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Play & Exploration

At Tiny Tots we believe in providing children with the opportunities to explore and investigate their natural curiosities about the world around them. By providing an environment that champions play and playfulness, children feel happy, safe, secure and confident to explore, learn and develop on their terms. Our staff are specifically trained to encourage play and to create environments that stimulate and enthuse playfulness in young children.


We intentionally provide open-ended, sensory resources that challenge children to use their imagination and critical thinking skills.


At Tiny Tots, our practitioners have a good understanding of schematic behaviours. This understanding of schemas allows us to create a provision that supports children’s current interests and curiosities.


Do you wonder why your child enjoys wrapping themselves up in material, hiding in cupboards, filling up bags and lining up their toys? All of these schematic behaviours are fundamental to your child’s learning. Through repeated, sometimes compulsive, actions, children begin to understand the world around them and the powerful knowledge of cause and effect.


Through observation, our practitioners are able to gain an understanding of a child’s current schema. This knowledge enables them to provide a quality learning environment that supports the chosen schematic behaviour. In this environment, children make meaningful progress in their learning due to them being deeply involved and interested in the activities and resources on offer.


Children enjoy repeatedly moving resources, and themselves, from one place to another. Providing a variety of loose parts, encourages children to pick up, move and put down objects. Outdoors children use wheelbarrows and containers to move resources around the garden and woodland.


A fascination with the horizontal, vertical and diagonal movement of things and themself. To be able to explore this schema, children need to experience space and how movement occurs within it. Space for children to stack blocks on top of each other and knock them down again. Planks for making ramps and rolling objects down. Playing with bubbles and watching them move through the air.


Children enjoy tying string to crates to drag them around, or weaving ribbon in and out of resources. This involves investigating how materials can be linked and their relationship to one another. Water play offers children the opportunity to practise connecting pipes and guttering. Creative activities provide opportunities to stick, staple, tie, cut and tear.


Children particularly interested in wrapping themselves up, covering and hiding items, or getting into boxes and suitcases and closing the lid. Children get deeply involved in exploring how they and items can be inside objects. Den-building equipment, dressing-up clothes, blankets and pieces of fabric are provided. The tunnel in the garden is a great place to explore this schema.


Children display a preference for turning taps on and off, winding and unwinding string, and playing with items that rotate. They may also be fascinated with the physical experience of twirling and twisting their body, and rolling themselves down a hill.


Children are fascinated by how materials change their state and enjoy mixing substances together. Changes in the seasons offer children opportunities to experience rain, freezing conditions and melting ice. Materials such as sand, mud and soil for mixing and discovering how materials change consistency when wet or dry. Our mud kitchens encourage children to mix potions and a variety of muddy recipes.

How We Observe

Each Key Person will have up to two focus children per day. This allows practitioners to spend extended periods of time with their focus child. During this time the Key Person carefully plans a stimulus based on the child’s current dominant schema. The child is given free time to explore the activity whilst the practitioner observes their interaction. At points throughout the activity, the Key Person steps in to challenge the child. This may be through introducing alternative resources, through questioning or by challenging misconceptions. Extended observations are available to view in the children’s learning journeys.


This approach to children’s learning ensures high quality play that allows children to follow patterns of activity and make the best use of their natural learning drives and behaviours. These include:


  • space to move around freely and play on a large and small scale;

  • open-ended resources that can be used spontaneously;

  • opportunities to come back to activities repeatedly.

How We Assess

Formative assessments take place on a daily bases. These judgments are recorded within the focus child observations.


Summative assessments take place 3 times a year. At these key points, staff use the EYFS as a reference to assess children’s development in the following areas:

  • Prime Areas

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.


Communication and language development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations.

Physical Development

Involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co-ordination, control, and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity, and to make healthy choices in relation to food

  • Specific Areas

Understanding the World

Involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.


Involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces, and measures.

Expressive Arts & Design

Involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art.

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