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Parent's guide to nursery curriculum - ages 3 & 4

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

Are you about to register your little one for a nursery space but aren’t sure what to expect?

Or maybe you’re already registered but are unsure about what we do in the nursery or how your little one is learning?

Over 6 weeks, we are doing a deep dive into everything you need to know about the EYFS, development matters and more to help you better understand our nursery’s curriculum!

In this section, we will go over the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) skills, how your little one will use these, how they will develop these and what you can do to help their learning.

Missed part 4 (the EYFS for birth to three)? Click here to read it!

Let's dive straight in!

Communication and Language

Your little one’s listening skills will improve at this age; they will understand more complicated questions about why something has happened as well as two-part instructions like ‘please get your coat and wait at the door’.

Your child will also know/remember lots of songs, nursery rhymes and stories, they will enjoy going over them again and again!

Finally, their vocabulary will expand. Your little one will enjoy learning new words but will still be learning word endings, they may make small mistakes such as ‘runned’ for ‘ran’.

Your child might still find pronouncing some words tricky, including j, th, ch, and sh. But they will be able to use longer sentences and use words and actions to explain their thoughts and ideas!

How you can help with your little one’s learning

· Have conversations with your little one about things they’re interested in and encourage them to keep talking by nodding, smiling and making comments.

· Introduce new words when you’re playing/eating/out and about with your child and explain what the new words mean.

· Play listening games such as ‘Simon Says’.

· Talk to your child about things that have already happened or will happen soon.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

At this age, your little one becomes more confident. This is when they’ll be learning about interacting with new people.

They will also begin to understand why rules are important and be able to follow them most of the time, remembering these without having to be reminded by an adult.

Your child will like to play with other children at this stage. When playing, they will find ways to solve conflicts and problems, as they will be able to use words to explain how they are feeling as well as develop an understanding of others’ feelings.

Finally, your little one will become more and more independent. They will be learning to use cutlery by themselves and like to be given responsibility, particularly around dressing and feeding themselves, and to help with small jobs like grabbing the fruit.

Your child will also be able to brush their teeth and wash and dry their hands, as well as understand how important it is to brush their teeth and make healthy choices.

How you can help with your little one’s learning

· Give your child tasks to carry out like washing up a plate after a snack.

· Model how you manage your feelings e.g. ‘I’m feeling a bit angry so I am going to take a deep breath’. Help them understand why they may feel sad or frustrated.

Physical Development

At years 3 & 4 your child will be able to use fine motor skills. These ensure they’re able to: do up buttons and zips, hold pencils and pens, and use tools like scissors. Your little one will also show whether they are left or right-handed.

They will continue to develop a range of physical skills like balancing, riding, walking up steps using alternate feet, skip, hop, stand on one leg and so much more!

Finally, your child will be able to think about which movement they need to make and choose the correct tools depending on the circumstance.

How you can help with your little one’s learning

· Help your child with dressing but allow them to do the final steps e.g. pulling up zips after you start it off.

· Give them lots of opportunities to be active, practising running, jumping, balancing, climbing and swinging.

· Encourage your little one to walk, scoot or bike to the nursery.


At this stage, your child will understand the following about books and stories:

· Books/stories have meaning,

· They can be used for different purposes,

· We read English from left to right, from top to bottom,

· Names of different parts of a book,

· And we read pages in story books one at a time.

They will be learning to tune into different sounds in English, developing their phonological awareness so that they are able to:

· Spot and suggest rhymes,

· Count or clap syllables in a word,

· Recognise words with the same initial sound, such as money and mother,

· Enjoy having long conversations about stories and learning new words,

· In playtime, they will learn to use their knowledge of sounds and letters,

· Write some or all of their name,

· And write some letters accurately.

How you can help with your little one’s learning

· Talk about stories with your child – what is happening in the pictures? Give them time to think and share ideas.

· Play with words, make up fun rhyming sentences with them.

· Allow your little one to help write birthday cards and shopping lists.


Your child will be learning vital math skills at this stage. They will be able to count in order up to 5 as well as show finger numbers and be able to match the correct numeral to the right amount.

Your little one will also be able to recognise that the last number they read when counting tells them how many there are in total. As well as this, they will recognise groups of up to three objects without having to count them individually.

Using mathematical terms like ‘fewer/more than’, ‘first/then/after’ and ‘sides/corners/straight/flat’ will be another skill your child will develop at this stage in their learning journey.

They will also be able to talk about routes and locations.

Finally, your little one will be able to talk about and identify patterns. They will also be able to make, extend and spot errors (and correct) in ABAB patterns.

How you can help with your little one’s learning

· Point out the number of things in everyday life rather than just names.

· Give your child lots of opportunities to count in everyday life and emphasise the last number - ‘there are three cookies’.

· Cut out a large shape from a cereal box (like a triangle or circle), then cut that shape into 2-4 smaller pieces to make a puzzle.

· When you’re at the park, use words like ‘up/under/between’ to talk about things you see.

· Make playdough with them!

Understanding the World

Your little one will be curious about all aspects of their life. They will enjoy talking about what they’re exploring/investing, learning about their own life story and family history as well as being interested in different jobs and exploring how things work.

At this stage your child will also be learning to develop positive attitudes towards the differences between people and recognise that there are different countries in the world, talking about the differences they have seen in photos or experienced.

Exploring nature is also a big aspect of understanding the world. Your little one will enjoy exploring natural materials using all of their senses as well as taking care of growing plants.

They will understand the important parts of life cycles and slowly begin to understand the importance of respecting all living things and the natural environment.

Finally, your child will also talk about the differences between materials and changes they notice as well as different forces they can feel.

How you can help with your little one’s learning

· Help your little one make collections of interesting natural materials like pebbles.

· Let them explore ice (once melted a bit).

· Get gardening together!

· Take your little one to different places like the library.

Expressive Arts and Design

At 3 & 4 years old your little one will:

Take part in simple pretend play, using different objects to represent items and characters, they will also be beginning to make pretend play into complex small worlds using props.

Enjoy exploring different materials freely. They will be learning to develop their ideas about how to use them, how to join different materials together and explore all the different textures.

Be able to draw different shapes using a continuous line and will be starting to recognise to use shapes as representation for objects.

Draw with increased detail, for instance adding details to faces. They will also be able to use drawings to show movement, noises and emotions, whilst enjoying exploring colour and colour mixing.

Finally, they will be able to listen to sounds with increased attention, responding by expressing emotion. Your little one will also be able to sing the melodic shape of familiar songs, create their own songs and play instruments with increasing control.

How you can help with your little one’s learning

· Make DIY paintbrushes using clothes pegs and items found around the home and outdoors.

· Join in with your child’s pretend play.

· Give your child a cardboard box, some fabric and other crafting materials to build a den/fort.


Don't forget to check out our nurseries by clicking here.

OR... why not visit us in person, click here to book a show-around now!


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