The Early Years or The Foundation Stage in English Education is considered to be from the age of 3 to 5. (Not to be confused with Foundation GCSE exams at 16!) This covers the years when a child might go to a nursery through to the end of the reception class in a Primary School.
The Government has made funds available for all children to have a free, part time, ‘early years’ education. By 2010 this will be 15 hours a week. The aim is to give all children the very best start to their educational life. This education does not have to be in a school: play groups, nurseries, accredited childminders and children’s centres are just some of the ways this Early Years education can take place. Of course, there is no compulsion to send your child to a nursery, playgroup etc: some of the best education takes place at home!
At this age your child should meet a wide range of experiences, which can be organised into six areas of learning.
1. Personal, social and emotional development
This includes skills such as being able to dress themselves, concepts such as knowing the difference between right and wrong and developing positive attitudes towards themselves and others.
2. Communication, language and literacy
This is the beginning of communicating away from the family. Your child will learn to talk confidently and clearly, and enjoy stories, poems and songs. They will be introduced to the alphabet and link sounds to letters. This is the stage of beginning to read and use a pencil to write some familiar words.
3. Mathematical development
Stories, nursery rhymes, poems and songs are a great way to start maths. So also is imaginative play. During this time your child will become comfortable with small numbers and with concepts such as longer and shorter, lower and higher etc. They will also explore a range of 3D shapes.
More on this will be found in later articles on maths.
4. Knowledge and understanding of the world
This age must surely be one of the fastest learning curves that children ever experience. Your child will explore the world around them, use different materials to build and make things, be introduced to modern technology and learn how to make good use of these materials and technologies. They will also find out more about the past events in their lives and about different cultures and societies.
5. Physical development
Your child will develop skills of controlling their body as they move over and under equipment and learn to move confidently.
Your child will explore a fantastic range of activities: dance, music, stories, colours, shapes and so on.
During this time your child will often choose themselves what to do. On other occasions they will take part in activities with other children, learning to share, to listen, to concentrate, or to develop a particular skill like using paint. What a fantastic age to be!