Learning through play

Play helps young children to learn and develop through doing and talking, which research has shown to be the means by which young children learn to think. Little Bears uses the Development Matters guidance to plan and provide a variety of challenging, engaging and exciting activities.  

We use the Development Matters framework to:  

  • Increase the control over large movements that children make with their arms, legs and bodies, so they have the skills to be able to run, jump, hop, skip, roll, climb, balance and lift
  • Increase the control over small movements that children can make with their arms, wrists, hands so that they can pick up and use objects, tools and materials  
  • Improve their understanding of the importance of looking after their bodies 

Characteristics of effective learning

We understand that all children engage with other people and their environment through the characteristics of effective learning that are described in the 

Development Matters guidance as:  

  • Playing and Exploring – Engagement  
  • Active Learning – Motivation  
  • Creating and thinking critically – Thinking  

We aim to provide for the characteristics of effective learning by observing how a child is learning and being clear about what we can do and provide in order to support each child to remain an effective and motivated learner.  

We aim to make these characteristics of effective learning easily identifiable within your child’s learning journal through the use of themed stickers.  


We assess how young children are learning and developing by observing them frequently. We use the information that is gained from observations, as well as from photographs or videos of the children, to document their progress and where this may be leading them. We believe that parents know their children best and we ask them to contribute to assessment by sharing information about what their children like to do at home.

We make periodic assessment summaries of children’s achievements based on our ongoing development records. These form part of the children’s learning journals. 

We undertake these summaries at regular intervals as well as times of transition. Progress checks may also be carried out on children using frameworks such as the 2 year check.  

Learning Journals

Our setting keeps a learning journal for each child. Your child’s learning journal helps us to celebrate together his/her achievements and to work together to provide what your child needs for his/her well-being.  

Your child’s key carer, as well as our lead nursery teacher will work in partnership with you to keep this record. To do this you and the child’s key carer will collect information about your child’s needs, activities, interests and achievements. This information will enable the key person to identify your child’s stage of progress.  

We aim for your child’s learning journal to be a working document that we will share regularly with parents/carers. We encourage parents/carers to play an active part in supporting their child’s journal and welcome contributions of photographs, notes and additional information to create a detailed picture of where each child is within their learning journal.