Understanding the world

Understanding the world is one of the seven areas of the early years foundation stage and is used to develop a child's familiarity with technology and their understanding of geography, people and communities. Children can show this in range of ways including talking about themselves and their family, the similarities and differences between people, observing animals and plants how they differ and how the world around them is different from place to place. They also learn about the range of different technologies in the world and how each one has a specific role or purpose.

Below you will find a range of practical articles and expert features that cover understanding the world to help you develop these skills and overcome challenges you might encounter. For more information on the EYFS you can download latest version of the statutory framework here.

Latest Practical

Maths: Shape shifters

  • Judith Harries, teacher, Northampton

The sand tray is a great place to focus on numbers and shapes. Use a variety of materials in wet and dry sand to encourage children to sort, count, name and measure a variety of shapes.

Expressive arts and design: Fleeting beauty

  • Karen Hart, teacher and education writer, London

Enhance children’s understanding of transience by encouraging them to make artworks from blossom and ice. Support them to experiment with a range of natural materials, appreciating their delicacy.

Understanding the world: Hair raising!

  • Karen Hart, education writer, London

Whether children have experienced a visit to the hairdresser, or had their hair cut at home, they will all enjoy hairdresser role-play. Through this they will grasp the practical and social sides of hairdressing.

Slime Planet, located at Loughborough Junction in south London, runs activites and workshops for pre-schoolers and KS1 and 2 pupils.

Slime, glorious slime

  • Ann Roberts

It's easy to understand why slime has become such a popular resource with children in the last couple of years. Squishy, stretchy, jiggly or like putty, it's fascinating to manipulate, deeply mysterious and curiously addictive!

Understanding the World: Fresh new shoots

  • Claire Hewson, teacher and education writer, Cambridgeshire

It’s time to get ready for Spring and plan outdoor adventures, where children can spot butterflies, birds and wild flowers. Support them to understand seasonal differences, change and the passage of time.

Understanding the world: Celebrate World Religion Day!

  • Claire Hewson, teacher and education writer, Cambridgeshire

Sunday 20 of January is World Religion Day, which was established to encourage interfaith understanding and mutual tolerance. Here we explore the Jewish festival of Tu B’Shevat.

Down to detail

  • Jenni Clarke

Using magnification to observe tiny objects or discover the patterns in larger ones is a fascinating occupation. Use this as a springboard to create miniature artworks which reflect the natural world.

Latest Features

How to be a responsible pet owner

  • Karen Faux

Getting involved with National Pet month provides a great way to educate children about the care and characteristics of household pets. While keeping pets in an early years setting is not generally advisable, there are lots of ways to build on children’s natural enthusiasm for them through books, role-play, small world play and discussion.

Children enjoy time spent in the mud kitchen at Busy Bees Hartham Park Nursery.

Glorious mud!

  • Karen Faux

Winter is nearly over and if you’ve recently done an audit of your outdoor space, you might now be thinking about giving your mud kitchen a revamp, and introducing some new resources. If you haven’t yet set up a mud kitchen, now is definitely the time to start planning one.

Extend schemas to make children feel empowered

  • Dr John Siraj- Blatchford is honorary professor at the University of Plymouth and partner of community interest company, SchemaPlay

A project in Walsall highlights how practitioners are successfully building upon children’s favoured schemes and schema to build in new challenges, extend learning and improve EYFS outcomes.

'Parents and carers love to see their little ones raising money to help others,' says Comic Relief's Laura Wilson.

Embrace creative fundraising

  • Laura Wilson, schools and youth team leader at Comic Relief

Taking part in fundraising events creates happy memories for children and tells them that they can play a part in changing the world. There are also lots of ways to link events to learning in the EYFS.

Children enjoy being active outdoors at the Old Station Nursery

Get ready for a fresh start in January

  • Karen Faux

It may come as a shock having to match your energy levels to the children’s when they arrive back after the Christmas break – so lay plans to get them outside and letting off steam, while supporting their learning and physical development.

Celebrate the dark

While adults may complain about the lack of daylight hours and the long, dark nights, for children darkness is mysterious and exciting. Build on their fascination by making it a theme for learning.

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