May 17, 2023

What are the 7 Areas of Learning?

Jane Magnani
Jane Magnani
What are the 7 Areas of Learning?

Evidence shows that a child's first five years are the most significant development. This is because anything a child learns or experiences during this stage tends to impact their development into adulthood. In short, the early years of childhood influence a child's intelligence, behaviour and personality as they grow up. 

With this in mind, the Government and Early years educators developed the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to directly support all who provide care for children from birth to five years. It encompasses ideas relating to the implementation of stimulating learning environment strategies.

The Early Years Foundation Stage was introduced in England in September 2008. However, it was later revised, and that version came into effect in September 2012. 

The EYFS is a framework

The EYFS is a framework that sets the standards for the Learning, Development and care of children from birth to five:

  • It supports practitioners when observing, assessing, and planning for your child's individual needs.

  • It ensures that all early years providers meet the required standards and provide stable, quality and rich opportunities for all children.

  • It emphasises the importance of children building a solid base to help them step into school and grow into adults.

The EYFS has identified various factors to help early years, educators, childminders, and parents understand infant development journeys.

  • It teaches us that our children's Learning is not separated.

  • Many of these elements are in action simultaneously as our children play, learn and interact with the world around them. 

These critical factors have been organised into two groups. The Characteristics of Effective Learning and the 7 Areas of Learning. Together, they hold information, abilities, and developmentally appropriate experiences for children in the Early years. 

The Characteristics of Effective Learning

These relate to how a child learns best and how they engage with other people and their environment. Playing and Exploring, Active Learning and Critical Thinking all underpin the learning and development across all 7 areas and support little ones to remain practical, motivated learners throughout childhood.

Playing and exploring (engagement):

  • Finding out and exploring

  • Playing with what they know

  • Being willing to "have a go"

Active Learning (motivation): 

  • Being involved and concentrating

  • Keeping on trying

  • Enjoying achieving what they set out to do

Creating and thinking critically (thinking):

  • Having their own ideas (creative thinking) 

  • Making links (building theories)

  • Working with ideas (critical thinking)

Water Play

7 Areas of Learning and Development

Prime Areas

The prime areas are crucial as they lay the foundations for children's success in all other areas of learning and life. 

A strong foundation in these is essential as evidence shows that, if it is not securely in place by age five, it holds children back in other areas of their learning and development. 

All prime areas work and influence each other. 

For example:

  • Developing personal, social and emotional skills will support them in developing their physical self. A child who feels secure and safe is confident to expand the boundaries of exploration and is motivated to reach, move and test their physical capacities.

  • Physical development allows children to be more engaged hands-on explorers, enhancing their understanding of the world. In addition, a child who can use the large gestures, expressions, and fine movements involved in communication can convey messages to others.

  • Developing communication and language skills supports children in understanding and explaining their thoughts and ideas in their mathematical or creative thinking. 

Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED)

It involves helping children develop a sense of who they are (personal), how they get along with others (social), and how they feel (emotional). 

PSED is made up of three aspects:

  • Sense of Self

  • Making relationships

  • Understanding Emotions

As children move through life, they continually develop their PSED as they build a more robust understanding of themselves, others, and the world around them. Young children create emphatic relationships, cultivate respect for others and amplify their social skills. At the same time, they discover how to regulate their feelings by learning to understand group behaviours and have self-confidence.

Physical Development (PD)

Physical experiences in early childhood support the sensory skills and motor skills necessary for feeling good in our bodies and being confident and comfortable in the world.

It involves providing opportunities for our young children to be active and interactive; and develop their coordination, control, and movement.

Physical development is made up of two aspects:

  • Moving and Handling: Promotes the development of children's physical selves. Children need opportunities to explore the world around them using their bodies to investigate space and movement and strengthen core muscles and fine and gross motor skills.  

  • Health and Self-care: Promoting the understanding of healthy living is essential in helping children grow up safe, healthy and happy. It promotes independence in self-care, allowing children to understand their needs and learn how to take care of them. 

Child walking along track

Communication and Language (CL)  

Communication and Language lay the foundation for your child's learning, guiding and supporting their thinking while underpinning the beginning of literacy. 

It involves giving your child opportunities to experience a rich language environment, develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves, and to speak and listen in various situations.

Communication and Language are made up of three aspects:

  • Listening and Attention

  • Understanding

  • Speaking

Specific areas

These are mostly used for older children (over 3's) but are also critically relevant for our younger children. The specific areas include essential skills and knowledge. They grow out of the prime areas and provide meaningful contexts for learning.

  • Literacy 

  • Mathematics

  • Understanding the World

  • Expressive Arts and Design

Literacy (L)

Literacy is about understanding and being understood. Your child's early literacy skills are rooted in your child's experiences from birth of gesturing, talking, singing, playing, reading, mark-making and writing.

Most importantly, literacy is engaging, purposeful, and creative. Your child must access a wide range of reading materials (books, poems, magazines and other written materials) to ignite their interest.

Children should be exposed daily to songs and rhymes! Listening to and singing songs is one of the best ways for children to build their phonological awareness because each word syllable often connects to rhythms and sounds. Moreover, many songs and rhymes have rhyming words. Both pieces help children hear the individual parts of each word.

Literacy is made up of two aspects:

  • Reading

  • Writing

Mathematics (M)

Mathematics for young children involves developing their own understanding of numbers, quantity, shape and space. Babies and young children are naturally interested in quantities and spatial relations – they are problem-solvers, pattern-spotters and sense-makers from birth.

Maths opportunities are everywhere! Educators and parents should help children take advantage of purposeful maths experiences in everyday situations. 

Mathematics is made up of seven aspects:

  • Comparison

  • Counting

  • Composition

  • Spatial Awareness

  • Shape

  • Pattern

Understanding of the World (UW)

It supports children in making sense of their expanding world and place within it, the family and community they belong to, and learning about the world's diversity in terms of people, cultures, landscapes and animals. Nurturing their wonder, curiosity, and exploratory impulses. This development requires regular and direct contact with the natural, built and virtual world around your child.

Understanding of the World is made up of three aspects:

  • People and Communities

  • The World

  • Technology

Expressive Arts and Design (EAD) 

Expression conveys both thinking (ideas) and feeling (emotion). 

This area supports and develops:

  • Imagination

  • Creativity

  • Curiosity and play

They explore their thinking, ideas and feelings in music, art, movement, dance, role-play and technology, developing the ability to use various media and materials. These expressive arts approaches help children to represent and understand their feelings and ideas.

Expressive Arts and Design is made up of two aspects:

  • Creating with materials

  • Being imaginative and expressive


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