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Characteristics of Effective Learning

The ways in which the child engages with other people and their environment – playing and exploring, active learning, and creating and thinking critically – underpin their learning and development across all areas and supports the child to remain an effective and motivated learner.

How children learn (Characteristics of Effective Learning)


A Unique Child

Playing and Exploring


Finding out and exploring

· Showing curiosity about objects, events and people

· Using senses to explore the world around them

· Engaging in open-ended activity

· Showing particular interests

Playing with what they know

· Pretending objects are things from their experience

· Representing their experiences in play

· Taking on a role in their play

· Acting out experiences with other people

Being willing to ‘have a go’

· Initiating activities

· Seeking challenge

· Showing a ‘can do’ attitude

· Taking risks, engaging in new experiences, and learning by trial and error

Active Learning


Being involved and concentrating

· Maintaining focus on their activity for a period of time

· Showing high levels of energy, fascination

· Not easily distracted

· Paying attention to detail

Keeping on trying

· Persisting on activity when challenges occur

· Showing a belief that more effort or a different approach will pay off

· Bouncing back after difficulties

Enjoying achieving what they set out to do

· Showing satisfaction in meeting their own goals

· Being proud of how they accomplished something – not just the end result

· Enjoying meeting challenges for their own sake rather than external rewards or praise

Creating and Thinking Critically



Having their own ideas

· Thinking of ideas

· Finding ways to solve problems

· Finding new ways to do things

Making links

· Making links and noticing patterns in their experience

· Making predictions

· Testing ideas

· Developing ideas of grouping, sequences, cause and effect

Choosing ways to do things

· Planning, making decisions about how to approach a task, solve a problem and reach a goal

· Checking how well their activities are going

· Changing strategy as needed

· Reviewing how well the approach worked

What children learn (The Prime and Specific Areas of Learning)

The EYFS identifies seven areas of learning, described as the Prime and Specific areas.

Prime Areas are fundamental, work together and move through to support development in all other areas.

The Specific Areas include essential skills and knowledge for children to participate successfully in society.

Area of Learning and Development


Prime Areas


Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Making relationships

Self-confidence and self-awareness

Managing feelings and behaviour

Physical Development

Moving and handling

Health and self-care

Communication and Language

Listening and attention



Specific Areas







Space, shape and measure

Understanding of the World

People and Communities

The world


Expressive Arts and Design

Exploring and using media and materials

Being imaginative