26th July 2022 Insights All Posts

The Value of ‘Child-Led’ Learning in the EYFS

As we discuss the power of play in early childhood development – it is important to also understand child-led learning and how this can impact a child’s cognitive, physical, and emotional development during their early years. 

Today we will be discussing what child-led learning means and what its role is in the EYFS.

What is child-led learning?

Learning through play is a crucial part of childhood development – but how can we create scenarios in which the child can lead their own learning journey? Child-led learning is a concept that is becoming more and more popular in nursery settings of late, and before you can implement this way of learning into your own setting it is crucial to understand exactly what it means and how it can benefit a child.

Child-led learning in short describes when a child is given the opportunity to choose their own activity within a setting or at home. Whether this be playing in the sandpit, sitting at the arts and crafts table, or choosing to read a book. 

The main focus of child-led learning is to observe how children approach an activity or task and what they do. A good example of this would be making a sandcastle. As an adult, you may set up a sandpit and direct the child to make a sandcastle – however if the child plays with the sand themselves they might make something else. Encouraging the child to think intuitively is a valuable lesson and one that can help with their cognitive and creative development. Once a child is happily playing in any way they see fit, you as an adult can add new elements to their play which they will take on board and utilise. 

We want to encourage children to create their own fun with the resources in front of them. 

A child might choose an easy task that they are familiar with rather than experimenting – but this is where an adult can step in and encourage children to think of different options and different ways to play. 

Critical Thinking is Key

Child-led learning is a wonderful way to encourage critical thinking in the early years. When a child is given the opportunity to build their own adventure – they will plan their activity, gather materials, and decide on their own next steps. Whether working alone or in a group – children will be able to gain critical thinking and communication skills from this way of learning. 

Social Skills 

As we briefly mentioned above – child-led learning can be done either as individuals or in a group. When children team up to form their own play they will be encouraged to communicate and work as a team with their friends. This is a key social skill for children to learn and it will ensure that every child has the chance to speak up and share their own ideas with like-minded peers. This will also help a child with their self-confidence and can be a good way for children to make new friends. 

Embracing Curiosity

As many schools and nursery settings across the world adopt a more child-led way of learning; we see a huge benefit to a child’s development and their ability to learn new things in the classroom. Child-led learning forces curiosity and it will feed into a child’s natural fascination with the things around them. With a more flexible pattern to learning, children will be able to embrace their curiosity and embark on their own unique learning journey which will give them a wonderful starting point for the future. Children who have been encouraged to lead their own learning from an early age will be more likely to seek knowledge in the future and be able to perform independent learning in their higher education. 

Child-led learning can be the perfect opportunity to document a child’s success and achievements in the nursery setting. Why not use iConnect to document your child’s learning journey digitally? You can also take photographs of child-led activities and send them directly to parents through ParentZone. 

Make the Switch to Connect Childcare before the 31st August using the code SWITCH22 to get 20% off your startup fees! 

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About the Author

Imogen is our Content and Social Media creative