The EYFS is made up of seven areas of learning and development that must shape educational programmes in early year’s settings. All areas of Learning and Development are important and inter-connected to one another and are of equal importance. Three prime areas are particularly crucial for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. These are known as the prime areas.

The Prime areas of Learning and Development are:

  • Communication and Language
  • Physical Development
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development

There are four further specific areas where practitioners must also support children’s learning and development

  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the World; and
  • Expressive arts and design.

Learning and Development

  • The seven areas of learning and development together make up the skills, knowledge and experiences appropriate for babies and children as they grow, learn and develop.
  • Although these are presented as separate areas, it is important to remember that for children everything links and nothing is compartmentalised.
  • The challenge for practitioners is to ensure that children’s learning and development occur as an outcome of their individual interests and abilities and that planning for learning and development takes account of these.

Effective Practice

Each area of learning and development suggests how settings can effectively support that particular area effectively by implementing that appropriate experiences that are guided by four over arching principles that should help shape practice in early years settings, these are:

  • Unique Child – every child is unique and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured; over all they are constantly learning and development with all of these attributes supporting them.
  • Positive Relationships – children learn to be strong and independent  through these relationships
  • Enabling Environments – theses spaces encourage children to be naturally inquisitive and develop their knowledge and understanding through exploration.
  • Children learn and develop in different ways and at different rates – the EYFS framework covers the care and education of all children in all early years settings, inclusive of those with special educational needs and disabilities.

Communication & Language

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.

Communication and Language is made up of the following aspects:

Listening and attention: This is about children listen attentively in a range of situations. They listen to stories, accurately anticipating key events and respond to what they hear with relevant comments, questions or actions. They give their attention to what others say and respond appropriately, while engaged in another activity.

Understanding: This is about children follow instructions involving several ideas or actions. They answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about their experiences and in response to stories or events.

Speaking: This is about children express themselves effectively, showing awareness of listeners’ needs. They use past, present and future forms accurately when talking about events that have happened or are to happen in the future. They develop their own narratives and explanations by connecting ideas or events.

What Communication and Language means for Babies and Young Children:

To become skilful communicators, babies and young children need to be with people with whom they have warm and loving relationships, such as their family or carers and, in a group situation, a key person whom they know and trust.

  • Babies respond differently to different sounds and from an early age are able to distinguish sound patterns. They use their voices to make contact and to let people know what they need and how they feel. They learn to talk by being talked to.
  • All children learn best through activities and experiences that engage all the senses. Music, dance, rhymes and songs support language development.
  • As children develop speaking and listening skills they build the foundations for literacy, for making sense of visual and verbal signs and ultimately for reading and writing. Children need varied opportunities to interact with others and to use a wide variety of resources for expressing their understanding, including mark-making, drawing, modelling, reading and writing.

Physical Development

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.

Physical Development is made up of the following aspects:

Moving and handling: this is about children showing good control and co-ordination in large and small movements. That they move confidently in a range of ways, safely negotiating space and that they handle equipment and tools effectively, including pencils for writing.

Health and self-care: This is about children knowing the importance for good health of physical exercise, and a healthy diet, and talk about ways to keep healthy and safe. They manage their own basic hygiene and personal needs successfully, including dressing and going to the toilet independently.

What Physical Development means for Babies and Young Children:

  • Babies and children learn that by being active Physical Development takes place across all areas of their Learning and Development.
  • Physical Development helps children gain confidence in what they can do.
  • Physical Development enables children to feel the positive benefits of being healthy and active.
  • Physical Development helps children to develop a positive sense of well-being.
  • Good health in the early years helps to safeguard health and well-being throughout life. It is important that children develop healthy habits when they first learn about food and activity. Growing with appropriate weight gain in the first years of life helps to guard against obesity in later life.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development 

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.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development is made up of the following aspects:

Self-confidence and self-awareness: This is about children having the confidence to try new activities, and to say why they like some activities more than others. It is about them being confident to speak in a familiar group, and being willing to talk about their ideas. It is about choosing the appropriate resources they need for their chosen activities. Lastly, It is about saying when they do or don’t need help.

Managing feelings and behaviour: This is children talking about how they and others show feelings, talking about their own and others’ behaviour and there consequences, and knowing that some behaviour are unacceptable. It is about working as part of a group or class, and understanding as well as following rules. Lastly, it is about children adjusting their behaviour within different situations, and takes the changes of routine and expectations in their stride.

Making relationships: this is about children playing co-operatively and taking turns with others. It is about taking into account one another’s ideas about how to organise their activity, as well as showing sensitivity to others needs and feelings. Lastly, it is about forming positive relationships with adults and other children.

What Personal, Social and Emotional Development means for Babies and Young Children:

  • For children, being special to someone and well cared-for is vital for their physical, social and emotional health and well-being.
  • Being acknowledged and affirmed by important people in their lives leads to children gaining confidence and inner strength through secure attachments with these people.
  • Exploration within close relationships leads to the growth of self-assurance, promoting a sense of belonging which allows children to explore the world from a secure base.
  • Children need adults to set a good example and to give them opportunities for interaction with others so that they can develop positive ideas about themselves and others.
  • Children who are encouraged to feel free to express their ideas and their feelings, such as joy, sadness, frustration and fear, can develop strategies to cope with new, challenging or stressful situations.


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 reading materials) to ignite their interest.

Literacy is made up of the following aspects:

Reading: this is about children being able to read and understand simple sentences. Using phonetic knowledge to decode regular words and read them aloud accurately. It is about the child’s knowledge and ability to decode regular words and read them aloud accurately; It is also about attempting some common irregular words. It is about the child demonstrating an understanding about what they have read when talking about books and texts with others.

Writing: This is about children using their phonic knowledge to write words in ways which match their spoken sounds. They will also begin to write some irregular common words. Children will write simple sentences which can be read by themselves and others. Some of the written words are spelt correctly and others will be phonetically plausible.

What literacy means for Babies and Young Children:

  • As children develop speaking and listening skills they build the foundations for literacy, for making sense of visual and verbal signs and ultimately for reading and writing. Children need varied opportunities to interact with others and to use a wide variety of resources for expressing their understanding, including mark-making, drawing, modelling, reading and writing.


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 measures.

Mathematics is made up of the following aspects:

Numbers: children have the ability to count reliably with numbers from 1 to 20, placing them in order and say which number is one more or one less than a given number. Using quantities and objects, children are able to add and subtract two single-digit numbers and count on or back to find the answer. They solve problems, including doubling, halving and sharing.

Shape, space and measures: children use everyday language to talk about size, weight, capacity, position, distance, time and money to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems. They recognise, create and describe patterns. They explore characteristics of everyday objects and shapes and use mathematical language to describe them.

What mathematics means for children:

  • Babies’ and children’s mathematical development occurs as they seek patterns, make connections and recognise relationships through finding out about and working with numbers and counting, with sorting and matching and with shape, space and measures.
  • Children use their knowledge and skills in these areas to solve problems, generate new questions and make connections across other areas of Learning and Development.

Understanding the World

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.

Understanding of the World is made up of the following aspects:

People and Communities: Children talk about past and present events in their own lives and in the lives of family members. They know that other children don’t always enjoy the same things, and are sensitive to this. They know about similarities and differences between themselves and others, and among families, communities and traditions.

The World: Children know about similarities and differences in relation to places, objects, materials and living things. They talk about the features of their own immediate environment and how environments might vary from one another. They make observations of animals and plants and explain why some things occur, and talk about changes.

Technology: Children recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as homes and schools. They select and use technology for particular purposes.

What Understanding of the World means for babies and young children:

  • Babies and children find out about the world through exploration and from a variety of sources, including their families and friends, the media, and through what they see and hear.
  • Babies and children need regular opportunities to learn about different ways of life, to be given accurate information and to develop positive and caring attitudes towards others.
  • Children should be helped to learn to respect and value all people and learn to avoid misapprehensions and negative attitudes towards others when they develop their Understanding of the World.
  • Children should be involved in the practical application of their knowledge and skills which will promote self-esteem through allowing them to make decisions about what to investigate and how to do it.

Expressive Arts and Design

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.

Expressive Arts and Design is made up of the following aspects:

Exploring and using media and materials: Children sing songs, make music and dance, and experiment with ways of changing them. They safely use and explore a variety of materials, tools and techniques, experimenting with colour, design, texture, form and function.

Being Imaginative: Children use what they have learnt about media and materials in original ways, thinking about uses and purposes. They represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through design and technology, art, music, dance, role-play and stories.

What Creative Development means for children:

  • Exploration and creativity is about taking risks and making connections and is strongly linked to play.
  • Creativity emerges as children become absorbed in action and explorations of their own ideas, expressing them through movement, making and transforming things using media and materials such as crayons, paints, scissors, words, sounds, movement, props and make-believe.
  • Creativity involves children in initiating their own learning and making choices and decisions.
  • Children’s responses to what they see, hear and experience through their senses are individual and the way they represent their experiences is unique and valuable.

Being creative enables babies and children to explore many processes, media and materials and to make new things emerge as a result.