Learning through Play

The Curriculum - Learning through play

Our Aspirations for our curriculum

When planning our curriculum, these are the core skills we aspire to for each child:

  • To understand and articulate emotions and feelings. To be listened to and valued
  • To understand and describe stories and create their own using story language
  • To understand changes in the environment/our world and how we can impact/look after them
  • To be able to write some letters of their name
  • To be able to collaborate with friends to play a game
  • To be able to plan and problem solve to build a structure as a team, using natural resources
  • To ride a bike
  • To be a happy, independent and confident learner who is curious and asks questions

Our intent is to provide a broad, rich curriculum that is effectively personalised to the needs and interests of all children.  To evaluate the impact of our provision, we have in place a robust termly monitoring schedule that includes review of progress and attainment data, learning walks, and observations of both adult-led and child initiated learning.

We reflect on and develop the curriculum and its delivery over time to ensure that children are taught well by all adults through appropriately sequenced activities and provision that supports key skill development that leads to outstanding outcomes. We firmly believe that teaching children how to use the equipment and materials enables independence, decision making, creative thinking and problem solving.

We plan activities for the children that are interactive and fun rather than sedentary because experience indicates that this better supports children’s engagement, involvement and learning:  forest school activities are a good example of this.

Provision always takes into account the ability of each cohort and individual child/ren’s particular needs. Due to the varying levels of communication and language skills of children entering the nursery, staff use Makaton signing to support communication and engagement.

Areas of learning and development

The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage sets out seven areas of learning and development that shape teaching and learning. All of these areas of learning and development are important and inter-connected.

The prime areas

Firstly there are the three Prime Areas, which are particularly crucial for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and for building their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive. These are:

  • communication and language
  • physical development
  • personal, social and emotional development

 You can read about each of these areas of learning and development below.

Communication and language development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations

There are three strands:

Listening and attention
Developing listening and attention skills

Learning to understand the meaning of what is said.

Learning to speak for different purposes and for different audiences and to use language as a medium

Ideas for parents and carers:

● Enjoy talking with your child, listening to them and asking questions.

● Rather than correcting inaccurate grammar or unclear speech, model the correct grammar back using a clear and encouraging tone to let him or her know you support their efforts.

● When children are learning language use short sentences and simple instructions, expanding as they develop.

● Sing and learn nursery rhymes and songs.

● Encourage your child to make up their own stories, songs and rhymes.

● Through talk, extend their vocabulary.

● Encourage your child to listen and take turns in conversations

Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co-ordination, control, and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity, and to make healthy choices in relation to food, hygiene, rest and activity. We teach children to use all of their senses to learn about their world.

Physical development is divided into two strands:

Moving and Handling Improving control. Co-ordination, manipulation and movement

Health and self-care Learning about how physical activity and healthy choices promotes health and well-being

Ideas for parents and carers

● Developing gross motor skills

● Children love to visit play parks where they can climb, swing, run and jump.

● Where possible try to walk instead of travelling by car.

● If you can, walk to nursery rather than using a pushchair.

● If you have an outdoor space or garden go outside whatever the weather to enjoy the fresh air.

● Encourage your child to try to dress and undress themselves.

● Encourage them to put on and do up their coat and shoes.

● Teach them the importance of hygiene by expecting them to wash their hands before meals and after toileting.

● Encourage child to become independent in toileting skills.

● Whilst eating together talk about healthy foods and drinks and encourage a healthy diet.

● Activities to promote fine motor skills and finger strength

● Pick up and sort objects such as coins, cards and blocks.

● Screw and unscrew objects such as nuts, bolts, jar lids.

● Roll and work playdough

● Helping with cooking activities, stirring chopping and rolling.

● String beads on to laces.

● Learn to use scissors, initially by snipping into the edge of paper or card and eventually cutting around a shape.  Old greetings cards are an ideal weight.

Personal, social and emotional development involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities

The three strands of PSED are:

Making relationships Developing a positive sense of themselves and others

Self confidence and self-awareness Developing social skills, respecting others and having a positive disposition to learn.

Management of feelings and behaviour Developing emotional well-being, helping children to know themselves and what they can do.

Ideas for parents and carers

  • Enjoy the time with your child, take time to talk and listen to them.

  • Children love routines. Support them in learning about expectations, acceptable behaviour and boundaries.

  • Encourage your child to help tidy up and to care about their surroundings. They can help to put away their toys, put the shopping in the trolley or sort the washing.

  • Teach and expect good manners and politeness.

  • Playing games helps them to understand rules and turn taking.

  • Teaching children to respect others and to be kind and fair.

  • Celebrate together their success and achievements, however small.

The specific areas

The three prime areas are strengthened and applied in four Specific Areas - these are:

  • literacy
  • mathematics
  • understanding the world
  • expressive arts and design

Literacy development involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials (books, poems, and other written materials) to ignite their interest

There are two strands within Literacy:

Reading Differentiating sounds and linking sounds to letters; and using a wide range of reading materials to support the curriculum.

Writing Having a variety of opportunities to make marks and begin to write for a purpose.

Ideas for parents and carers

  • Share stories and rhymes every day to promote a love of books.

  • Visit the local library; it’s free to join and often has story telling sessions.

  • Your child will have favourite stories and books which they want you to read over and over again!  this is important to develop knowledge about how stories are structured and to begin to recognise familiar words.

  • Enjoy and explore information books.

  • Explore rhythm and sounds by playing musical instruments, this could be as simple as using a spoon as a drum stick to beat out a sound on a pan! You can use this to tap out the rhythm of syllables.

  • Play listening games indoors and outdoors.

  • Talk about familiar signs, logos and labels in the environment such as names of shops or food labels. Your child will recognise the shape of the word even before they can identify letters.

  • Encourage your child to draw, and paint marks on paper.

  • Children need to develop muscle strength and co-ordination before they are ready to hold a pencil correctly.  This can be done through activities such as sweeping up leaves or mixing cake batter.

  • Let your child make and explore marks and shapes with pencils, pens and chalks. This is the early stages of writing. Always be positive about and value the marks they make in order to build confidence and encourage a desire to practise.

  • When your child shows an interest and is ready they will begin to draw shapes that begin to look like letters. These are usually letters from their name. Please show your child how to write their name using an upper case letter for the initial and lower case for the rest of their name.

  • If your child sees you writing they begin to understand that writing is purposeful.

Mathematics involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces, and measure.

The two strands of mathematics are:

Numbers Counting, understanding and using numbers; and calculating simple addition and subtraction problems.

Shape, space and measure Learning about shapes, space and measures.

Ideas for parents and carers

  • Encourage children to play games like ‘Hide and Seek’. This will give them the opportunity to practise saying numbers in sequence. Try up to 5, 10 and then 20.

  • Sing rhymes together to practise counting forwards and backwards. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive, Ten Green Bottles, This Old Man etc.

  • Play dice games counting the number of moves along a track.

  • Explore numbers around the home, numerals on the remote control, microwave, telephones and computer keyboards.

  • Go on a number walk around the local area spotting numbers on signs, cars, doors and shops.

  • Enjoy cooking activities using a measuring jug and scales to weigh out ingredients.

  • Lay the table together either at dinner time or play situations. How many plates, cups, spoons are needed.

  • Build towers with bricks and talk about how tall the tower is and count how many bricks high it is.

  • Try making patterns with beads or string .

  • When children show an interest in counting objects, encourage them to count by moving objects from one container to another as they say the numbers in sequence.  Start with small amounts.

  • Practical mathematical activities help to embed concepts for young children and are more valuable than written sums.

Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.

  • People and communities Using knowledge and understanding to make sense of environments, communities and living things.

  • The world Using all their senses to learn about their environment and the world

  • Technology Using tools safely and learning about real life activities and events.

Ideas for parents and carers

  • Share and talk about family photographs

  • Visit different parts of the local community.

  • Look at books and photos to talk about different places and countries.

  • Explore the outdoors observing changes in the seasons.

  • Go for walks and talk about nature and what you see.

  • Explore with an adult objects in the home that work in different ways, torches, whisks, remote control toys.

  • Stick, glue, sellotape boxes together to build and create models.

  • Enjoy building with lego and construction kits.

  • If you have access to computers, ipads, ipods etc, play appropriate games.

Expressive arts and design involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role-play, and design and technology,

  • Exploring and using media and materials Creativity is developed by offering opportunities to extend curiosity, play and exploration with a variety of media.

  • Being imaginative Exploring feelings, thoughts and events through music, art, dance, movement and imaginative play.

Ideas for parents and carers

  • Use paints, pencils and pens to encourage drawing and mark making. Value any drawings; it does not need to resemble anything, just have fun!

  • Make collages and pictures from natural materials, found or purchased materials.

  • Play with playdough, compost, clay or shaving foam and talk about textures and patterns.

  • Retell favourite stories together, try acting out a simple part. Children can join in familiar stories such as ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ or ‘The Three Bears”.

  • Children love dens and hiding places. Use sheets and table cloths over chairs, washing airers or outside to create enclosed spaces.

  • Play dressing up with different hats, clothes, and shoes.

  • Encourage your child to engage in imaginative play.

  • Enjoy listening to different types of music together and join in with familiar songs. Have a pop concert with toy microphones and play instruments.

We have prepared a short leaflet to tell parents about our approach to the curriculum.  You can collect a hard copy from the School Office or download it here.

 Batford Nursery EYFS curriculum leaflet, Sep 2019.pdfDownload
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Enhanced curriculum

Forest School

Our fully qualified level 2 and level 3 Forest School teachers work with all the children throughout the year. Children learn to develop their listening and attention skills, their communication skills and their personal and social skills as they follow the Forest School Programme. This curriculum centres around safety, taking calculated risks and trying new things out in a controlled environment. Through this ethos and teaching, children learn to be resilient and confident learners who take risks, problem solve and are excited to engage with new experiences. Children are also taught about how we look after the world around us and how it is important to have respect for, and show thought to, nature through sustainability, conservation and education. Children plant trees and create homes for mini-beasts to help them to understand the importance of their natural world.

Children learn about how to use real tools such as bow saws, loppers and peelers in a safe, supervised and strategic way. The children also learn to light a fire, cook on it and then eat the resulting food! Through activities similar to ‘bush craft’, children make land art, build shelters, bug hunt, create jewellery and much, much more!

Children experience this enhanced provision in our specially designed forest school garden. We provide high quality Swedish water and windproof suits for the children to wear so that we can enjoy working outdoors the whole year through. We ask parents to provide a pair of wellington boots which can be kept at school and used for outdoor play in wet weather.

Forest school sessions are planned according to the children’s individual learning needs and children’s progress is assessed against the Early Years Outcomes. Key Persons work with the children during Forest School sessions and use their assessments to inform planning and next steps for learning. Observations inform assessments and contribute to the children’s learning record which is shared with parents through the children’s online Learning Journals ‘Tapestry’, displays and at consultation meetings.


At Batford Nursery School we have a qualified yoga instructor who is also an experienced and well qualified early years practitioner. This means that we can use yoga as a vehicle to maximise the children’s physical development. Learning to control the body is important for the development of muscles which will later be used for writing and other fine motor activities.

Communication has an important role. Children develop Listening and Attention skills and hear language modelled well, including the introduction of new vocabulary. This will help children to access the whole curriculum.

Awareness of space and those around them is a vital element of successful social interaction. Engaging children in yoga helps children focus mind and body on the tasks they engage in every day and so they are able to concentrate and become highly involved in their learning across the curriculum, optimising the opportunities for progress.

The children often use elements of their own interest to develop story ideas through stretching and exercise, thus using yoga to develop learning in the Expressive Arts and Design curriculum.

We have a large hall in which the children can follow a planned programme of exercises designed to build on previous learning and development. Our highly experienced teaching staff use assessments to feed into the overall outcomes for each child.


As part of our curriculum at Batford Nursery, we place a high importance on teaching children to be resilient by giving them tools to help them self-regulate and navigate the changing world around them. One of the ways in which we help support children with this is through mindfulness.

We have purchased a new resource called ‘My Happy Mind’ which is an age-appropriate and extensive scheme that includes breathing and guided meditation exercises to help underpin children’s well-being and contentment. The children access this resource weekly with an adult to help guide them through the processes and techniques such as guided meditations, breathing exercises and visualisations, all of which are used with stories, cuddly characters and music to help keep children engaged.

The senior leadership team monitors the children’s involvement and well-being through the ‘Leuven scale’ which uses a numbered reference point to assess and monitor children’s journeys whilst they are at Nursery. The staff have seen a marked impact from the increased use of this resource on children’s ability to manage and regulate their emotions.

Makaton signing

Communication in the early years is key to children being able to express themselves and make their needs known appropriately. We utilise many years of experience and training to help children communicate effectively, including many visual techniques such as pictorial cues and signing (Makaton).

At Batford Nursery School we have a ‘sign of the week’ which children learn with their group and key person. Children then build up a bank of words which mainly link to the routine of the day and include words the children will use often e.g. ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘please’. Adults model these signs with the children across the setting to help imbed them and use them in context. This technique helps children to communicate with non-verbal techniques and gesture, creating a more inclusive and accessible environment. This not only helps children with additional needs, but aids other children communicate with their peers effectively and build their vocabulary.

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