Learning Through Play. Continuous Provision – Literacy

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) separates literacy into two categories, reading and writing, but, these subheadings overly simplify a rich, exciting and magical voyage of discovery that children will explore throughout their early years and beyond.

Literacy is a journey that children embark on from the moment they are born, evolving from many experiences including relationships, language and physical development.

“Reading and writing float on a sea of talk.” – James Britton (1983)

Example 1. A small group of children are playing on the ride on toys outside. One child shouts “Stop! There’s a roundabout here.” Another child says, “No there isn’t. There’s always a sign to say that there’s a roundabout and there isn’t one here.” A practitioner asks the group how they might be able to show that there’s a roundabout in their play. One child suggests they draw one and three children access the mark making station.

Two children choose felt pens and paper and the third chooses some chalk. The first 2 children stay near the mark making resources whilst the third child goes back to where they were playing and begins to make marks on the ground with their chalk. The children with paper speak to the practitioner saying they need a stick to put their roundabout sign on which the practitioner facilitates by providing some more resources, sticks and Sellotape. Each child has chosen to represent a roundabout in a different way and each representation is just as valid as the other.

It is crucial for children to develop a life-long love of reading – EYFS 2021

There is rarely a time when a child will not be accessing a book in some form or other during the nursery day. Our continuous provision ensures there are books, stories, magazines and non-fiction books inside, outside and freely accessible to children of all ages to look at independently as well as with a practitioner.

Example 2. A baby pulls a book from the basket and climbs on the lap of their Key Person. The adult holds the book looking at the pictures and reading the text, pointing to the text as they read with a smile on their face. The baby claps whenever the page turns until the adult begins reading again.

Literacy exploration begins from long before a child is able to hold a book or grasp a pencil. Children under two years often explore what their hands can do with different materials. Babies often start early by smearing food or tapping spilt liquid with their hands (oh the fun to be had with an open cup and a “spillage”). They may enjoy smearing shaving foam or paint with their whole hand onto another surface or simply splashing in water play. They are learning the power of being able to make their own marks and the effect their movements have on the world around them.

Example 3. A two year old is immersed play in the mud kitchen, a space that they have revisited daily for a week. They have a range of utensils and pots and pans which they are filling with mud and using a teapot to pour water onto before mixing with a metal spoon. They announce it is a chocolate pie. It needs to bake in the oven which is a shelf about 4 meters away from them. The pan is heavy and they need to use all of their upper body, hand and arm muscles to lift it over to the oven. Throughout they narrate their play, ‘Now flour’, ‘I need water’, ‘I’m mixing’, ‘It’s brown’, ‘It’s heavy’, developing their understanding, describing and sequencing their play.

An x-ray of a developed hand (around the age of 7) compared to an EYFS age child’s hand

Early literacy focusses on building the muscles and cognitive skills that will be needed later on in the literacy journey. Crawling, swinging from swings, building towers, manipulating loose parts, cutting with scissors, dancing, singing, rhyme, rhythm and den building all help to equip the children with a plethora of necessary skills.

Reading or writing should never be a chore, at Willow Cottage we encourage children to be excited by them and take this excitement through to their school journey.

“Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. It is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace that is right for each individual child. Earlier is not better.” – Magda Gerber

Next time…
Learning Through Play. Continuous Provision – Imaginative Play/Role Play