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Understanding the EYFS: Literacy Explained

Throughout February, we are taking a deep dive into each of the areas of learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage or 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 continuing today with Literacy – let’s dive straight in!

Being able to read and write is an essential skill we use throughout our life, whether that’s in school, when writing a birthday card or just doing the shopping.

Literacy is what allows us to express ourselves, communicate with others and learn about new concepts and ideas.

So, it’s an important part of early years learning, helping prepare your little one for reception year and beyond where they will learn these skills more formally.

The government EYFS breakdown divides Literacy into three practical areas: reading comprehension, exploring words and writing. Let’s go over these now.

1. Reading Comprehension

Stories are an important part of life – sharing storybooks with your little one can have a big impact on their reading and writing development as well as help introduce them to new concepts and ideas.

Sharing stories can help your child develop phonological awareness, vocabulary, expressive language and grammar and language understanding!

Reading words is taught in reception classes but reading together in the early years can help set your little one up for success. Click here for children's books recommendations.

2. Exploring Words

The EYFS states that the development of oral language skills is key in children’s development. This is as we mentioned before, a lifelong skill that will help them in all aspects of life.

Exploring words is all about getting your little one to hear and join in with conversation or spoken word!

Introducing your little one to a range of words gives them a better understanding of vocabulary and helps them express themselves as well as better understand concepts about the world around them.

3. Writing

As with reading and being able to comprehend language, writing is another vital skill. Children need to learn how to write in order to communicate and express themselves.

The EYFS suggest that ‘formal writing’ before reception class is not necessary, but you should begin to help your little one learn about the written word – helping them understand that symbols carry meaning.

How to support your little one’s learning at home

  • Read storybooks

As mentioned above, sharing storybooks with your little one is a great way to help them develop their literacy skills.

But before choosing a book consider what your little one is interested in. Choosing books based on topics they want to learn more about whether that’s dinosaurs, astronauts or flowers will help them be more engaged.

Whilst reading with them, be sure to pause to discuss new word meanings, point out pictures, and characters and chat about these together.

  • Share rhymes and songs

Rhymes and songs aren’t just super fun to play, sing and dance to, they also help your little one learn new words, better understand sentence structure and more!

Check out Spotify, Prime, YouTube or Apple Music for great curated playlists.

  • Discuss all things

Talking is a huge part of early years literacy and it’s never too early to start – even narrating things you do throughout the day to your newborn can help set them up for language learning.

When they’re a little older, discuss their day, their interests, and activities they’re doing or recently have been up to – the more you talk with your little one the better their language comprehension will be.

  • Model writing

Your little one is a sponge, constantly absorbing information from the people around them. One way to help introduce the idea of writing (and that different symbols and letters form different meanings) is by showing them how you write.

When you make notes, prepare a fun activity or anything else, show your child your writing process, explaining the decisions you're making in your mind.

This will help them better understand language patterns, support their thinking and problem-solving skills and more.

  • Physical activity

Research shows that for writing to develop, you should give your little one plenty of opportunities to build their physical strength, helping to support their control over their upper body, hands, and fingers.

This in turn helps to develop the fine motor skills which are required to hold a pencil, notebook or storybook when reading or writing.

Finally, here are some activity ideas!

  • Mark-making

Mark-making is a super easy and fun activity that helps your little one prepare for writing by developing their fine motor skills.

Creative activities that include making marks – whether that’s using stamps, drawing/colouring, making patterns etc. are ideal for this! Click here for some structured activity ideas.

  • Roleplay

After reading a storybook consolidate your child’s learning by setting up a roleplay activity. Use the characters and situations from the book and act out your favourite parts!

Props and costumes can enhance the activity but don’t worry you don’t need to buy these – why not make some with your little one?

By doing this you create a whole new activity which also supports their fine motor skills development and more. Click here for a guide all about props for roleplay.

  • Science activities

Whether that’s making bi-carb volcanos or seeing what items float on water, early years science activities offer a fantastic opportunity to explore language.

You can introduce your little one to new words, discuss what’s happening, chat about what they like/don’t like about the activity and so much more. Click here for a range of awesome science activities.

  • Cooking time

Finally, as with science, cooking offers so many opportunities to chat and learn new things.

What’s more, is that your little one will also be developing their fine motor (by using utensils) as well as math skills (by measuring ingredients) all whilst having a great time, bonding over a shared activity.

You can click here to check out our guide to early years cooking.



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