Sue Asquith, Early Childhood Consultant, explores how the EYFSHome activities can be used by early years teachers, nursery and pre-school practitioners, childminders and nannies.
How can early years settings use EYFSHome?
The daily EYFSHome activities have accumulated to create a fabulous ‘go to bank of inspiration’! Children’s authors, teachers, early years practitioners and specialists in areas from music to drama to animal care have carefully chosen their content and activity ideas.
It is really important though that you develop your own early years curriculum, based upon your knowledge of the children in your care, their interests, fascinations and what it is hoped that they will learn next.
On an Ofsted inspection everyone needs to be able to explain their curriculum, so it is unlikely that it will be appropriate for you to just follow the daily activities that are scheduled by the content providers. They are however excellent tools to help you build and track your own curriculum!
Here are three ways to use them...
1. Search the data bank for inspiration!
For example, if you know that snow is forecast you could search for specific content to explore wintery weather and snow to help prepare children for the real thing! You might find inspiration for a specific celebration or awareness day that you would like to include in your curriculum. Another example would be if a child had a specific interest or fascination you could key word search for activities.
Each of the daily topics has four activities to inspire you. Use your professional experience and knowledge to carefully choose and differentiate the activities. For example, consider the age and stages of development of the children in your care, their interests and what learning opportunities you would like to offer them. You might want to introduce a new topic or provide opportunities for children to learn more about something specific. You will also need to risk assess the activities and you may decide to use a favourite book or song instead of the ones suggested or use those suggested to grow your own book and song ‘library’. You may choose to use or adapt just one or two of the ideas over the next few days, or week.
And you could also signpost parents to something their child particularly enjoyed or to something in the EYFSHome activity bank to try at home to extend the home learning environment!
2. Use the activities to build your bespoke curriculum
We have the green light from Ofsted and the DfE to reduce needless paperwork. Some of you may have already adopted the paperless planning or 'planning in the moment' approaches. However, we need to consider the intent, implementation and impact of what you are offering. Ofsted will take a holistic view of these when reaching a judgement about the quality of your education. Let’s explore these a little more:
Ofsted use words and phrases such as adopting or constructing an ambitious curriculum designed to give all children the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life. They are looking for your curriculum to be coherently planned and sequenced, building upon what children know and can do, to future their learning. You could key word search the EYFSHome content for inspiration to help build your bespoke curriculum.
Ensure that the learning opportunities you offer are meaningful for the children in your care to support their learning and development. All practitioners need to understand the EYFS areas of learning and the way in which young children learn. Practitioners need to be confident in whichever teaching methods they choose to use and leaders need to provide effective support for staff with less experience and knowledge of teaching.
The Ofsted Early Years Inspection Handbook defines teaching in the early years:
‘Teaching should not be taken to imply a ‘top down’ or formal way of working. It is a broad term that covers the many different ways in which adults help young children learn. It includes their interactions with children during planned and child-initiated play and activities: communicating and modelling language; showing, explaining, demonstrating, exploring ideas; encouraging, questioning, recalling; providing a narrative for what they are doing; facilitating and setting challenges.
‘It takes account of the equipment adults provide and the attention given to the physical environment, as well as the structure and routines of the day that establish expectations. Integral to teaching is how practitioners assess what children know, understand and can do, as well as taking account of their interests and dispositions to learn (characteristics of effective learning), and how practitioners use this information to plan children’s next steps in learning and monitor their progress’.
You could seek inspiration in the daily topics and choose, adapt, differentiate the activities where necessary and risk assess to meet the needs of the children in your care.
Ofsted are looking for evidence that children develop detailed knowledge and skills across the seven areas of learning in an age-appropriate way. For example, that children develop their vocabulary and understanding of language through the learning opportunities you are offering them. Ask yourself how has what you have provided helped the children for their ‘next stage of education’, including school, where applicable.?
Ofsted do not need to see reams of planning, in fact Ofsted inspectors will probably not want to see any written planning that you choose to have. They will need conversations with practitioners/teachers/childminders about the intention, implementation and impact of what they are providing. It is therefore important to reflect on the activities and learning opportunities you have provided.
3. Reflect on the activities in your own way
Remember that your reflection does not have to be written. It could be a quick mental reflection or staff discussion at the end of the day or week. You may prefer to have your reflection logged to help you share information with colleagues and parents/carers. Here are some ideas – photos, floor books, recorded feedback (audio, video, photos)? Perhaps you could use multimedia to capture what happened and share this with parents/carers?
Here is a quick example of my thought process, which I hope will help you...
What do children need to learn/develop? This could be based on some of the ‘essential knowledge’ for their age and stage of development. Perhaps it is something in the moment that has caught a child’s attention or a question they have asked. It could be something that parents would like their children to learn next. For example, parents may tell you that they’ve been to the farm at the weekend and their child seems to be really interested in the animals they saw.
Your mind will automatically think about farm ideas, the books, jigsaws, songs, small world, etc, etc…. You may also find ideas in the EYFSHome activity bank that you’d like to use. Consider which activities you would like to try. Do you need to differentiate the activities, you may have to adapt them to suit your setting and the resources you have to hand? What new information and vocabulary could you model? You will also need to risk assess whatever you choose to try (it does not always need to be a written risk assessment).
Evaluate and assess - check what the children know/can do – do you need to offer your learning opportunities again for children to practise their new knowledge/skills? What worked well? Was there anything that did not go to plan? What would you try differently if you did this again? How can you extend anything that they enjoyed? ……. These are just examples …. Over to you – you will have lots more ideas!
I have used some examples from the Early Years Inspection Handbook to help you link this blog to the Ofsted inspection judgements but please read it all yourself, to put my examples into context.