EYFS Explained: UW

As explained in our previous posts , in this series of our blogs, we will be taking an in depth look into each area of the seven areas of learning and development and talking about and demonstrating how we support the children’s learning and development in each area and the benefits this has. We will look at each area from a home-based childcare perspective, an early years setting as a whole and talk about how these activities or ones similar can be adapted and used at home to develop continuity across the child’s experiences and environments.

This week we will be looking at Understanding the World (UW). Understanding the World in the Early Years refers not only to the wider world and environment but people and communities as well as encompassing technology too.

Children generally begin to display aspects of this area of learning around 16-26 months as children start to display curiosity about “people and show interest in stories about themselves, their families and other people”. (EYFS Development Matters

As children get older they will begin to have a sense of their own immediate family and friends and may begin to imitate everyday actions from their own experiences in their role play as well learning that they have similarities and differences to other people. Through participating in traditional celebrations that are relevant to the children, such as Chinese New Year, Christmas and other religious and cultural events, and continuing with our visits to Nanny Beats and Bridgit’s parents, the children are gaining first hand experiences that enhances their understanding of the world they live in.

However, from birth children begin to display aspects and understanding of ‘The World’ as they begin to ‘move their eyes, then head to follow moving objects’ and ‘smile with pleasure at recognisable playthings.’  This early understanding of the world around them is the reason we must ensure our babies and young children are visually stimulated from the earliest stages in order for them to develop their understanding of what the world looks like. We believe that it is just as important to expose babies and younger children to a variety of experiences as it is toddlers and older children in order to support and development not only their visual understanding but their cognitive skills too.

For us, it is just as important to as this not only supports the baby’s visual and cognitive understanding but also provides children with rich and meaningful experiences in their earliest days which can only support further and future development significantly. It is only too easy to allow your younger babies to sit in the buggy and watch as the older children participate in an outing or activity, but take a moment to get them out of the buggy, expose them to what’s on offer; allow them to use their senses to explore and engage with the environment. When our youngest Pebble to date was only 6 months old, we provided her with the opportunity to engage in our weekly visit to the market to buy our fruit, she held, touched and engaged with the sights and smells on offer, as well as learning to roll and crawl in the sand pit at the local park! Too often we as practitioners and parents are scared to allow our babies to engage in different activities through fear of germs or harm, but we believe that by involving even the youngest of children in our day to day routines and activities, not only do we support their understanding of the world around them and develop their skills and learning, but we also empower them to become resilient and curious young children with a thirst for adventure.

As children grow and their understanding of the world develops, they will begin to comment and ask questions about features of their natural world and their curiosity will then develop into critical thinking as they begin to talk about how things work and why things happen and so it is important at this stage as children’s curiosity and critical thinking skills develop that we recognise this and provide opportunities that provide challenge and allow children to explore and investigate at their own pace, challenging their own thinking and ideas through hands on experiences.

Loose parts and real and natural resources and materials are a fantastic way of sparking children’s curiosity and creativity and are cheap and easy to source resources that are priceless additions to children’s play with endless learning opportunities as a result. “Loose parts” can be anything from cotton reels, nuts and bolts, twigs, bottle tops, tyres and off cuts of wood. Loose parts are not designed to be used in a certain way or have a pre-determined purpose and so encourages children to use their imagination in order to use and manipulate these parts creatively in their play. We are huge advocates of loose play as a continued feature of the provision and believe that exploring these objects freely enables children to develop a critical understanding of not just the ways in which these items can be used and combined and manipulated but the ways in which they can use the items in the natural world.

A great way to develop children’s understanding of the world around them is to involve them in day to day tasks as there are so many opportunities for learning about people, communities and the natural world in daily activities and so we must not lose sight of the incredible benefits these activities hold for children’s learning and understanding. This is why we feel we are in a prime position as home-based childcare providers to provide the children with these ‘real-life’ experiences through simple yet challenging day-to-day activities that will support children in developing a strong and usable understanding of the world around them.

Simple yet beneficial experiences that children can participate in to support their understanding include:

  • Helping with the laundry; putting in the washing, operating the washing machine, hanging clothes out to try.
  • Helping with the garden; planting, raking, sweeping
  • Cleaning the house – using equipment to do so.
  • Taking care of pets and their needs.
  • Visiting family and relatives.
  • Doing the food shopping.
  • Bug hunting and building habitats for nature
  • Fishing, crabbing and visiting ponds.
  • Trips to the Post Office.
  • Riding the bus/train.
  • Baking/preparing food.
  • Using cameras to take photos.

All of these activities may seem like day-to-day mundane experiences, but these types of activities not only develop children’s understanding of the world but also allow them to develop vital life-skills at a young age that will enable them to develop more complex skills in later years.

The ‘Technology’ aspect of UW is particularly controversial at this time due to the excessive screen time that our children are exposed to. However, ‘Technology’ in this aspect does not refer to just providing an iPad to a child for them to learn to use at 16 months old, instead it looks at the skills children develop as they begin to be more aware of technology and ICT toys; this can include anything from remote controls, to cameras, clocks, watches and any toys with buttons/flaps or mechanisms. Not only this, but the self-service check out desks and barcode scanners at supermarkets also fall into the ‘technology’ category. These types of ICT opportunities are the foundations of children developing more complex ICT skills and it is only in their later development (30 months+) that we recommend beginning to introduce iPads/computers as children’s technological skills are more mature at this stage and children are able to use and complete programs and apps with confidence.

With the technological progressions we are currently privy to in today’s society, ‘Technology’ is an aspect of ‘Understanding The World’ that we cannot ignore and can only encourage as this area of learning and development places emphasis on understanding and developing skills to apply within the community and the natural world and so it is our role as parents and practitioners to equip children with the skills and knowledge they need to grow and learn within the developing world.

For more activity ideas on how to support and develop children’s ‘Understanding of The World’, please visit:


https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies (Please note: all games, activities, videos and programmes used and developed by Cbeebies are designed to meet each area of learning within the EYFS)


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