Picture the scene: an ‘actor’ is on the stage wearing an amazing costume, a ‘teacher’ is reading to a class of teddy bears, a ‘chef’ is inventing a new recipe, mainly consisting of mud, grass and stones, a ‘mummy’ wearing a hat, a too-long dress and several necklaces pushes a pram filled with toys, while some ‘firefighters’ desperately try to extinguish a fire just outside… A fairly typical scene, if you are a preschool or nursery practitioner.
Children regularly recreate events and situations that they have experienced, often taking on character roles and imitating grownups. This social and dramatic play, or socio-dramatic play as it can be referred to, usually happens within the free-play element of a session and tends to be child led. We see it emerging when children begin to engage socially with each other at around 2 ½ to 3 years old, however, it is not until around 4 or 5 years old that their play becomes more involved with complicated themes. It is a social and cooperative enterprise which often develops through collaboration with others and is linked to the children’s interests and real-life experiences.
Although children regularly initiate this play, we can still influence, plan and very occasionally direct this play when we feel it is appropriate to do so. We must be careful, to use Julie Fisher’s phrase, to ensure we are ‘interacting not interfering’ (2016). Many a time I have attempted to join a group of children in their play, only to find that the play stops and I am interfering! Therefore, we need to observe children’s play, assess whether to continue observing or whether to intervene sensitively. For example, sometimes children need support to fully understand a role that they are taking on and you may need to participate in their play to role-model how to be a ‘baker’ or a ‘police officer’ etc.
Children need time, space and access to resources to develop their play themes. However, we do not need to resource every element of their play. In doing so we would remove the opportunity for them to draw upon their imagination and engage in symbolic play, pretending an object is something else. The best resources that we can provide children are real objects, as opposed to pretend ones or open-ended resources which can be used in a variety of ways. Think about it; a real pumpkin is immensely different to a plastic one, and pieces of material can be transformed into a tent one day and a cape the next. We may like to add a few resources and props to assist with specific roles, e.g. a doctor’s kit or a label saying ‘campsite’… Remember that the more you are able to involve children in this process the more successful it will be; if the idea is theirs, and they talk about the objects and props needed, how they can be used and help to mark-make and create signs and symbols to enhance the area, then the more engaged the children will be in their play.
We can widen children’s experiences by offering them opportunities to find out more about a role once they have shown an interest. For example, if a child has just visited a dentist and begins to play at dentists with their friend, we could arrange to visit a dentist’s surgery, or invite a dentist to visit us so that we can find out more about this role. Perhaps we can involve the children in creating a dental surgery in an area of our room.
Sometimes we can just stand back and watch the drama unfold. It might be in a specific area (e.g. role-play area/construction area) or it could develop in any space that the children occupy, inside or outside. It is important to value this play wherever it appears, as it is through playing in this way that children are learning how to act and behave in their world.
Social and dramatic play:
· develops children’s self-regulation skills
· enhances and practises their language and communication skills
· provides an opportunity to interact socially
· helps children to understand the world and how it works
· develops children’s understanding of rules and social etiquette
· allows children to be creative and use their imagination
· provides opportunities to use literacy skills
· practises using long and short-term memory
· develops ability to problem solve and think critically.
If children are already engaging in social and dramatic play successfully, we may not need to intervene at all, however, through observing children we may find that we need to enrich their play in some way by introducing new props, role-modelling, extend the narrative, share vocabulary relating to the play theme or offer ideas to extend their play.
Is the stage set for social and dramatic play in your setting?
About the author
Tamsin Grimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.
Tamsin has written two books – Observing and Developing Schematic Behaviour in Young Children and School Readiness and the Characteristics of Effective Learning.
You can contact Tamsin via Twitter @tamsingrimmer, her Facebook page, website or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The government has said that schools will not have to complete the EYFS profile in 2021, after they announced that summer KS1 and KS2 assessments would not go ahead this year because of the pandemic.
Instead, childcare settings have been asked to “make their best endeavours” when completing the assessments.
The Department for Education said in December that schools “must complete the EYFS profile for each child who will be five years old on, or before, 31 August 2021”, but this now has been changed due to the ongoing issues caused by Covid-19.
DfE also added that schools who choose to conduct the early years foundation stage profile this year won’t be subject to statutory external moderation.
Nick Gibb, school standards minister, said: “Education continues to be a national priority, with the early years being some of the most crucial for a child’s development. Teachers are working hard to adjust to the challenges they face at this time so that every child receives the excellent education they deserve.
“In recognition of the additional pressures Reception teachers face, it will not be mandatory to complete the early years foundation stage profile assessment in 2021 but instead we will be asking schools to make their best endeavours to do it.
“We are determined to give children a strong foundation for their future and will continue to monitor the situation and work with schools on next steps.”
Read the full story, as reported by TES here.
Keep up-to-date with all the changes effecting the Early Years sector here.
The number of four- and five-year-olds, at a “good level of development” at the end of their Reception year has risen for the fifth year in a row, demonstrating once again success in our early years settings. In 2019, 71.8% of children reached the DfE’s Early Years Foundation Stage profile benchmark, a 0.3% rise from the previous year.
Government statistics recently published also show that the gender gap has reduced again this year – however, girls are still outperforming boys. In all 3 key measures of the EYFS, (communication and language, physical development and personal, social and emotional development) girls continue to perform better, with 77.6% at least at the expected level in all 17 of the early learning goals (ELGs). This is in comparison to 64.0% of boys.
For children to reach a “good level of development”, they must have reached the early learning goal (ELG) in 12 out of the 17 areas in which they are assessed. For example, being able to count to 20, read short and simple sentences and being able take turns when playing. The percentage of children who achieved the “expected level” in all 17 of the ELG also increased by 0.5 % on last year to 70.7%.
Interestingly, girls’ performance has stabilised this year – with no change to either the average point score or the percentage achieving a good level of development, compared with last year. Comparing the percentage points’ difference between the two, there has been a 0.8 percentage point increase with boys achieving at least the expected level but a 0.5 percentage point increase in those achieving a good level of development. So the boys’ average point score remains the same as 2018 at 33.4.
What this means is that the gender gap has actually decreased for the percentage achieving at least the expected level and the percentage achieving a good level of development.
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Looking after children’s health and wellbeing is high on the agenda of the Little Adventurers Nursery which has just been awarded a Healthy Early Years London Gold Award for their work with children and parents to promote health, wellbeing and school readiness at their setting in Upminster.
They are delighted to be the first setting to achieve this across all of Outer London and only 2nd across all 32 Inner and Outer London Boroughs. Healthy Early Years London (HEYL) is an award scheme (First Steps, Bronze, Silver and Gold) introduced by the Mayor of London to encourage healthy lifestyles for young children and their families.
Little Adventurers was presented with their Silver Award by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan at City Hall in June 2019 at a celebration event. The were honoured to also receive a visit by Deputy Mayor of London, Joanne McCartney to their setting earlier this year to find out about the ethos and many activities the nursery has put in place to support children’s understanding for the need for good health and wellbeing.
The projects for the Gold Award involved sustained work of their Silver Award case study – an oral hygiene project as well as a new universal (involving all the children in the nursery) and a new targeted case study. The positive impact of their award projects has been wonderful to watch throughout their setting and from parent feedback.
Little Adventurers Nursery which opened just 4 years ago clearly puts children at the heart of all they do; parents are delighted with the care and education their little ones receive here and nominated the nursery for a Top 20 London Nursery Award (out of 1,959 London nurseries) for the second time this year (Daynurseries.co.uk 2018 & 2019).
Nursery Owner, Lee Stimpson is hugely proud of the team and all they have achieved together and believes in investing in his nursery which offers high quality extended day care from 3 months to 5 years. This includes a first-clsss and professionally qualified staff team; offering optimum nutrition throughout their nursery menus; summer Forest School; a rich extra-curriculum programme along with regular outings into the local community for all children.
Building strong relationships with parents as well as teaching the children about caring for the planet through a range of projects are all important parts of this nursery’s ethos, “Daphne, our dolphin mascot is one way we promote this to our children and families and we take our own social responsibility as a business very seriously, for example by incorporating recycling throughout nursery and purchasing locally sourced goods and food.”, Chris Ford, Business Development Manager explained.
Manager of the setting Ginny Andreas spoke about receiving the Gold Award, “I am immensely proud to manage such a fantastic team of professionals here at Little Adventurers. To achieve Gold has been a whole team effort and has provided our children, parents and staff with invaluable knowledge on how to support the best of health from the earliest years. If we can teach children from very young the importance of a good diet, strong oral hygiene and an active lifestyle then they stand the best chance of growing into healthy and physically, mentally and emotionally fit adults.”
Parents clearly adore the nursery, with many parents of pre-school children sending heartfelt messages to the nursery as their little ones leave for the next stage of their primary education. Nursery parent, Anna wrote in her card this week, “You are all such dedicated, professional, special people and we will miss you all very much. In the blink of an eye, our baby has become a “big boy” who is confident in himself, friendly, independent and happy, all because of you. Thank you for helping him shine and for giving him the best possible start in life.”