The Characteristics of Effective Learning
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By Lorelli Mojica

In the EYFS profile handbook, the three Characteristics of Effective Learning breakdown the ways in which children should be learning from their environment, their experiences and the activities that they do. By the age of five years old it is expected that children should be displaying these characteristics all or most of the time every day.

child playing in nursery

Characteristic 1: Playing and Exploring
Characteristic 2: Active Learning
Characteristic 3: Critical Thinking

Playing and Exploring – Characteristic 1

Playing and Exploring is all about how the child engages in learning. It can be broken down into three further areas:
  • Finding out and exploring
  • Playing with what they know
  • Being willing to ‘have a go’

In the nursery

Have you ever set up the home corner with a variety of cutlery and kitchen utensils only to find that, later on in the day, the children have discovered that by turning the metal bowls and pans upside down and using the wooden spoons that you’ve left out, they now have an exciting drum set? It is in simple moments like these, which happen very often in the nursery, when children display the characteristics involved in playing and exploring. Children are naturally curious and are investigating and exploring all the time, they build upon what they already know and very often just ‘run with it’. If they are ready to learn, their innate and instinctive curiosity to explore will ‘kick in’. Even very young babies naturally will want to have a go at exploring things; for example when they are putting things in their mouths or banging them on a surface to try to figure out what they are. By the time that children have started nursery, their willingness and confidence to explore and try new things will vary, but even the child who has not yet settled, who still finds comfort by staying by the side of their carer or key worker, will be curious about the other children who are playing, exploring and engaging in the nursery activities.

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