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Understanding the EYFS: Expressive Arts and Design Explained

Throughout February, we have been taking a deep dive into each of the areas of learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

In short, the EYFS is how the government and early years practitioners describe the time in your little one’s life between birth and age 5.

It’s a legal framework to ensure a high quality of care and safeguarding for your child. You can click here to find out more.

There are 7 areas of learning to explore in total, and we are concluding today with Expressive Arts and Design – let’s dive straight in!

Expressive Arts and Design encompasses all things creative! It covers: music, singing & dancing, art, stories & rhymes, imaginative play, modelling and using technology creatively.

The EYFS breakdown divides this area of learning into two main aspects:

  • Exploring and using media and materials

All about introducing your little one to creative experiences like music, exploring art materials, learning about tools and experimenting with colour, texture and form.

  • Being imaginative

All about encouraging your child to use what they have learnt to express themselves in original ways, expressing their thoughts, feelings and ideas through art, role play etc.

Expressive art and design is a specific area of learning so it will feature more prominently in your little one’s learning after the age of 3. But supporting creativity is important for children of all ages – bringing huge benefits to a child’s development and wellbeing.

Creative experiences help children to:

  • Express themselves in various ways.

  • Learn about the materials around them – from crafting supplies to mud!

  • Learn their limits - what they can and can’t do.

  • Make decisions for themselves.

  • Improve confidence and social skills.

How you can support your little one at home

  • Always be prepared!

Nurture your little one’s creativity by always having crafting materials or activities around. For babies and toddlers, the best options are paint, playdough and sensory objects.

For preschool-aged children the best options are paper, glue, clay, cardboard, instruments, a camera etc.

  • Get outdoors

Give your little one plenty of opportunities to be creative outdoors. Natural resources like leaves and twigs are ideal for creative play, whether that’s for making sounds, creating art, or using these in roleplay – the possibilities are endless.

  • Encourage mess

Getting messy creates long-lasting memories! It’s also a big part of the creative process so try not to worry about it, create areas in the home (or outside) specifically for messy creative play.

  • Allow time

Give your little one plenty of time and don’t rush them, creative ideas take time to develop. If they are immersed in a creative activity be sure to give them the time and space to see where it flows next.

  • Music

Play music every day. Hearing, making music and singing can have a huge impact on your child’s language and physical skills. Music has also been proven to have a positive effect on mental health – so it’s great all around!

  • Chat about it

Lastly, but possibly most importantly, chat with your little one and listen to what they say. Shared conversations are great opportunities for bonding and can be especially meaningful when they’re telling you about their ideas and interests.

Activities to try at home

Natural sensory tray

You will need:

  • A tray

  • A range of natural materials – these can vary depending on the time of year (e.g. leaves, twigs, flowers, rocks, soil, sand etc.)


This activity is ideal for younger children. It’s super easy to set up – all you need to do is put all of your natural materials in a tray or bowl and let your little one explore the different textures, colours and shapes.

Make your own playdough

You will need:

  • 8 tbsp flour

  • 2 tbsp salt

  • 60ml water

  • 1 tbsp oil

  • Optionally: food colouring and essential oils


Playdough is a great creative resource, but the branded stuff is expensive and bad for the environment – so why not make your own?! It’s quick, easy, and cheap.

All you have to do is mix the ingredients together, you can also add some food colouring and/or essential oils to make it themed! Then just let your little one get creative - they can make shapes, characters, food items and more.

Make your own instruments

This activity is much more structured than previous ones so it’s ideal for older children.

You can make anything from a cardboard guitar to a lolly stick harmonica and so much more. Giving your little one a cheap and easy instrument they can play with and explore a variety of sounds!

Click here to check out super easy to follow guides via BBC Good Food.

Collage art

You will need:

  • Scissors

  • Glue

  • Paper (different colours)

  • Paint/pencils/crayons

  • Optionally, other crafting materials or new


The best thing about this activity is that there is no real method. Your little one can be as creative as they like, cutting out and sticking down various shapes, drawing on top of these etc.



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