Early Childhood Education/Early Years

Debra Laxton and Marilyn Leask with inputs from the MESH Early Years Editorial Board | View as single page | Feedback/Impact
Early Childhood Education/Early Years
Effective learning
Activities and Types of Play
Case Studies

Expressive Arts and Design including music, rhythm, song

Element Experiences/ Strategies/ Knowledge
Background/ Theory
  • Expressive Arts and Design is one of the four specific areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (DfE, 2017). The specific areas include essential skills and knowledge. They grow out of the prime areas and provide important contexts for learning.

  • By encouraging children to experiment and use learned skills to explore a wide range of media and materials we are promoting their ability to explore and understand their world and to make links between their experiences which will encompass all the areas of learning.

  • These experiences can also be expressed via music making, singing, dance, role-play and storytelling.

  • Clearly these two aspects overlap and feed into each other. Practitioners should provide first-hand experiences for children to explore with all of their senses. These should capture children’s imagination and excite them into action.

  • Being imaginative is a creative process. Play and creativity are intrinsically linked (Compton et al., 2010)

Exploring and using media and materials

Mark-making resources (DCSF, 2008)

 - a range of implements e.g. pencils, feathers, fingers

 - materials/ space to write e.g. paper, soil , sand

 - positive role models to be observed writing and drawing

Designing and making resources:

 - Available materials e.g. fabrics, reclaimed materials, boxes, tubes, cartons, bottle tops, card, paper

 - separating and joining tools e.g. scissors, string, glue

 - malleable materials e.g. sand, mud

 - Use these materials with and without tools in order for children to understand their properties, opportunities to construct and design using materials without tools e.g. by squeezing, pressing, pulling, rolling, pinching, poking, stretching, tearing, moulding, etc.

 - Allow children to observe and explore available tools so they  can make choices about what to use

  • Observing and drawing natural objects and materials e.g. feathers, shells, leaves, ice, mini-beasts, plants and seeds

  • As above with manufactured objects and materials e.g. scarves, fabric, plastics, metal

  • Give opportunities to experience real weather conditions

Being imaginative
  • Resources to stimulate spontaneous movement e.g. fabrics, scarves, feathers, ribbons

  • Clothes or costumes that suggest a character and specific movement response  

  • An appropriate space for movement

  • Provide the opportunity for meaningful imaginative role play with others (Gussin-Paley, 2004)

  • Resources and props to stimulate symbolic play e.g. boxes, blocks, fabrics

  • Small world play

  • Sand and/ or water play, to create imaginary landscapes e.g. making underwater scene and islands

  • Helicopter stories/ story scribing – where children dictate their stories which are written down verbatim by the adult (Gussin-Paley, 1991; Lee, 2015; Ephgrave, 2018

  • Adult-led stories and rhymes introduced in a range of ways, including traditional stories, told stories made up by the adults from the community

  • Listening to, creating and responding to a diversity of music

  • Experimenting with sounds e.g. using percussion instruments or home-made instruments, natural sounds, sounds for a purpose such as for stories

  • Lead opportunities for children to move in a variety of ways e.g. roll, slide, swing

  • Experience performance e.g. visiting dancers, puppet theatre, perform dances, puppet shows

  • Sing well-known songs, using children’s ideas to change the words and devise actions

  • Explore body sounds by clapping, stomping, clicking, rubbing

  • Use objects to make unusual sounds by tapping, scraping, shaking

  • Den play (Canning, 2013)