Planning Opportunities for Each Stage of Development

Planning Opportunities for Children from Birth to Five Years in Relation to:

  • Cognitive development
  • Speech, language and communication
  • Physical development
  • Social and emotional development

Planning for Cognitive Development

Children need to make sense of the world in which they live and we can help them achieve this. Children learn by what they see and hear around them, and by exploration, experimenting and curiosity during play. We need to provide opportunities that excite children, so they want to explore, take risks, can make choices and decisions. In turn share their thoughts, ideas and what they have discovered with others and get their feedback. Providing activities which stimulate all the senses through creativity in music, dance and art can give them the confidence to have a go and form their own ideas and encouraging a different way of thinking and reflect on the outcome (be it successful or not) and how to move forward.

 

Stage of development

Planned opportunities to support cognitive development

 

Birth-12 months

 

 

 

 

 

Respond to what they see, hear, touch, smell

 

Uses hands and mouth to explore

 

Learn by observing others

 

Use movement to connect with their immediate environment

 

Reach out and grasp objects

 

Pull to stand enables investigation to widen

 

Learn by cause and effect

 

Born with all their senses needs to observation what’s of interest. Also look for cues they give out to signal they have had enough, so as not to over stimulate.

 

High contrast – books and objects, rattles, mirrors, faces

Music, lights and aromas – herbs in muslin bags to smell, catch and squeeze

 

Basket of things to explore giving choice and interest – soft feathers, silk scarf’s, pom-poms

 

Gentle contact with touch – ‘round and round the garden’, ‘patter cake’

 

Talk about what is happening to encourage linking actions and words

 

Different texture shapes and sizes

 

Bricks or blocks to build

 

Piece of plastic on floor – crawl around making marks with paint or sprinkles 

 

Provide a calm atmosphere with quiet music when necessary so they can rest

 

1-2 years

 

 

 

 

Express themselves through physical actions and sound

 

Explore by repeating patterns of play

 

Become absorbed on a particular activity until mastered

 

Introduce full mirrors, soft play cubes for hiding, peeping and crawling through

 

Experimenting with building blocks of varying sizes 

 

Paper for colour and making marks

 

Provide toys with opening, closing, pushing and pulling

 

2-3 years

 

 

 

 

 

Trying to make sense of what they see, hear, smell and feel

 

Interested in why something happens

Like to make things

Interested in texture and experimenting with colours and making marks on paper

 

Begin to express themselves through role play, art, music and dance.

 

Provide a wide range of sensory materials to explore colour texture. 

 

Talk about their observations and experiences, increasing their understanding and vocabulary e.g. smooth, rough, soft, flat, light 

Make an area where work can be planned and talked about and displayed – showing their ideas and results mean they are valued

 

Outdoor areas giving access to the natural world - opportunity to investigate e.g. effect of wind with chimes, streamers and bubbles

 

Experimenting to see what happens then reflect on the outcome – jumping in a puddle 

 

3-4 years

 

 

 

Explore and experiment using range of senses and movement

 

Show curiosity and interest in objects and living things

 

Can now describe what they see

 

Interested in constructing things which require tools

 

Cause and effect

 

Balancing

 

Use language to convey their mood

 

Use local areas for exploring both urban and natural environments. 

 

Bring experiences and/or examples back using them to recreate colleges, paintings, rubbings etc.

 

Provide a wide range of tools

 

Group discussion after listening to music – how did it make feel

 

Role-play

 

Provide time so children can express and describe their experiences

 

Take photographs after visits to relive what was seen and use for discussion, reflection and promote ideas

 

4-5 years

 

 

 

Awareness of any changes

 

Uses all senses appropriately

 

Look more closely at things and ask questions how it works

 

Notice and comment on patterns

 

Identify some features of living things objects and events

 

Describe what they plan to do or make, using tools 

 

Construct collages, creating different textures and mixing colours

 

Construct large and small scale and in 2D

 

Help children notice patterns around them natural and manmade

 

Handling something to look closely – wood, seaweed rocks

 

Opportunities to record findings – growing a plant over time, watching ice melt

 

Range of materials and objects to see how they work – pulleys, torches, breaks on bike, gate latches. Discus what to expect and what they witnessed

 

Change media to see what happens cause and effect – wet dry, flaky, fixed 

 

Write, draw, model, photograph, mixing colours

 

See how children react to new experience – hear a train may move around, may want to paint it

 

Encourage children to give more depth and description when speaking 

 

Joining things together in construction to make 2D and 3D work 

 

Support their likes and dislikes 

 

 

Planning for Speech, Language and Communication Development

We can play a huge part in providing opportunities for continuity and extending learning. Young babies need to feel safe and secure, so finding out what a particular baby likes or settles to when feeling distressed, is essential. As a baby’s skills increase they will start to convey more in words and gestures. 

 

Stage of development

Planned opportunities to support speech, language and communication development

 

Birth-12 months

 

From birth, babies are born ready to communicate so practitioners need to be close enough so they can have face-to-face contact, enabling opportunities to hold a conversation. This is a two-way activity and in the very young ‘mirroring’ expressions or sounds, gives the baby a sense that what they are ‘saying’ is valued and meaningful

 

 

Watching, waiting, listening and following their cues can help their speech, language and communication skills – “Are you looking at the toys? Which toy would you like; this blue ball?”

 

Playing familiar games e.g. “Round and round the garden”

 

Using key words and familiar stories, songs/lullabies and rhymes – if possible in their home language too 

 

Getting down to the same level as a child and making eye contact lets the child know they have your sole attention and are being listened to

 

Enforcing routines using familiar words and phrases – “It’s time for your bath. You like lots of bubbles don’t you?” 

 

1-2 years

 

 

 

Now building simple sentences

 

Will be trying to convey meaningful messages

Practitioners need to tune-in and appreciate children’s efforts at what they are trying to say – by being sensitive to their use of words and sentence construction builds confidence – “Are you trying to tell me that you have lost your toy? Shall I try to help you find it?”

 

Talking about what a child is doing, when they are enjoying an activity, will help to put the correct structure of a sentence in context. Also helps pronunciation and to extend vocabulary – “You have a red car”, “I have a blue car”, and “Rosie has a green car”.

 

Looking at pictures or symbols in books and stories with similar activities a child enjoys helps support hearing words and their visual representation

 

2-3 years

 

Extended vocabulary and interests now allows more complex communication with adults and peers

 

Practising questioning and negotiating skills

Listening to children’s ideas that interests them

 

Answering their questions

 

Children learning English as an additional language will need more visual prompts, objects and gestures to encourage more understanding and conversation

 

Making displays using pictures and objects of e.g. a festival, can be used to encourage talking about a familiar topic

 

Repetition using tone and intonation in rhythm and rhyme helps children learn to distinguish differences in sounds and word patterns, whilst having fun e.g. “Head, shoulders, knees and toes”

 

3-4 years

 

Use of language and understanding, becoming more complex

 

Can listening to stories and recount them 

 

Can listen to others and hold a conversation in an interested subject

 

Can describe past experiences and elaborate on them, accentuating with gestures 

 

Beginning to explain events and why things happen

 

Have fun acting out stories and rhymes

 

 

Repetition in songs, and using ones that enable turn taking and gesturing – in different cultures

 

Help children express their feelings and what they need in words

 

Set up listening areas for stories

 

Book bags and games to take home and involve parents

 

Helping link actions in sentences e.g. “The dog was chasing the cat”; “The bird is flying in the sky” 

 

Helping them to expand their vocabulary e.g. “The elephant is big” – “Yes it’s enormous” 

 

Use both verbal and visual prompts when introducing a new activity as this will enforce understanding 

 

Plan practical demonstrations e.g. preparing food Getting the children to ask questions by using how and why words to explaining to describe what is happening

 

Using puppets and props to help children tell a story or relay their feelings

 

Practitioner’s should use the correct grammar themselves as they are role model for the children

 

4-5 years

 

Now have confidence in their ability to convey what they want and in what they are interested

 

Uses speech to communicate and less gesturing

 

Listens to what others say to them and notes it’s relevance

 

Use speech from experiences and from books 

 

Increased concentration means they can focus, extend thoughts and ask questions on a subject

 

Can plan and negotiate activities with their peers

 

Enjoy using language in role play situations

 

Listens to and make up their own music, stories and poems

 

Children now enjoy conversation, they now know there is a purpose to talking to someone. By turn taking and listening to another’s point of view, ideas, or experience can widen their own view of life

 

Encouraging social etiquette during conversation e.g. “Please, thank you, excuse me”

 

Help practice negotiating skills e.g. “Can I?”, “May I?”

 

Encouraging them to extend their thoughts e.g. make up another an ending to a story, think of different things that rhyme, new words to a familiar song

 

Give thinking and sharing time

 

Set up collaborative tasks e.g. making a display or constructing a building, acting parts in role play 

 

Encourage planning activities themselves e.g. the part each child will play, what is needed, what is the outcome

 

Provide portable lists of appropriate words (word banks) linked to indoor and outside play. Also various writing resources 

 

Encouraging show and tell. Each child brings something they have made and tells the group about it e.g. how it was constructed, why and then have questions and discussion from the group

 

 

 

Planning for Physical development

Planning opportunities to encourage physical development is essential for improving both gross and fine motor skills, whilst building confidence in children’s physical ability with sensitive guidance and encouragement. We need to provide age appropriate equipment and resources that physically challenge and interest our children of all ages, both indoor and outdoor. When planning activities, time needs to be built in for practising and repeating new skills. There also needs to be planned time for promoting healthy life styles and choices which will have give a positive self-image.

 

Stage of development

Planned opportunities to support physical development

 

Birth-12 months

 

Gross and fine motor skills, will at first, be jerky and uncontrolled but with as skills are learnt by cause and effect, they become more controlled and purposeful

 

Sensory exploration helps link babies to their immediate environment

 

As babies become more physically able they will crawl, pull up or cruise around

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning space to be free to kick, roll and stretch out 

 

 

 

Providing activities which move and make a noise encouraging babies to reach out with their arms and legs – gyms with a number of tactile objects and hanging bells will encourage reaching out with legs and arms

 

Opportunities for grasping objects – placing toys out of reach to encourage babies to reach

 

Having tummy-time strengthen the baby’s back and neck muscles – available both indoor and outdoor 

 

Offer low-level equipment for safe cruising 

 

Baskets of colourful toys that can be sucked, pulled and squeezed near by to encourage babies to reach out

 

Offering baby massage 

 

Offering rest areas which are accessible when needed

 

1-2 years

 

 

 

Now more mobile toddlers can physical go to a wanted toy, person or object. This can be potentially dangerous

 

Love expressing themselves through sounds and movement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Provide safe space, both indoor and outdoor, for bouncing, climbing and throwing

 

Offering soft play materials – tunnels, slopes, small steps to provide a challenge

 

Music to explore rhythms of movement – using scarves, streamers and musical instruments

 

Toys with buttons to press, handle to turn, wheels to rotate and books with flaps

 

Tactile exploration – gloop, dough, clay and sand 

 

Painting and making marks

 

Role play activities which need actions – sweeping, poring, digging, and rolling

 

Encouraging positive health – washing hands and daily routines e.g. hanging up coats and aprons 

 

Discussing choices of drinks – water, juice milk

 

2-3 years

 

Now in control of their movements become skilled negotiator of space and objects

 

Hand-eye and hand leg co-ordination

 

Put movements together running, jumping and turning

 

Copy real events e.g. see a plane pretend to be one and act it out

 

Find stopping difficult

 

Planning must include a risk assessment, indoor and outdoor, for large equipment e.g. use of ladders, different size boxes. Zones need to be allocated for these where children can play safely 

 

Proving opportunities for – kicking, throwing and catching a ball

 

Proving activities for balancing, experimenting with movement e.g. through party games or free expression using all the body

 

Providing music and dance – using gestures, scarves, streamers and through spontaneity 

 

Real and role play activities – encouraging both meaningful and pretend games to stimulate imagination

 

Making large expressive marks in the form of murals and collages

 

Need provision for rest and recuperation 

 

Encouraging positive health – display colourful menus and food (include cultural differences) 

 

3-4 years

 

 

 

 

 

Use movements to express feelings

 

When chasing they are competent at avoiding others and objects

 

Hold a position

 

Climb stairs

 

Move spontaneously

 

Fine motor skills improving

 

Planning enough indoor and outdoor activities so children don’t have to wait 

 

Mark out boundaries for some activities with different surfaces. Mark out chalk lines for various paths and tracks for children to follow on foot, skipping, pushing prams or riding bikes 

 

Children can now enjoy team games with simple rules e.g. including rolling, throwing, catching and fetching

 

Encourage controlled actions and expressions, during a music, story time or rhythm session –stretching, balancing, being happy or sad, being big or small

 

Planning arts activities e.g. cooking, painting, playing an instrument 

 

Providing to promote fine motor skills – world toys, construction, posting, threading materials for collage, fingers or whole hands finger paints, patterns in damp sand or paint

 

Encouraging positive health – displaying physical activities and talking about the benefits of not to become overweight. Also the importance of rest and providing an area for recuperating

 

4-5 years

 

 

 

 

 

Move with smooth control and co-ordination

 

Begin to understand the need for safety when a new challenge

 

Provide large cartons, fabrics and planks for imaginative construction (check for damage and possible safety issues)

 

Plan games that improve precision skills e.g. target throwing, kicking and catching games with beanbags, cones ball and hoops

 

Encourage different skill combinations e.g. hopping forwards and backwards, sideways, left and right 

 

Balancing skills e.g. bikes to ride

 

Plan time for repeating activities, refining and improving new skills

 

Planning whole body action rhymes e.g. “Head, shoulders” or “Going on a bear hunt”. This gives opportunity to talk parts of the body and to extend vocabulary 

 

For improving fine motor skills, provide various implements and tools (left and right handed) e.g. scissors, tweezers, tongs, scoops, brushes and paints

 

Provide different textures and materials e.g. wood, plastic, rubber, sand, clay, water, textiles and paper

 

Provide construction toys which need twisting, pushing and slotting. Building and taking them apart to see how things work 

 

Encouraging positive health – have water available. Talk about how they feel after exercise

 

 

Planning for Social and emotional development

Children need to develop a sense of belonging, a positive sense of self, social skills and respect of others. When they feel they are warm, safe and cared for, children can develop secure attachments, giving them the confidence to explore the world and express their feelings and ideas freely. Adults are children’s role models, we need to set a good example of what is socially acceptable. Looking from the child’s point of view can help support a child in a challenging or emotional situation. Planning needs to take account of children’s different personalities and traits e.g. not all children cope well in large groups and some need space to be on their own sometimes.

 

Stage of development

Planned opportunities to support social and emotional development

 

Birth-12 months

 

Begin to understand awareness of self

 

Play with own feet and hands

Thrive on emotional needs being met and physically being comforted. Snuggling in and comforting objects familiar to them

 

Babies are social from birth and they learn by interacting with others

 

They build special relationships with special people

 

Can anticipates food and express discomfort

 

Can point, showing what they want

 

 

 

The environment at home will probably be very different to the setting. To help plan, finding out routines, familiar lullabies and songs from parents, so they can be shared in the setting and at home – this brings consistency 

Plan feeding times, taking in to account individual and cultural dietary needs

 

Provide comfy sofa to sit together

 

Plan to have conversations but follow their lead and cues, respond by mirroring, to expressions, sounds, actions and gestures sensitively

 

Talk about the people in their lives

 

Keep comforter and toys easily accessible for times when they are not centre of attention

 

Provide mirrors so they can see their own reflection and talk about what they see

 

Play gentle music when they are tired

 

Plan space for tummy time and free movement – getting down to their level to play and interact

 

Repeat greetings at start and end of session so they become familiar daily rituals

 

1-2 years

 

 

 

Learning they are a separate person from other

 

Learning they are special

 

Becoming more confident in self

 

Can be caring towards others

 

Use cause and effect to see the response from someone – this helps their understanding of others and themselves

 

Become aware of their belongings

 

Plan a display photos of practitioners so when children and parents arrive they can show who looks after them

 

Plan a display of pictures with groups of children showing what they like to do, eat and play with. 

Make the children’s own book showing what they like to do, which reflects the diversity within the group

 

Promote positive images with diversity and disability

 

Encourage all children to caring for each other

 

Plan in time for children to complete tasks e.g. tying shoelaces, dress, toilet

 

Keep flexible routines

 

Children check acceptability of their actions – help them to label their emotions by talking to them about their own feelings and those of others

 

Read stories and have picture books showing empathy for others

 

2-3 years

 

 

Now children are more confident and show preferences and interests

 

They begin to recognise danger and know who to go to if they need help

 

Enjoy talking to adults and other children

 

Respond to others feelings

 

Are aware some actions can hurt or endanger others

 

Takes pleasure in personal hygiene

 

Share policies and practices with parents, including how to respond to possible situations to ensure best outcomes for children

 

 

Exchange information with parents about any concerns so everyone can observe and feed back

 

Help children to learn their rights, talk about ways to avoid harming or hurting others

 

Abilities of children need to be valued – what they can do and do for others

 

Record individual achievements

 

Encourage symbolic play to enable children to express their feelings e.g. through puppets, toy animals

 

Plan games to help them recognise need for rules and turn taking. Making groups to ensure children have opportunity to join in

 

Read stories and provide pictures or objects support children making choices

 

Make a area where children can share photos of their family’s pets

 

Create areas for children to sit and chat

 

Allow time for children to pour their own drink, serve food or water plants

 

3-4 years

 

 

 

 

As independence grows children will want to choose the activities they want to do, asking for guidance when necessary

 

Talk freely about home and community

 

Gaining more complex skills

 

Have a sense of personal identity

 

Start to show sense of trust with others and form friendships

 

Accept flexibility and changes in routines

 

Show care for living things and environment

Demonstrate sense of pride

 

Plan opportunities for children to take responsibility e.g. getting the paints out, putting them away, handing out paper, collecting books

 

Plan opportunities for children to have their own ideas e.g. making something out of junk and build on children ideas to plan new experiences that present a challenge

 

Encourage children to ask questions and be inquisitive

 

Establish routines which predict sequences and events

 

Encourage children to play and collaborate with a variety of children

 

Provide activities and opportunities for children to share experiences so they understand differences in each other children’s lives e.g. camping, a hobby, a pet

 

Talk about why we should care for their homes, communities and the environment

Plan extra time for children in transition as they move from one setting to another and different groups

 

4-5 years

 

They now will become absorbed in an interested activity

 

Can sit and concentrate

 

Express needs and feelings in appropriate ways

 

Show range of feelings when appropriate

 

Respect each other cultures and differences

 

Accept they may need to wait for something they want

 

Can stand up for themselves

 

Are aware of boundaries set and behaviour expected

 

Dress independently

Opportunities which encourage experimenting and to talk about what they are learning. By sharing each others experiences the ideas are given value

 

Make a display showing who makes up the local community

 

Invite someone to the setting to talk about aspects of their work and life 

 

Share different cultures and beliefs

 

Encourage them to share feelings and stories of their experiences. During circle time discuss those feelings, using props like puppets 

 

Make a feelings chart with e.g. happy, frustrated, angry, excited, sad 

 

Provide activities which require turn taking and sharing

 

Praise good behaviour, caring, sharing and taking the initiative

 

Listen and help children identify, find solutions and resolve differences or injustices. Trying to find the best outcome can help them deal with similar situations in the future

 

Try to get them to look at another viewpoint

 

Provide books and stories where people break the rules and the consequences

 

 

The Children's Project Ltd
Changing the World - one baby at a time
08450 94 54 94
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