Characteristics of Effective Learning

Children just play right?


‘Playing’ is so much more than just ‘Picking up a resource and shaking it’ Playing involves not only big and small physical action but also conscious decisions such as investigation, concentration, making links and showing a positive proactive approach all to simply ‘play’.


Take a block activity for example a giant block and a tiny unit, the block simply doesn’t fit right? But how do you know that? You know that because you would see that the block is too big or that the unit is to small, you’ve tried this before when you were a child using a trial and error approach, making predictions, judgments and then testing your theory to see if it would work, even now as an adult we don’t simply ‘adult’ we make predictions, we judge and we test our theories. How many times have you tried to assess whether that shopping trolley will fit in between those two cars or make a judgement to pick the right sized glass that will fill your drink without underfilling or overfilling it. We predict, we set our expectations (a goal) and find a way to achieve this, just the same as children do!


These simple processes enable children to learn and develop at their own pace using techniques which support their stage and speed of development. These techniques that are used self consciously to support development within childcare are broken down into what we call Characteristics of Effective learning (CoEL) these are broken down into three areas which are;


  • Playing and Exploring
  • Active Learning
  • Creating and Thinking Critically


These Characteristics are integral to enabling children to become self assured, resilient and independent little humans! Here at Little Hands we support children to thrive within these areas, such as developing confidence through encouragement of exploring their environment or confidence to communicate through play, giving resources/activities a narrative, “cow” “car gone” “ car goes weeeeeee” or simply asking simple short questions, “where has it gone?” “what is it?” “can you find…”. We encourage the children to make their own choices, this is done through offering a range of materials which are organised well and consistent, thus enabling the babies to attend to areas which they are familiar with and where they feel safe to explore. Children naturally have their own interests that are fully embedded throughout their time at nursery by offering activities which support these interests and incorporating new resources to further extend their knowledge of this area, for example if they are currently showing an interest in the sand we could add water to explore how the textures change. 


Introduction of a new stimulus will spark active learning, this can be exampled in a child’s ability to show determination and goal directed behaviour. When the child feels safe and secure within their environment they are able to explore and develop their ability to be resilient and to self regulate when things get tricky. The most important thing we can do to support our babies is to support them and offer them opportunities to learn within a safe environment. This means that we are able to  facilitate their learning rather than simply completing the task for them. Even at an early age it is good for babies and children to experience ‘failure’ this is how resilience is built and the ability to process and problem solve.


Open-ended resources offer a multitude of learning experiences, babies are born curious, using their whole bodies to explore the world around them. Offering open ended resources encourage imagination and self creation, as babies begin to get older they start to facilitate their own learning using chosen resources, a brick for example can simply be ‘a brick’ or using imagination and experimentation it could be a phone, a car or even a super princess fairy dog! 


Offering a relaxed, calm, uncluttered environment is great to encourage this, with patience and support children will build confidence to develop their creative brains and to begin to think critically about how the world around them works. A really good way to support this is to continually assess what stage your child is at with their exploration for that day, for example if they have built a giant tower with the bricks, does it need to be tidied away so you can have dinner? or could it be left to give them opportunity to continue their learning later on or the next day. Routines are important for children but equally how frustrating would it be if you were completing a puzzle and were about to complete the final pieces and you had to stop to have lunch? We ensure we offer a flexible routine here at Little Hands to ensure that we are able to offer a learning rich environment full of opportunities for children to extend their own learning.


102-104 Brettell Lane, Amblecote, West Midlands, DY8 4BS

T: 01384 441441

Nursery Manager: Lara Owen & Bev Ramsell

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The Sunday School, 2 Chapel Street, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, B60 2BQ

T: 0121 820 7119

Nursery Manager: Emma Gerrish

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Nursery Block Heart Of Worcestershire College School Drive Bromsgrove Worcestershire B60 1PQ

T: 0121 824 4697

Nursery Manager: Clare Fereday

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16-18 Hagley Road, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY8 1PS

T: 01384 396920

Nursery Manager: Lara Owen & Lucy Brettle

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