by organising lively games, since physical activity is important in maintaining good health and in guarding against children becoming overweight or obese in later life.
  • Remove obstacles and furniture that could restrict mobility. Ensure accessibility especially for children with a physical disability.
  • Use visual support to sequence routines such as toileting, handwashing and dressing.
  • Establish regular routines for eating, drinking, washing and toileting so that children become familiar with the rhythm of the day
  • Consider accessibility of resources and make sure all children are able to make choices about what they can use and what they want to do.
  • Use a visual timetable to support children’s understanding of routines during the day.
  • Consider opportunities to move up, down and through spaces and equipment.
  • Use mirrors, reflective materials and a range of multi-sensory materials to stimulate curiosity and active investigation.
  • Ensure indoor/outdoor areas are fully accessible to all children, making reasonable adjustments to layout, organisation and resources to meet individual needs safely.


  • Allow children to pour their own drinks, serve their own food, choose a story, hold a puppet or water a plant.
  • Provide support and advice for parents on healthy eating, oral hygiene and sleep expectations for their children
  • Offer choices for children in terms of potties, trainer seats or steps.
  • Create opportunities for moving towards independence, for example by using visual clues for the sequence of routines such as hand-washing.
  • Provide pictures or objects representing options to support children in making and expressing choices.
  • Choose some stories that highlight the consequences of choices.
  • Ensure children’s safety, while not unduly inhibiting their risk-taking.
  • Talk to children about simple rules for their safety such as holding on to handrails when walking downstairs
  • Display a colourful daily menu showing healthy meals and snacks and discuss choices with the children, reminding them, e.g. that they tried something previously and might like to try it again or encouraging them to try something new.
  • Be aware of eating habits at home and of the different ways people eat their food, e.g. that eating with clean fingers is as skilled and equally valued as using cutlery.
  • Encourage children to select and attempt to put on suitable clothing for outdoor play.


  • Set up places, outdoors as well as indoors, for toddlers to take naps during the day: daytime sleep can be much more refreshing and successful when provided outside.
  • Ensure that there are plenty of different places and ways, indoors and outdoors, that toddlers can find withdrawal, softness and calm in the moment that they need it.
  • Provide ample seating (such as a sofa inside or swing-seat outside) so that toddlers can snuggle with adults and other children.
  • Ensure that there is time for young children to complete a self-chosen task, such as putting on their own shoes.
  • Establish routines that enable children to look after themselves, providing ample time for this.
  • Create time for discussing options so that young children have choices between healthy options, such as whether they will drink water or milk.
  • Place water containers where children can find them easily and get a drink when they need one.
  • Consider providing a sturdy ladder so that toddlers can choose to climb up onto the changing and dressing table by themselves: this will encourage their involvement in care routines


  • Provide a comfortable, accessible place where babies can rest or sleep when they want to.
  • Continue to provide supported sleeping, resting and withdrawal opportunities outdoors as well as inside, to best fit the conditions that individual babies need.
  • Plan alternative activities for babies who do not need sleep at the same time as others do.
  • Ensure mealtime seating allows young children to have feet firmly on the floor or foot rest.  This aids stability and upper trunk control supporting hand-to-mouth co-ordination.
  • Help children to enjoy their food and appreciate healthier choices by combining favourites with new tastes and textures.
  • Provide safe surroundings in which young children have freedom to move as they want, while being kept safe by watchful adults.
  • Ensure that the environment is calm and not filled with noise or music, so that babies can attune to sounds and notice where they are and what they relate to – the 3D outdoor environment is very good for this.
  • Avoid introducing hard shoes too early in walking development and limit the time that they are worn each day.


  • Provide a dedicated place for daytime sleeping outdoors as well as indoors to suit the needs of individual babies.
  • Enable and allow babies to sleep when they need to and to wake up from naps naturally.
  • Provide ample seating both indoors and outside so that adults can sit comfortably with distressed, resting and alert babies.  Swing seats outdoors work especially well.
  • Keep the environment quiet and calm, so that babies can attend to the voices and natural sounds around them.
  • Plan to take account of the individual cultural and feeding needs of young babies in your group.
  • There may be considerable variation in the way parents feed their children at home.  Remember that some parents may need interpreter support.
  • Plan for feeding times to be slow and pleasurable.  A gentle rhythm to feeding times allows babies to anticipate what is coming next and feel relaxed.
  • Make the nappy changing and dressing area pleasant to be in for both babies and adults, so that changing becomes a time for one-to-one relationship building.
  • Trained staff can introduce baby massage sessions that make young babies feel nurtured and promote a sense of wellbeing.  Involving parents helps them to use this approach at home.


  • Be aware that some children may have sensory issues around food texture, taste, smell, or colour. Talk with parents and monitor. Find out what steps might be appropriate to build the child’s confidence and broaden their food repertoire, supporting their sensory integration.
  • Acknowledge and encourage children’s efforts to manage their personal needs, and to use and return resources appropriately. Promote health awareness by talking with children about exercise, its effect on their bodies and the positive contribution it can make to their health. Be sensitive to varying family expectations and life patterns when encouraging thinking about health.
  • Highlight the importance of physical activity and active play within the home setting, and the mutual pleasure and benefits for both adults and children from shared physical games and activities. Emphasising the fun can be more effective than warnings to parents about obesity.
  • Discuss with children why they get hot and encourage them to think about the effects of the environment, such as whether opening a window helps everybody to be cooler.
  • Understand that regression in self-care can occur as children consolidate development or in response to anxiety or traumatic event. Find ways of supporting the child to return to previous level of development without judgement or disapproval.


  • Talk with children about why you encourage them to rest when they are tired or why they need to wear wellingtons when it is muddy outdoors.
  • Encourage children to notice the changes in their bodies after exercise, such as their heart beating faster.
  • Talk with children about the importance of hand-washing and infection control.
  • Help children who are struggling with self-care by leaving a last small step for them to complete, e.g. pulling up their trousers from just below the waist.
  • Do up zips on coats etc from behind and over child’s shoulder so they can view the process from their perspective.
  • Use social stories to support a child who is struggling to understand a new routine.
  • Notice when a child is always hungry, takes food from others or needs more food than their peers. This may be an indicator of dietary imbalance, an emotional or safeguarding need. Talk with parents/carers to find out eating patterns at home.
  • Notice when a child is often tired or sleepy during the day and find out from parents/carers how they are sleeping at night.
  • Notice when a child holds their breath to control the reactions of others. Talk with the child and parents/carers to encourage the child to express emotion in other ways.
  • Notice children who are unable to mirror the actions of others. Further support may be needed to activate mirror neurons in the brain.
  • Maintain an open dialogue with parents/carers about a child’s bowel and bladder control. Offer advice, support and reassurance. Make a referral to health and family support if needed


  • Provide quiet spaces for children to rest or nap and regular access to the outdoors or other spaces where children can be energetic
  • Respond to how child communicates need for food, drinks, toileting and when uncomfortable.
  • Support parents’ routines with young children’s self-care including toileting by having flexible routines and by encouraging children’s efforts at independence.
  • Support children’s growing independence as they do things for themselves, such as pulling up their pants after toileting, handwashing, recognising differing parental expectations.
  • Involve young children in preparing food.
  • Give children the chance to talk about what they like to eat, while reinforcing messages about healthier choices.
  • Remember that children who have limited opportunity to play outdoors may lack a sense of danger.
  • Provide clothing or access to clothing and footwear to enable children to be outdoors in all weathers.


  • Be ready to provide the kind of recovery method that each child needs, or to support the child in managing recovery for themselves.
  • Continue discussions with parents about the critical nature of sufficient sleep and how to provide daytime naps.
  • Be responsive to and encourage each child’s drive to become independent in self-care situations.
  • Be aware of and learn about differences in cultural attitudes to children’s developing independence.
  • Value children’s choices and encourage them to try something new and healthy.
  • Create rituals and rhythms around dressing and hygiene routines, so that they are anticipated, enjoyable and effective.
  • Help toddlers to select clothing for going outside and make sure there is ample time for changing for going out and coming back inside, so that this becomes a pleasurable part of the overall experience.
  • Encourage efforts such as when a young child offers their arm to put in a coat sleeve.
  • Discuss family expectations for toileting, since in some families and cultures young boys may be used to sitting rather than standing at the toilet.


  • Find out from parents how their baby communicates needs. Ensure that parents and carers who speak languages other than English are able to share their views.
  • Be ready to support babies when they experience changes in exploration energy and suddenly need adult attention: this response enables the physiological basis for later self-regulation.
  • Use feeding, changing and bathing times to share finger and toe plays such as “Round and Round the Garden”.
  • Allow enough time for respectful care, ensuring that babies know what is going to happen next, watching for their cues and allowing them the opportunity to participate in age appropriate ways.
  • Make sure that clothing enables mobility and does not present any hazards, for example, jeans and dresses can prevent crawling and cause trips.
  • Help babies use their feet in crawling and standing by removing footwear whenever possible.
  • Explain to parents how supporting self-directed movement provides the basis for motor planning, self-regulation and lifelong wellbeing.
  • Share toddler’s interest in noises in the environment when outside, helping them to  locate and understand the sound they have picked out.
  • Discuss with parents about jointly taking care of teeth as they appear, introducing a cleaning routine that is enjoyable and links with nutrition


  • Be alert and responsive to when babies have moved out of exploratory mode and enjoying floor play to needing holding, cuddling or meeting care needs.
  • Talk to young babies as you stroke their cheeks, or pat their backs, reminding them that you are there and they are safe.
  • Discuss with parents the critical role of sleep in infancy and refer to Health Visitor or NHS guidance on daytime sleeping in infancy.
  • Find out from parents about the feeding patterns of young babies.
  • Encourage babies gradually to share control of food and drink, remaining tuned-in and available throughout feeding.
  • Give bodily care times prominence in your role with babies, making feeding, nappy changing, bathing and dressing times slow and attentive.
  • Notice individual baby cues when spending special one-to-one time with them to ensure they are ready to engage.
  • Discuss the cultural needs and expectations for skin and hair care with parents prior to entry to the setting, ensuring that the needs of all children are met appropriately and that parents’ wishes are respected.
  • Be aware of specific health difficulties among the babies in the group.
  • Share with parents the value of tummy time for developing awareness for later continence and appetite control.
  • Look after baby teeth as soon as they begin to appear.


  • Eats a healthy range of foodstuffs and understands need for variety in food
  • Describes a range of different food textures and tastes when cooking and notices changes when they are combined or exposed to hot and cold temperatures
  • Describes physical changes to the body that can occur when feeling unwell, anxious, tired, angry or sad
  • Can initiate and describe playful actions or movements for other children to mirror and follow
  • Has established a consistent, daily pattern in relation to eating, toileting and sleeping routines and can explain why this is important
  • Usually dry and clean during the day
  • Shows some understanding that good practices with regard to exercise, eating, drinking water, sleeping and hygiene can contribute to good health
  • Shows understanding of the need for safety when tackling new challenges, and considers and manages some risks by taking independent action or by giving a verbal warning to others
  • Shows understanding of how to transport and store equipment safely
  • Practices some appropriate safety measures without direct supervision, considering both benefits and risk of a physical experience


  • Can tell adults when hungry, full up or tired or when they want to rest, sleep or play
  • Observes and can describe in words or actions the effects of physical activity on their bodies.
  • Can name and identify different parts of the body
  • Takes practical action to reduce risk, showing their understanding that equipment and tools can be used safely
  • Can wash and can dry hands effectively and understands why this is important
  • Willing to try a range of different textures and tastes and expresses a preference. Can name and identify different parts of the body
  • Observes and controls breath, able to take deep breaths, scrunching and releasing the breath
  • Can mirror the playful actions or movements of another adult or child
  • Working towards a consistent, daily pattern in relation to eating, toileting and sleeping routines and understands why this is important
  • Gains more bowel and bladder control and can attend to toileting needs most of the time themselves.
  • Dresses with help, e.g. puts arms into open-fronted coat or shirt when held up, pulls up own trousers, and pulls up zipper once it is fastened at the bottom


  • Very energetic in short bursts and needs time for rest and calm with at least three hours of a day of exercise including moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day
  • Needs to sleep for 10–13 hours in a 24-hour period which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times
  • Feeds self competently
  • Can hold a cup with two hands and drink well without spilling
  • Develops some independence in self-care and shows an awareness of routines such as handwashing or teeth cleaning but still often needs adult support
  • Develops increasing understanding of and control of the bowel and bladder urges and starts to communicate their need for the preferred choice of potty or toilet
  • Able to help with and increasingly independently put on and take off simple clothing items such as hats, unzipped jackets, wellington boots
  • Begins to recognise danger and seeks the support and comfort of significant adults
  • Can increasingly express their thoughts and emotions through words as well as continuing to use facial expressions


  • Sleeps for 12-14 hours a day with one/two naps  Daytime sleeping continues to be important for healthy development
  • Highly active in short bursts, with frequent and sudden need for rest or withdrawal
  • Enjoys hugs and cuddles and seeks comfort from attachment figure when they feel the need
  • Uses physical expression of feelings to release stress.
  • Generally has up to 16 teeth – helps adult with brushing teeth
  • Intentionally makes sounds with objects and actively responds to music and singing with whole-body dancing
  • Develops own likes and dislikes in food and drink, willing to try new food textures and tastes
  • Shows interest in indoor and outdoor clothing and shoes/wellingtons
  • Clearly communicates wet or soiled nappy or pants, showing increasing awareness of bladder and bowel urges
  • Helps with dressing/undressing and care routines, enjoying the rituals established for hand washing and teeth cleaning
  • Feeds self with increasing need to be in control and holds cup with both hands, drinking without much spilling


  • Sleeps for 11-15 hours a day with at least 2 naps
  • Self-soothes and is able to drop off to sleep when conditions are right for them
  • Expresses feelings and communicates through gesture, facial expression, movements, body language and vocalisations (such as joy, distress, frustration and fear)
  • Shows rapid changes in energy levels, from highly active to a sudden need for adult support in order to restore
  • Grasps finger foods and brings them to mouth and shares control of spoon and bottle or cup, moving towards independence with support
  • Attentive to sounds in the environment, even at distance and overhead, often pointing, vocalising and sharing attention with adults
  • Interested in making and exploring sounds with objects
  • Generally has up to 12 teeth – willing to allow baby toothbrush to be used on teeth
  • Can actively cooperate with nappy changing, dressing/undressing
  • Starts to communicate regarding urination and bowel movement


  • Responds to and thrives on warm, sensitive physical contact and care
  • Makes needs known through crying and body movements
  • Responds to being rocked as a means of soothing
  • Sleeps for 14-16 hours a day, with several short naps. Substantial sleeping is vital for processing sensory information taken in while awake
  • Responds and turns to sounds, especially voices
  • Expresses discomfort, hunger or thirst, distress and need for holding or moving
  • Alert for periods of increasing length, interspersed with naps
  • Anticipates food routines with interest
  • Starts to move to solid feeding (current recommendations are at around 6 months) as well as milk
  • Communicates discomfort or distress with wet or soiled nappy
  • First teeth usually appear – first two lower incisors and then two upper incisors
  • Chews on baby toothbrush
  • Opens mouth for spoon


  • Provide time and space to enjoy energetic play outdoors daily.
  • Provide large portable equipment that children can move about safely and cooperatively to create their own structures, such as milk crates, tyres, large cardboard tubes.
  • Practise movement skills through games with beanbags, cones, balls and hoops.
  • Plan activities where children can practise moving in different ways and at different speeds, balancing, target throwing, rolling, kicking and catching
  • Provide sufficient equipment for children to share, so that waiting to take turns does not spoil enjoyment.
  • Mark out boundaries for some activities, such as games involving wheeled toys or balls, so that children can more easily regulate their own activities.
  • Provide activities that give children the opportunity and motivation to practise manipulative skills, e.g. cooking, painting, clay and playing instruments.
  • Provide play resources including small-world toys, construction sets, threading and posting toys, dolls’ clothes and material for collage.
  • Teach children skills of how to use tools and materials effectively and safely and give them opportunities to practise them.
  • Provide a range of left-handed tools, especially left-handed scissors, as needed.
  • Support children with physical difficulties with nonslip mats, small trays for equipment, and triangular or thicker writing tools.
  • Provide a range of construction toys of different sizes, made of wood, rubber or plastic, that fix together in a variety of ways, e.g. by twisting, pushing, slotting or magnetism.
  • Provide access to waterproofs, wellington boots and a changing area where children can dress/undress independently.
  • Provide equipment that supports different kinds of schemas, so that children have an opportunity to build on natural patterns of movement.
  • Agree acceptable levels of risk and challenge, identify hazards and actions needed to maximise opportunities indoors and outdoors.
  • Adapt or create spaces to ensure that children with limited physical mobility can move safely and with confidence.
  • Teach children how to access, use and store resources safely to build independence and autonomy.
  • Provide materials to create enclosed spaces and dens such as fabric, poles and pegs.


  • Plan opportunities for children to tackle a range of levels and surfaces including flat and hilly ground, grass, pebbles, asphalt, smooth floors and carpets.
  • Provide a range of large play equipment that can be used in different ways, such as boxes, ladders, A-frames and barrels.
  • Plan time for children to experiment with equipment and to practise movements they choose.
  • Provide opportunities for children to hang upside down, balance, swing backwards and forwards, roll down slopes, and spin round and round, allowing children to help understand their sense of space and self.
  • Explain the importance of being outdoors and providing challenge in a safe environment to parents. Provide real and role-play opportunities for children to create pathways, e.g. road layouts, or going on a picnic.
  • Use action rhymes, songs and games like “follow my leader” to encourage all children to be active
  • Provide recorded music, scarves, streamers and musical instruments so that children can respond spontaneously to music.
  • Plan activities that involve moving and stopping, such as musical bumps.
  • Provide “tool boxes” containing things that make marks, so that children can explore their use both indoors and outdoors.


  • Anticipate young children’s exuberance and ensure the space is clear and suitable for their rapid and sometimes unpredictable movements.
  • Provide opportunities to swing, spin and bounce.
  • Provide different arrangements of toys and soft play materials to encourage crawling, tumbling, rolling and climbing.
  • Use music to stimulate exploration with rhythmic movements.
  • Ensure that toddlers spend lots of time outdoors experiencing uneven ground and changing gradients.
  • Provide a daily walk (out of pushchairs) in the immediate locality: the same walk every day is most valuable at this age.
  • Provide a range of wheeled toys indoors and outdoors, such as trundle trikes, buggies for dolls, push carts and wheelbarrows.
  • Offer “heuristic” (exploratory) play with sets of simple natural and household objects for toddlers to manipulate, investigate and find out what they can make them do.
  • Provide items for filling, emptying and carrying, and a variety of materials to put into them.
  • Provide materials that enable children to help with care-taking tasks such as sweeping, washing, pouring and digging.
  • Provide sticks, rollers and moulds for young children to use in dough, clay, mud or sand.


  • Alongside the continuing role of adult bodies, the floor is the best enabling environment for babies at this stage.
  • Limit the time older babies spend in seats, highchairs, bouncers and other “containers” as this prevents the critical physical development that takes place through crawling.
  • Plan space to encourage free movement, while being kept safe by attentive adults. 
  • Maintain a familiar and nurturing environment that allows babies to feel secure, curious and adventurous, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Provide large cushions, tunnels, slopes and low-level steps or platforms to stimulate and challenge toddlers.
  • Offer continuous low-level surfaces outdoors as well as indoors, so that babies can pull up to a standing position, cruise sideways and take first steps.
  • Provide sturdy push-along carts, wheeled toys and pull-along toys indoors and out for pushing and pulling.
  • Use music to encourage and enjoy movements.
  • Make play resources easily and simply accessible on shelves and open containers for children to reach and fetch for themselves.
  • Provide resources that stimulate babies to handle and manipulate things, e.g. metal and wooden objects or board books.
  • Use gloop (cornflour and water) in small trays so that babies can enjoy putting fingers into it and lifting them out.


  • The caregiver’s body is the first and foremost enabling environment, and babies need lots of time in contact with attentive and responsive adults.
  • From birth onwards, babies need to experience movement in space through being held.  Rocking, side-to-side and up-and-down movements are soothing, enjoyable and very developmentally beneficial.
  • Provide comfortable seating both indoors and outdoors, so that adults can spend time with babies lying on their laps and upper body.  Rocking chairs are especially useful.
  • Make the most of the outdoors for providing the tactile and visual stimulation that babies need in their first year.
  • Limit the time young babies spend in seats and other “containers” as this prevents physical development through movement and touch.
  • Provide a safe space on a warm firm surface, such as blanket on the floor or grass, so that young babies can lie on their backs to move, kick, stretch, find their hands and feet and look into the distance.
  • Give plenty of time for babies to discover and play with their hands and feet before offering them things to hold. 
  • Gradually encourage babies to explore the space near them by putting interesting things beside them so they can reach, stretch, turn and roll towards them.
  • Have well-planned areas that allow babies maximum space to move, roll, stretch and explore in safety indoors and outdoors.
  • When babies begin to be able to move on their belly, provide a safe smooth and firm surface, such as a wooden floor or carpet.
  • Provide objects to be sucked, pulled, squeezed and held, to encourage sensory development along with hand use.


  • Encourage children to move with controlled effort, and model use of vocabulary in context such as strong, firm, gentle, heavy, stretch, reach, tense and floppy.
  • Use music of different tempo, styles and cultures to create moods and talk about how people move when they are sad, happy or cross.
  • Motivate children to be active through group games, action songs and singing.
  • Talk about why children should take care when moving freely. Notice children who frequently bump into obstacles or fall over and talk with parents/carers about how they move at home.
  • Teach children the skills they need to use equipment safely, e.g. cutting with scissors or using tools. Be aware of children who may not have had these experiences at home and talk with parents/carers about increasing opportunities at home.
  • Encourage children to use the vocabulary of movement, e.g. gallop, slither; of instruction e.g. follow, lead and copy by modelling and using the vocabulary in context.
  • Pose challenging questions such as Can you get all the way round the climbing frame without your knees touching it?
  • Talk with children about the need to match their actions to the space they are in.
  • Show children how to collaborate in throwing, rolling, fetching and receiving games, encouraging children to play with one another once their skills are sufficient.
  • Introduce and encourage children to use the vocabulary of manipulation, e.g. squeeze and prod
  • Explain why safety is an important factor in handling tools, equipment and materials, and have sensible rules for everybody to follow.
  • Value and support children’s own judgements of risk, encouraging them to think about what to be aware of and how they can stay safe.
  • Explain benefits of outdoor learning to parents/carers so that children come dressed appropriately for different weathers and seasons.
  • Notice a child who moves repetitively in a particular way e.g. spinning around, flapping hands or using a throwing action. Talk to parents/carers about schemas and find constructive ways for the child to move safely.  These kinds of movements may require investigation in the future if they continue.
  • Notice a child who lacks strength in limbs to push, pull or move safely over climbing equipment. Find out what opportunities the child has at home for outdoor adventure and risk and adapt routines to increase outdoor physical play.


  • Value the ways children choose to move.
  • Give as much opportunity as possible for children to move freely between indoors and outdoors.
  • Talk to children about their movements and help them to explore new ways of moving, such as squirming, slithering and twisting along the ground like a snake, and moving quickly, slowly or on tiptoe.
  • Encourage body tension activities such as stretching, reaching, curling, twisting and turning.
  • Be aware that children need to practise walking, climbing and jumping on a range of different surfaces
  • Provide a range of wheeled toys to encourage children’s balance such as toys to pedal, scooters, toys to sit astride.
  • Provide safe spaces where children can explore, challenge themselves and solve problems like how to balance on beams or climb ladders.
  • Agree acceptable levels of risk and challenge to enable children to explore and acquire new skills and abilities.
  • Encourage children in their efforts, such as to pour a drink from an appropriately sized jug and to manipulate objects in their play: Can you put the dolly’s arm in the coat?
  • Provide an easily accessible range of tools, loose parts and construction equipment to encourage children’s emerging manipulative skills.


  • Enable toddlers to have at least three hours a day moving and being active, both indoors and outdoors, across the day and according to the child’s interest.
  • Develop a shared team culture of managing risk positively so as to enable toddlers to explore and stretch their abilities.
  • Continue to provide a visible, attentive “safe base” so that toddlers have the confidence for exploratory movement and self-driven physical activity.
  • Encourage independence as young children explore particular patterns of movement, often referred to as schemas.
  • Use words and simple phrases to describe the movements the child is making, especially in response to their gestures and body language.
  • Play active games with toddlers that involve big movements through space, such as spinning, swooping and swinging.
  • Play simple interactive finger games frequently so that the child can begin to anticipate hand movements.
  • Treat mealtimes as an opportunity to help children to use fingers, spoon and cup to feed themselves.
  • Involve toddlers in the routines for taking care of their environment both indoors and outdoors, such as washing windows and sweeping leaves.
  • Find and create opportunities for toddlers to make things happen through their own actions.
  • Make the most of water play to safely provide a different medium for babies and young children to experience their body and movements


  • Enable older babies to have at least three hours a day moving and being active, taken in short periods, across the day and according to the child’s interest.
  • Develop a shared approach to managing risk that enables babies to explore and develop their abilities.
  • Ensure that clothing supports babies’ mobility for crawling and is not hindering or restrictive.
  • As much as possible, allow babies to put themselves into a sitting position rather than doing this for them.
  • Engage babies in varied active physical experiences, such as bouncing, rolling, rocking, swooping and splashing, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Encourage babies to use resources they can grasp, squeeze, tug and throw.
  • Be aware that babies may have limited awareness of things that might be dangerous for them.
  • Show babies different ways to make marks in dough or paint by swirling, poking or patting it.
  • Whilst supporting babies’ drive to stand and walk, continue to encourage plenty of floor play and crawling.
  • Help parents understand the value of waiting until babies are ready to take steps by themselves, rather than providing assistance to speed things along, so as to develop their own balance and control.
  • Provide plenty of time for babies to have bare feet during floor play and crawling, so that their feet can develop well.


  • Ensure that from birth onwards babies have frequent opportunities for moving and being active throughout the time that they are awake.
  • Take babies outdoors as much as possible, paying attention to their responses to sensory stimulations such as smells, changing light and moving air.
  • Give babies lots of time being touched and held, moving around the environment as well as being still with them.
  • Very young babies may enjoy resting on your shoulder or lying on your front looking into your face. 
  • Before babies are able to roll themselves onto their tummy, put them onto their back for floor time and allow rolling to slowly develop.
  • Share with parent/carers the developmental value of ample time spent on the tummy and the ways this can be supported to gradually develop, so that it is always pleasurable for the baby.
  • Help babies to become aware of their own bodies through touch and movement.
  • Whilst ensuring that babies are warm enough, give them plenty of floor time with non-restricting clothing and bare feet.
  • Make the most of each stage in development and support the baby to get all of its developmental benefits: for example, time on the side is an important step in neurological development and needs lots of practice.
  • Talk and sing to babies while they are on the floor or ground: they will benefit more from action around them in the room and garden than from a baby gym.
  • Tune into how individual babies communicate through movement and body language.
  • Play games, such as offering a small toy and taking it again to rattle, or sail through the air.
  • Encourage young babies in their efforts to gradually share control of the bottle with you.


  • Chooses to move in a range of ways, moving freely and with confidence making changes to body shape, position and pace of movement such as slithering, shuffling, rolling, crawling, walking, running, jumping, skipping, sliding and hopping
  • Experiments with different ways of moving, testing out ideas and adapting movements to reduce risk
  • Jumps off an object and lands appropriately using hands, arms and body to stabilise and balance
  • Negotiates space successfully when playing racing and chasing games with other children, adjusting speed or changing direction to avoid obstacles
  • Travels with confidence and skill around, under, over and through balancing and climbing equipment
  • Shows increasing control over an object in pushing, patting, throwing, catching or kicking it
  • Uses simple tools to effect changes to materials
  • Handles tools, objects, construction and malleable materials safely and with increasing control and intention
  • Shows a preference for a dominant hand
  • Begins to use anticlockwise movement and retrace vertical lines
  • Begins to form recognisable letters independently
  • Uses a pencil and holds it effectively to form recognisable letters, most of which are correctly formed


  • Climbs stairs, steps and moves across climbing equipment using alternate feet. Maintains balance using hands and body to stabilise
  • Walks down steps or slopes whilst carrying a small object, maintaining balance and stability
  • Runs with spatial awareness and negotiates space successfully, adjusting speed or direction to avoid obstacles
  • Can balance on one foot or in a squat momentarily, shifting body weight to improve stability
  • Can grasp and release with two hands to throw and catch a large ball, beanbag or an object
  • Creates lines and circles pivoting from the shoulder and elbow
  • Manipulates a range of tools and equipment in one hand, tools include paintbrushes, scissors, hairbrushes, toothbrush, scarves or ribbons


  • Sits up from lying down, stands up from sitting and squats with steadiness to rest or play with object on the ground, and rises to feet without using hands.
  • Sits comfortably on a chair with both feet on the ground
  • Runs safely on whole foot
  • Moves in response to music, or rhythms played on instruments such as drums or shakers
  • Jumps up into the air with both feet leaving the floor and can jump forward a small distance
  • Begins to walk, run and climb on different levels and surfaces
  • Begins to understand and choose different ways of moving
  • Kicks a stationary ball with either foot, throws a ball with increasing force and accuracy and starts to catch a large ball by using two hands and their chest to trap it
  • Climbs up and down stairs by placing both feet on each step while holding a handrail for support
  • Uses wheeled toys with increasing skill such as pedalling, balancing, holding handlebars and sitting astride
  • May be beginning to show preference for dominant hand and/or leg/foot
  • Turns pages in a book, sometimes several at once
  • Shows increasing control in holding, using and manipulating a range of tools and objects such as tambourines, jugs, hammers, and mark making tools
  • Holds mark-making tools with thumb and all fingers


  • Develops security in walking upright using feet alternately and can also run short distances
  • Walks upstairs facing forwards holding rail or hand of adult, with both feet onto a single step at a time
  • Changes position from standing to squatting and sitting with little effort
  • Participates in finger and action rhymes, songs and games, imitating the movements and anticipating actions
  • Hands start to operate independently during a task that uses both, with each hand doing something different at the same time (e.g. holding a block in one hand and steadying the other block with the other hand.
  • Shows interest, dances and sings to music rhymes and songs, imitating movements of others
  • Can walk considerable distance with purpose, stopping, starting and changing direction
  • Looks closely at small items and creatures, and can also see items at substantial distance, comfortably changing focus from one to the other
  • When holding crayons, chalks etc, makes connections between their movement and the marks they make
  • Uses gesture and body language to convey needs and interests and to support emerging verbal language use


  • Belly crawling moves into crawling up on hands and knees
  • Becomes adept at changing position from crawling to sitting in order to stop, pick up, handle and investigate objects
  • Sits unsupported on the floor, leaving hands free to manipulate objects with both hands
  • Picks up objects in palmar grip and shakes, waves, bangs, pulls and tugs them between two hands while looking at them
  • Enjoys finger and toe rhymes and games.
  • Pulls to standing from crawling, holding on to furniture or person for support
  • Walks around furniture lifting one foot and stepping sideways (cruising)
  • Starts walking independently on firm surfaces and later on uneven surfaces
  • Points with first finger, sharing attention with adult.
  • Starts to throw and release objects overarm.
  • Enjoys the sensory experience of making marks in food, damp sand, water, mud, paste or paint
  • Pushes, pulls, lifts and carries objects, moving them around and placing with intent
  • Climbs inside, underneath, into corners and between objects
  • Manipulates objects using hands singly and together, such as squeezing water out of a sponge


  • Gradually develops ability to hold up own head
  • Makes movements with arms and legs which gradually become more controlled – moves hands together/legs together
  • Follows and tracks a sound or moving object, moving head and eyes
  • When lying on back, plays with hands and grasps feet, alternating mouthing hands/feet with focusing gaze on them, and vocalising
  • Reaches out for, touches and begins to hold objects, developing later on into being able to release grasp
  • Rolls over from back to side, gradually spending longer on side waving upper leg before returning to back
  • Develops roll from back right through to front, gradually becoming happy to spend longer on tummy as able to lift head for longer
  • Explores objects with mouth, often picking up an object and holding it to the mouth for lips and tongue to explore (mouthing)
  • When lying on tummy becomes able to lift first head and then chest, supporting self with forearms and then straight arms
  • Starts to creep (belly crawl commando-style) from prone (on tummy) position on the floor, often moving backwards before going forwards
  • Becomes increasingly able to communicate, both expressing and responding through body movements, gesture, facial expression and vocalisations


  • Give time and make spaces  for children to initiate discussions from shared experiences and have conversations with peers and adults.
  • Give thinking time for children to decide what they want to say and how they will say it.
  • Encourage language play, e.g. through stories such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears and action songs that require intonation.
  • Decide on the key vocabulary linked to activities, and ensure that all practitioners make opportunities to use the words in a range of contexts such as songs, stories, games, activities and natural conversations..
  • Plan collaborative activities. Help children to think and talk about how they will begin, what parts each will play and what materials they will need. Review activities with children and encourage them to think about and discuss the strategies they used. 
  • Provide opportunities for talking for a wide range of purposes, e.g. to present ideas to others as descriptions, explanations, instructions or justifications, and to discuss and plan individual or shared activities.
  • Provide opportunities for children to participate in meaningful speaking and listening activities. For example, children can take models that they have made to show children in another group or class and explain how they were made.


  • Display pictures and photographs showing engaging, familiar or fantastical events, objects and activities and talk about them with the children.
  • Provide activities which help children to learn to distinguish differences in sounds, word patterns and rhythms.
  • Plan to encourage correct use of language by telling repetitive stories, and playing games which involve repetition of words or phrases.
  • Provide opportunities for children to communicate in their home language.
  • Help children to build their vocabulary, motivations and opportunities to experiment with talk by extending the range of their experiences. Understand  that often when an experience is unfamiliar, children might fall silent at first but choose to talk about it later.
  • Foster children’s enjoyment of spoken and written language by providing interesting and stimulating play opportunities in which there is little pressure to talk but words, songs and rhymes are welcome.
  • Continue to encourage movement activity to stimulate sound and verbal utterances as well as the opportunity to explore expressive sounds and words to match movement, particularly outdoors.
  • Stimulating the vestibular system through age-appropriate swinging, spinning, sliding, swaying etc. may help reluctant speakers to use voice.
  • Plan regular opportunities for children to speak, e.g. take turns having a toy animal at home, and then telling about the visit.
  • Set up collaborative tasks, e.g. construction, food activities or story-making through role-play.
  • Provide small world toys or puppets for children to act out familiar stories in their play.


  • Allow time to follow young children’s lead and have fun together while developing vocabulary, e.g. saying We’re jumping up, going down.
  • Where appropriate make opportunities to talk through and comment on some activities to highlight specific vocabulary or language structures, e.g. You’ve caught the ball. I’ve caught the ball. Eva’s caught the ball.
  • Provide stories with repetitive phrases and structures to read aloud to children to support specific vocabulary and language structures.


  • Find out from parents the words that children use for things which are important to them, such as bankie for their comfort blanket, remembering to extend this question to home languages.
  • Explain that strong foundations in a home language support the development of English.
  • Tune into what different children enjoy and create environments where babbling and talking feels easy and comfortable and where children can experiment freely with the sounds they can make.
  • Provide appropriate sensory experiences as well as opportunities for movement and private conversations and sound experiments – possibly in dens and cosy corners.


  • Learn and use key words in the home languages of babies in the setting.
  • Value and learn from families about their communities, languages and cultures.  Including influences from other contexts of the baby’s life supports wellbeing.
  • Encourage parents to record familiar, comforting sounds, such as lullabies in home languages. Use these to help babies settle if they are tired or distressed.


  • Support children’s growing ability to express a wide range of feelings orally, and talk about their own experiences.
  • Introduce and repeat new words in a range of contexts and encourage children to use them in their own talk
  • Encourage conversation with others and demonstrate appropriate conventions: turn-taking, waiting until someone else has finished, listening to others and using expressions such as please, thank you and can I…?. At the same time, respond sensitively to social conventions used at home.
  • Show children how to use language for negotiating, by saying May I…?, Would it be all right…?, I think that… and Will you…? in your interactions with them.
  • Model language appropriate for different audiences, for example, a visitor.
  • Encourage children to predict possible endings to stories and events.
  • Encourage children to experiment with words and sounds, e.g. in nonsense rhymes.
  • Encourage children to develop narratives in their play, using words such as: first, last, next, before, after, all, most, some, each, every.
  • Value children’s contributions and use them to inform and shape the direction of discussions.
  • Encourage opportunities for conversations between small groups of children.  Support these moments and act as a facilitator when appropriate.
  • Listen to language and conversation that emerge through play, particularly play that is led by the child.


  • Wait and allow the child time to start the conversation.
  • Follow the child’s lead to talk about what they are interested in.
  • Give children thinking time.  Wait for them to think about what they want to say and put their thoughts into words, without jumping in too soon to say something yourself.
  • In conversations and playful encounters with children, model language a step beyond the child’s language use. 
  • Use the child’s voicing/speech attempts to lead play and encounters.
  • For children learning English as an additional language, value non-verbal communications and those offered in home languages.
  • Without comment, observe and then mirror a child’s interesting movement or series of movements. This might lead to a nonverbal “serve and return” movement dialogue, with the child leading the “conversation”.  This can be very powerful with reluctant speakers or children not yet ready to use English.
  • Add words to what children say, e.g. child says Brush dolly hair, you say Yes, Lucy is brushing dolly’s hair.
  • Talk with children to make links between their body language and words, e.g. Your face does look cross. Has something upset you?
  • Introduce new words in the context of play and activities.
  • Use a lot of statements and comments and fewer questions to build natural conversation.  When you do ask a question, use an open question with many possible answers.
  • Show interest in the words children use to communicate and describe their experiences.
  • Expand on what children say by repeating it and adding a few more words, helping children use more complex sentences.
  • Use lively intonation and animated expression when speaking with children and reading texts.
  • Talk to the child about family life, stories from home.  Involve families in this.


  • Build vocabulary by giving choices, e.g. apple or satsuma?
  • Model building sentences by repeating what the child says and adding another word, e.g. child says car, say mummy’s car or blue car.
  • Give the child enough time to talk with silences to allow the child to respond or pauses to indicate turn talking.
  • Show children how to pronounce or use words by responding and repeating what they say in the correct way, rather than saying they are wrong.
  • Capitalise on the link between movement and the urge to make sounds to encourage children to “find their voice”, e.g. when swinging/swaying/jumping/sliding etc.
  • Accept and respond to words and phrases in home languages.
  • Encourage parents whose children are learning English as an additional language to continue to encourage use of the first language at home. This helps children learn English as well as being important for cultural and family reasons.
  • Support children in using a variety of communication strategies, including signing such as with Makaton.
  • Play with sounds and words children use, such as nonsense language, repeating made-up words or repetitive sounds, linking them to gestures or movement.


  • Try to “tune in” to the different messages young babies are attempting to convey, and respond.
  • Look out for patterns of communications they use to invite you into encounters.  This might include being playful or physical movements and utterances. Bringing you toys, or holding out objects to you may indicate that they want to “talk”.
  • Share the fun of discovery and value babies’ attempts at words, e.g., by picking up a doll in response to baba.
  • When babies try to say a word, repeat it back so they can hear the name of the object clearly.
  • Find out from parents the greetings they use in English and in languages other than English, and use them in the setting.
  • Recognise and equally value all languages spoken and written by parents, practitioners and children.


  • Find out from parents how they like to communicate with their baby, noting especially the chosen language.
  • Ensure parents understand the importance of talking with babies in their home language.
  • Pay attention to babies’ communications including facial expression, gesture, etc., and respond promptly so they know they have been heard.
  • Encourage babies’ sounds and babbling by copying their sounds in a turn-taking or “serve and return” interaction.
  • Communicate with parents to exchange and update information about babies’ personal words.
  • Find out from parents how their baby attracts their attention at home.  For example, calling or banging from highchair, verbalising if left alone, seeking eye gaze.
  • Recognise the importance of all sounds and babbling babies share – this is their way of sharing their voice with you.


  • Extends vocabulary, especially by grouping and naming, exploring the meaning and sounds of new words
  • Uses language to imagine and recreate roles and experiences in play situations
  • Links statements and sticks to a main theme or intention
  • Uses talk to organise, sequence and clarify thinking, ideas, feelings and events
  • Introduces a storyline or narrative into their play


  • Beginning to use more complex sentences to link thoughts (e.g. using and, because)
  • Able to use language in recalling past experiences
  • Can retell a simple past event in correct order (e.g. went down slide, hurt finger)
  • Uses talk to explain what is happening and anticipate what might happen next
  • Questions why things happen and gives explanations.  Asks e.g. who, what, when, how
  • Beginning to use a range of tenses (e.g. play, playing, will play, played)
  • Continues to make some errors in language (e.g. “runned”) and will absorb and use language they hear around them in their community and culture
  • Uses intonation, rhythm and phrasing to make the meaning clear to others
  • Talks more extensively about things that are of particular importance to them
  • Builds up vocabulary that reflects the breadth of their experiences
  • Uses talk in pretending that objects stand for something else in play, e.g. This box is my castle


  • Uses language to share feelings, experiences and thoughts
  • Holds a conversation, jumping from topic to topic
  • Learns new words very rapidly and is able to use them in communicating
  • Uses a variety of questions (e.g. what, where, who)
  • Uses longer sentences (e.g. Mummy gonna work)
  • Beginning to use word endings (e.g. going, cats)


  • Copies familiar expressions, e.g. Oh dear, All gone’
  • Uses different types of everyday words (nouns, verbs and adjectives, e.g. banana, go, sleep, hot)
  • Beginning to put two words together (e.g. Want ball, More juice
  • Beginning to ask simple questions
  • Beginning to talk about people and things that are not present
  • Uses gestures, sometimes with limited talk, e.g. reaches toward toy, saying Want it


  • Uses sounds in play, e.g. brrrm for toy car
  • Uses single words
  • Frequently imitates words and sounds
  • Enjoys babbling and increasingly experiments with using sounds
  • Uses words to communicate for a range of purposes (e.g. teddy, more, no, bye-bye)
  • Uses pointing with eye gaze, and then fingers or hands, to make requests and to share an interest
  • Creates personal words as they begin to develop language


  • Communicates needs and feelings in a variety of ways including crying, gurgling, babbling and squealing
  • Makes own sounds in response when talked to by familiar adults
  • Lifts arms in anticipation of being picked up
  • Practises and gradually develops speech sounds (babbling) to communicate with adults; says sounds like baba, nono, gogo
  • Points and looks to make requests and to share an interest


  • Set up shared experiences that children can reflect upon, e.g. visits, cooking, or stories that can be re-enacted.
  • Help children to predict and order events coherently, by providing props and materials that encourage children to re-enact, using talk and action
  • Find out from parents how children make themselves understood at home; confirm which their preferred language other modes of communication are.
  • Tune into children’s preferred modes of communication – perhaps direct questions feel confronting but shared making or an exchange of funny expressions or gestures creates a connection more effectively.
  • Provide practical experiences that encourage children to ask and respond to questions, e.g. explaining pulleys or wet and dry sand.
  • Alongside books, introduce story props, such as pictures, puppets and objects, to encourage children to retell stories and to think about how the characters feel.
  • Displays can connect experiences across places or provide reminders of previous trips, events or seasons, for example.
  • Set up displays that are interactive so children can touch, pick up etc and talk about/reflect on their experiences
  • Provide for, initiate and join in imaginative play and role-play or real life storytelling encouraging children to talk about what is happening and to act out the scenarios in character.


  • Include things which excite young children’s curiosity, such as hats, bubbles, shells, story books, seeds and snails, which reflect their wider living and non-living communities.
  • Provide activities, such as cooking, where talk is used to anticipate or initiate what children will be doing, e.g. We need some eggs. Let’s see if we can find some in here.


  • Plan play activities and provide resources which encourage young children to engage in symbolic play, e.g. putting a “baby” to bed and talking to it appropriately.
  • Plan real world shared experiences such as visits, everyday tasks, or preparing activities in the setting.
  • Use pictures, books, real objects, and signs alongside your words.


  • Let babies see and hear the sequence of actions you go through as you carry out familiar routines.
  • Provide resources and spaces  that stimulate babies’ interests such as a shiny bell, a book or a mirror on the floor or on your lap.
  • Find out from parents how babies make themselves understood at home.
  • Confirm which is their home language.
  • Display lists of words from different home languages, and invite parents and other adults to contribute. Include all languages in the community since seeing their languages reflected in the setting will encourage all parents to feel involved and valued.
  • When singing rhymes and songs use actions to support children’s understanding of words and their relation to wider life.


  • Ask children to think in advance and predict how they will accomplish a task. Talk through and sequence the stages together.
  • Enjoy sharing stories with individual children and small groups.  Engage in sustained shared thinking with them  to extend their thinking and use of vocabulary.
  • Use appropriate vocabulary during play with children to encourage them to think about stories and cultural narratives.
  • Use stories from books to focus children’s attention on predictions and explanations, e.g. Why did the boat tip over?
  • Help children to
    • identify patterns, e.g. what generally happens to good and wicked characters at the end of stories
    • draw conclusions: The sky has gone dark. It must be going to rain
    • explain effect: It fell over because it was too tall.
    • predict: It might not grow in there if it is too dark.
    • speculate: What if the bridge falls down?


  • Prompt children’s thinking and discussion through involvement in their play.
  • Talk to children about what they have been doing and help them to reflect upon and explain events, e.g. You told me this model was going to be a tractor. What’s this lever for?
  • When you need to give children directions be clear and help them to deal with those involving more than one action, e.g. Time to come and wash your hands and then we’ll set the table for lunch.
  • When introducing a new activity, use mime and gesture to support language development.
  • Showing and talking about a photograph of an activity such as hand washing can help to reinforce understanding.
  • Make playful “silly mistakes” deliberately to prompt reaction and allow children to explore being the “expert”.
  • Be aware that some children may watch another child in order to know what to do, rather than understanding what you’ve said themselves.
  • Embed sustained shared thinking approaches to extend language and conversational moments to help increase the child’s awareness and understanding of speech.


  • Be attentive and respond to children’s talk in an appropriate and positive way.
  • Use talk to describe what children are doing by providing a running commentary, e.g. Oh, I can see what you are doing. You have to put the milk in the cup first.
  • Provide opportunities for children to talk with other children and adults about what they see, hear, think and feel.
  • Talk slowly enough for the child to understand.
  • Provide words by labelling objects, actions and abstract things like feelings.
  • Stay with the child while they play, play alongside the child and show attentive companionship as you share conversations.


  • Use gestures and facial expression to help show your meaning.
  • Be aware that young children’s understanding is much greater than their ability to express their thoughts and ideas. For example, a child may be able to go and hang their coat up when asked but say only coat up to explain what they did.
  • Recognise young children’s competence and appreciate their efforts when they show their understanding of new words and phrases (Yes, that is a little flower).
  • Use language appropriate to the child’s level of understanding.
  • Stay with the child while they play, taking time to watch their movements and react to their initiations and adding words to describe what the child is doing.


  • Look at the baby and say their name.  Make eye contact and wait for them to react.
  • Interpret and give meaning to the things young babies show interest in, e.g. when babies point to an object tell them what it is.
  • Use an animated, enthusiastic face when interacting with children.
  • Observe children as they watch their environment.
  • Look out for strategies babies use to attract your attention, such as seeking eye contact, gestures such as pointing, facial expressions and intentional physical movement.
  • Talk to babies about what you are doing and what is happening, so they will link words with actions, e.g. preparing lunch.
  • Use actions including hands and finger plays to support your words, e.g. waving when you say bye bye.
  • Speak clearly.  Babies respond well to a higher pitched, sing-song voice.
  • Use and repeat single words while you share attention to an object or event, so the baby can gradually link the word to its meaning.


  • Understands a range of complex sentence structures including negatives, plurals and tense markers
  • Beginning to understand humour, e.g. nonsense rhymes, jokes
  • Able to follow a story without pictures or props
  • Listens and responds to ideas expressed by others in conversation or discussion
  • Understands questions such as who; why; when; where and how


  • Understands use of objects (e.g. Which one  do we cut with?)
  • Shows understanding of prepositions such as under, on top, behind by carrying out an action or selecting correct picture
  • Responds to instructions with more elements, e.g. Give the big ball to me; collect up all the blocks and put them in the box
  • Beginning to understand why and how questions


  • Identifies action words by following simple instructions, e.g. Show me jumping
  • Beginning to understand more complex sentences, e.g. Put your toys away and then sit on the carpet
  • Understands who, what, where in simple questions (e.g. Who’s that? Who can? What’s that? Where is?)
  • Developing understanding of simple concepts (e.g. fast/slow, good/bad)


  • Understands different  situations – able to follow routine events and activities using nonverbal cues
  • Selects familiar objects by name and will go and find objects when asked, or identify objects from a group
  • Understands simple sentences (e.g. Throw the ball)


  • Is developing the ability to follow others’ body language, including pointing and gesture
  • Responds to simple questions when in a familiar context with a special person (e.g. Where’s Mummy?, Where’s your nose?)
  • Understanding of single words in context is developing, e.g. cup, milk, daddy