Skip main navigation

Early childhood development

development statements
Young child doing artwork
© British Council

In our experience of developing our Learning Time with Timmy English courses for 2-6-year olds we looked to formal early years education settings to develop a curriculum that focuses on what children can do in a playful, motivating way.

Development Matters is part of the Early Years Foundation Stage and is used as development guidance in nurseries, kindergartens and schools in England. It is to help practitioners understand what to expect from the children so they can provide developmentally appropriate activities and support.

There are many similar frameworks all over the world (Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand) which follow very similar principles.

These frameworks emphasise that each child is unique, and the way they engage with the people around them and their environment deeply affects learning and development. All children are born curious and active learners and they need what is described in Development Matters as Characteristics of Effective Learning:

  • playing and exploring
  • active learning
  • creating and thinking critically

The development statements are an important part of the EYFS framework. They are a useful guide as they describe what children can typically be expected to do at different ages. They are divided into six age groups (which can also overlap), starting at birth until 5+ years (60+ months).

The development statements are written for the following areas:

PRIME SPECIFIC
Personal, Social and Emotional Development Literacy
Physical Development Mathematics
Communication and Language Understanding the World
  Expressive Arts and Design

What might happen when?

Read the following development statements from the Early Years Foundation Stage framework (England).

For purposes of this exercise, and our context of learning of English, we have focussed on the ages where children are starting to speak and attend formal English lessons which is usually around the age of one and half.

What age range do you think each of these descriptions is referring to? Match these age bands to the development statement:

– 16-26 months (1.3-2.1 years old) – 30-50 months (2.5-4.1 years old)
– 22-36 months (1.8-3 years old) – 40-60+ months (3.3-5 years old)
  • Recites some number names in sequence.
  • Can play in a group.
  • Experiments with blocks, colours and marks.
  • Copies familiar expressions, e.g. Oh dear! All gone!
  • Runs safely on whole foot.
  • Listens with interest to the noises adults make when they read stories.
  • Is aware that some actions can hurt or harm others.
  • Responds to simple instructions, e.g. Put your toys away.
  • Uses a pencil and holds it effectively.
  • Can catch a large ball.
  • Extends vocabulary by grouping, naming, and exploring the sounds of new words.
  • Is interested in others’ play and is starting to join in.
  • Writes own name and other things such as labels or captions.
  • Notices what adults do, imitating what is observed and then doing it spontaneously when the adult is not there.
  • Repeats words or phrases from familiar stories.
  • Holds books the correct way up and turns pages.
  • Constructs with a purpose in mind, using a variety of resources.
  • Explores and experiments using senses and whole body.

Make notes in your observation journal. You will need to refer back to them later.

© British Council
This article is from the free online

English in Early Childhood: Learning Language Through Play

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education