Understanding the World (UW) empowers children to explore their learning environment. We can help by encouraging them to investigate, communicate, interact and talk about what they want to do, and what they see and feel around them. In doing so, the children can relate the learning to their own lives and the real world. 

Last month we explored UW using expressive arts; this month we look at how the children see themselves, other people and the environment around them. Here are a few activities that you can do with the children in your setting – useful for parents at home too!  

Life beyond the ‘baby room’

Babies are naturally inquisitive so try and provide as many opportunities as possible for them to see people and things beyond the baby room, including letting them watch the activities of the older children in your setting. This gives them an insight, even at this early age, into the world around them.

What’s my name and where do I come from?

Help children learn each other’s names and discover their different backgrounds, cultures and family dynamics, through songs, rhymes and storytelling. You can take this simple idea one step further by creating a ‘story book’ for each child which lets them collect stories and photos about themselves and their family. You ask the children to pick their favourites and even feature them on your website – this would be really positive for promoting British Values.

Think ‘global’

Use an atlas or globe to locate different countries around the world – children can take it turns to find where different animals might live, for example, showing a picture of a kangaroo, or an orca and exploring where in the world that animal lives. They will then start to discover about the wider world around them.

Multicultural tales of travel

Who doesn’t love to hear tales of travel from around the world? During storytime, you can incorporate tales, both fact and fiction from cultures around the world. You can ask the children from all countries to bring in a story from their particular culture. Again, this promotes British Values and during circle time, you can lead a discussion about different cultures.

Sensory treasure baskets

Making sensory treasure baskets will help stimulate children’s senses and help them to learn about the physical world. They are fun to make and bring such pleasure to the children – great for parents to do at home too! The great thing about sensory baskets is that they can be adapted to all ages and environments, for example, a mixed basket can contain a variety of items, from a comb, to a ball, to a button – the more varied the textures, the better. You can apply the same principle to your other sensory baskets, e.g. a natural/nature basket, food basket, a basket just for things that feel soft or for different colours and one for just noisy things, like keys or coins.


Composting is a great way to teach the children about the environment, the natural life cycle of plants and animals; and reducing the amount of rubbish we put out for collection. Having a compost heap will provide a good habitat for wildlife if you have an outdoor space in your setting. The RSPB has a step-by-step guide plus some great ideas here not just for composting for many other garden activities which will teach the children all about their environment.

The BBC Bitesize website has some fantastic early years resources for learning at home which you can share with parents. The Understanding the World audio and video episodes are excellent and can be found here. We hope you enjoy this month’s EYFS activities about Understanding the World.

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