EYFS Learning Environments

The Enabling Environment

We provide a highly effective environment for our youngest children to learn and develop.

Our aims are that:

  • The physical environment is appropriately structured, ordered, comfortable and resourced to promote the learning process
  • There are high, realistic and meaningful expectations of children at school
  • Staff are knowledgeable about and sensitive to the needs of all children
  • Children’s achievements are celebrated and displayed in a way that values them
  • Children have a safe, secure and stimulating environment that is adapted to their needs and is conducive to learning

The EYFS environment plays a key role in supporting and extending children’s development and learning.  The environment is more than physical space because it contains the emotions of the children who spend time in it, the staff that work there and the parents who choose Willow Dene for their child’s care and education.

Staff have ongoing training to develop their skills and understanding. They have a good understanding of child development and also know how to intervene, support and engage children who have complex learning difficulties. They know what strategies to try and work closely with our multi-professional team.

We know that our children learn and develop in different ways, have different strengths and interests and our work reflects this. All our children need lots of carefully planned adult support. We scaffold learning to help children acquire skills and follow the developmental drive. Most, but not all of our activities are adult led as our children need more support to extend their development and learning. Our balance is therefore different but the principles behind the EYFS are reflected in our practice. We believe that most good ideas come from the children and we focus on their uniqueness. We continually observe children in order to understand their current interests, development and learning.

We use a combination of group and individual activities and use multi-sensory, multi-path approaches to learning. We use a total communication environment including real objects, photos, symbols, signing and touch cues to help children develop their understanding so that we can find out the most effective ways for us to communicate with each other.

We believe that children need to experience play and to learn by doing.  As many of our children have physical disabilities we have to support in different and very individual ways them to enable them to do this. We also support our children by helping them to make choices, giving them lots of time to respond and by key staff focussing on them and the individual approaches they need.

Our children sometimes find it difficult to play with other children and to enjoy them and sometimes adults too. We support them to tolerate other people next to them, to play at the same activities, to be aware and to take notice of other people and to begin to learn to share. We use intensive interaction strategies to help develop these early interactions.

We enable children to access experiences they can’t on their own; this may be because of their physical, medical, sensory or learning difficulties. We often need to offer children other ways of accessing activities so that they can learn and achieve.


Outdoor Learning

We believe that children gain enormous benefits from learning outdoors. They have access to outdoor space on a daily basis.  Being outdoors allows them to move around without many of the restrictions of being inside and supports confidence and allows opportunities for big scale play, problem-solving and creativity in the company of other children. Physical activity is enhanced. So is calculated risk taking.

Being outdoors links with our MOVE learning experiences and allows our children to try new and more challenging things. We constantly change what we offer outside and this reflects the children’s needs and interests.

We make use of the sensory experiences that are available to our children outside; the weather, different surfaces, leaves and trees, smells and sounds. Children are also able to generalise skills that they are learning in the classroom.


Indoor Learning

Our indoor spaces are set up with careful planning as they need to be flexible to accommodate children’s developing skills, changing interests and needs.

In the classrooms clearly defined enable children to make sense of the routines of their day and enable them to negotiate the spaces. Work stations provide a distraction free area for children to complete tasks and learn new skills. Areas in classrooms are often kept the same so that children can become familiar with where things are.  Children who are not walking or are learning to walk need to be able to pull themselves up, hold on to furniture or have enough space to use walkers and wheelchairs.

Children are encouraged to stand and hold on, kneel, reach and sit as independently as possible. We use height adjustable tables for children in wheelchairs and our computers have touch screen access. Areas are also clearly defined for our visually impaired children and things are presented to them with good contrast. 

Small areas such as work stations and B active boxes enable children to focus on the space around them. Some activities are covered up for periods to enable children to focus on other things.