Click here to learn how to become a smart parent and raise a happy child.

A Unique Child:
Early Years Foundation Stage

Every child is a competent learner from birth who can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.

Unique Child

1.1 Child Development
1.2 Inclusive Practice
1.3 Keeping Safe
1.4 Health and Well-Being

1.1 Child Development

Child development

Every child is a unique individual with their own characteristics and temperament.
unique child
  • Development is a continuous, complex interaction of environmental and genetic factors in which the body, brain and behaviour become more complex.
  • Babies and children mature at different rates and at different times in their lives.
  • Babies and children are vulnerable and become resilient and confident if they have support from others.
  • Early relationships strongly influence how children develop and having close relationships with carers is very important.

A skilful communicator

Babies are especially interested in other people and in communicating with them using eye contact, crying, cooing and gurgling to have 'conversations'.
  • Babies and children are sociable and curious, and they explore the world through relationships with others and through all their senses.
  • Babies and children develop their competence in communicating through having frequent, enjoyable interactions with other people, in contexts that they understand.
  • Children learn to communicate in many ways, not just by talking, but also in non-verbal ways such as gestures, facial expressions and gaze direction, in drawing, writing and singing, and through dance, music and drama.

A competent learner

  • Babies come into the world ready to learn and are especially tuned to learn from other people and the cultural and material environment.
  • Play and other imaginative and creative activities help children to make sense of their experience and 'transform' their knowledge, fostering cognitive development.
  • Language, thinking and learning are interlinked; they depend on and promote each other's development.
  • What children can do is the starting point for learning.
  • Children learn better by doing, and by doing things with other people who are more competent, rather than just by being told.

Effective practice

  • Understand the processes involved in babies' and children's growth, development and learning.
  • Support babies and children to develop a positive sense of their own identity and culture, this helps them to develop a positive self-image.
  • Encourage, listen and respond to babies' and children's communications, both non-verbal and verbal.
  • Acknowledge the different ways in which babies and children learn, and be aware that learning is a process that cannot be rushed.
  • Recognise that babies' and children's attitudes and dispositions to learning are influenced by feedback from others.

Challenges and dilemmas

  • How to meet the differing and competing needs of every child, while being 'fair' about time spent with individual children.
  • Listening carefully and waiting for a child who gets excited or pauses a lot when they are trying to communicate, so that they can complete what they wanted to say.
  • Recognising and praising effort as well as achievement so that all children develop positive attitudes to themselves as learners.

Reflecting on practice

Think about each child in the group. Consider their:
  • unique development;
  • individual interests;
  • communication style;
  • learning style.

How is each child's individual development supported through all the experiences in the setting?

1.2 Inclusive Practice

Children's entitlements

  • All children are citizens and have rights and entitlements.
  • Children should be treated fairly regardless of race, religion or abilities. This applies no matter:

  • - what they think or say;
    - what type of family they come from;
    - what language(s) they speak;
    - what their parents do;
    - whether they are girls or boys;
    - whether they have a disability or whether they are rich or poor.

  • All children have an equal right to be listened to and valued in the setting.

Equality and diversity

  • All children have a need to develop, which is helped by exploring and discovering the people and things around them.
  • Some children's development may be at risk, for example:

  • - children who are disabled and those with special educational needs;
    - those from socially excluded families, such as the homeless or those who live with a parent who is disabled or has a mental illness;
    - children from traveller communities, refugees or asylum seekers and those from diverse linguistic backgrounds.

  • All children are entitled to enjoy a full life in conditions which will help them take part in society and develop as an individual, with their own cultural and spiritual beliefs.
  • Practitioners ensure that their own knowledge about different cultural groups is up-to-date and consider their own attitudes to people who are different from themselves.

Early support

  • It is important to identify the need for additional support as early as possible. Without it children will not get the help they need at the right time, in the way that is right for them.
  • Early support for children includes listening to families and taking part in a sensitive two-way exchange of information.
  • For children with the most severe and complex additional support needs you need to plan jointly with everyone who is in contact with the child. This will coordinate support and promote learning as effectively as possible.
  • Knowing when and how to call in specialist help is one important element of inclusive practice.

Effective practice

  • Encourage children to recognise their own unique qualities and the characteristics they share with other children.
  • Make sure that you actively promote equal opportunities and anti-discriminatory practice, ensuring that all children and families feel included, safe and valued.
  • Ask parents whether there is a need for any special services and equipment for children who may require additional support.
  • Support children to make friends and help them to think about what makes a good friend.

Challenges and dilemmas

  • Ensuring the needs of every child are fully met, even when temporarily you need to spend more time with a child who is new to the setting or whose behaviour is giving rise to concern.
  • Keeping a focus on the child's needs when a parent also has significant needs.
  • Maintaining records suitable for sharing with colleagues in an inter-agency team while acting as a point of contact for a child and their family.

Reflecting on practice

How would a family arriving at your setting know that all children are welcomed and valued? By observing:

  • information in pictures, words and signs indicating how to get attention?
  • a warm smile and greeting from the receptionist?
  • photographs showing the names of staff?
  • a welcome board showing children and families from a variety of cultures, saying “Welcome” in different languages?
  • signs, symbols, photographs or objects relating to the lives of families who use the setting, for example, a charity
  • event in a nearby park attended by children and families from the setting?
  • displays showing documentation of children's play, development and learning?
  • somewhere comfortable to sit?

1.3 Keeping Safe

Being safe and protected

  • Babies and children are vulnerable as they have little sense of danger and only learn to assess risks with help from adults.
  • Reading stories and poems about everyday events is a good way of helping children to focus on who they can trust and how to keep safe.
  • However, being overprotected can prevent children from learning about possible dangers and about how to protect themselves from harm.
  • Learning when to say “No” and anticipating when others will do so is part of learning to keep safe.

Discovering boundaries

  • Explaining boundaries, rules and limits to children helps them to understand why rules exist.
  • When children are clear about the limits on what they may and may not do they learn to distinguish right from wrong.
  • Having consistent boundaries for behaviour at home and in the setting helps children feel confident because they know what is and is not acceptable in either place.
  • When children receive warm, responsive care they are more likely to feel secure and valued and to want to contribute to making the rules which make things 'fair' for everybody.

Making choices

  • Giving children choices helps them to learn that while there are several different options they can only choose one at a time.
  • Children who are supported to make choices learn that sometimes they can have, or do, something now, while at other times they may have to wait longer for a particular choice.
  • Making choices about things such as what they will do or what they will wear helps children feel some sense of control over their day.
  • Remember that choices sometimes include choosing not to do something, such as choosing not to join in when everybody else is moving to music!

Effective practice

  • Allow babies and children to do the things they can, help them with the things they cannot quite manage and do things for them they cannot do for themselves.
  • Demonstrate clear and consistent boundaries and be reasonable with expectations.
  • Talk with parents about taking a consistent approach to challenging behaviour such as biting or scratching.
  • Listen to what children tell you, and act on non-verbal signals from them, especially from children who are unable to voice their anxieties. Always take action to follow up any concerns, even if these prove to be groundless.

Challenges and dilemmas

  • Maintaining a respectful dialogue with parents or other professionals whose views about behaviour or child rearing differ radically from your own.
  • Providing sufficient opportunities and experiences for babies and children to interest and involve them without compromising their safety at any time.
  • Giving children time to think about what they want and to express their wishes, rather than stepping in to help by making decisions for them.
  • Being flexible about applying important rules while remaining consistent so that children do not become confused.

Reflecting on practice

What activities or experiences in the setting help children to think about:
  • the things that make them feel good about themselves?
  • the people who help them?
  • how to keep themselves safe?
  • how to recognise and avoid possible danger?
  • reasons for making particular choices?
  • the reason they are allowed to do or to have some things and not other things?

1.4 Health and Well-being

Growing and developing

  • Although newborn babies vary in size their growth rates are very similar.
  • Children's health and well-being are affected by both the genes they inherit and the environment in which they live.
  • Development is very rapid in the first three years.
  • Children really do thrive when their physical and emotional needs are met.

Physical well-being

  • Physical well-being includes the growth and physical development of babies and children. They have a biological drive to use their physical skills and benefit from physical activity.
  • Being physically healthy is not simply about having nutritious food. It also includes having a clean and safe environment; appropriate clothes; healthcare; mental stimulation; access to the outdoors and loving relationships.
  • For babies and children rest and sleep are as important as good food.
  • Remember that children gain control of their whole bodies gradually.

Emotional well-being

  • Babies and children have emotional well-being when their needs are met and their feelings are accepted. They enjoy relationships that are close, warm and supportive.
  • Making friends and getting on with others helps children to feel positive about themselves and others.
  • Children gain a sense of well-being when they are encouraged to take responsibility and to join in by helping with manageable tasks that interest them.
  • Children feel a sense of belonging in the setting when their parents are also involved in it.

Effective practice

  • Find the best ways to offer care, nurture and learning that match the needs and interests of the individual baby or child.
  • Recognise that parents and grandparents may have a huge amount of knowledge about their children which they may be happy to share.
  • Provide opportunities for children to explore, play and learn in a safe and secure environment, remembering that children's mobility and movement are important for their development.
  • Have reasonable rules that fit with children's rhythms and give a pattern to daily life.
  • Recognise child abuse and neglect and know who to consult if there is a cause for concern.

Challenges and dilemmas

  • Ensuring safety without stopping reasonable risk-taking.
  • Recognising the extra requirements of babies and children with special needs, and planning how to ensure these children have access to similar opportunities as their peers.
  • Fostering the physical, mental and emotional well-being of every child individually while recognising and meeting children's needs to belong and be part of a group.
  • Maintaining children's healthy interest in their own bodies, their own well-being and food preferences, while helping them to understand why some choices are healthier than others.

Reflecting on practice

Think about the food that your setting encourages children to enjoy.
  • How do you encourage children to know about and choose healthy snacks?
  • How are foods from different cultures presented to children - as a novelty or as something for which they may develop a taste?
  • How do you help children to learn about the food chain and planting, growing, gathering, preparing and using different foods?

Think about the opportunities children have for activity and rest.

  • Is there a balance of activities so that babies and children can be involved in activity some of the time and relax or rest for some of the time?
  • How does the environment support children's choices to be active or to rest? Are there quiet places or dens where children can relax and interesting, large spaces for vigorous free movement?

Download a FREE Chapter of my new ebook "The Smart Parenting Guide" and discover an easy-to-follow guide for raising a happy, positive, responsible and caring child.

Plus get 2 other FREE gifts... "10 Tips To Prevent or Subdue Temper Tantrums" & "12 Safety Devices To Protect Your Children"

The Smart Parenting Guide
Don't worry -- your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you "Your Child & You" Newsletter.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave us a comment in the box below.

Didn't find what you were looking for? Use this search feature to find it.

©2009: Protected by Crown Copyright by the Department for Children, Schools and Families

Return from Unique Child to EYFS Themes And Principles Home Page

Return from Unique Child to Child Development Guide Home Page

Back to Unique Child Top Page