Week 3 - week commencing 21st June 2021

The Characteristics Of Effective Learning in EYFS (COEL)

A child’s individual learning characteristic will determine the way they respond to both the teaching and learning taking place in the environment.  Three characteristics of effective teaching and learning identified by the EYFS are:

  • playing and exploring - children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’;
  • active learning - children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements; and
  • creating and thinking critically - children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.

The focus of Characteristics of Effective Learning is on how children learn rather than what they learn i.e. process over outcome. Underpinning the Characteristics of Effective Learning is the understanding that during their earliest years, children form attitudes about learning that will last a lifetime. Children who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during these years will be creative, and adventurous learners throughout their lives. Children who do not receive this sort of support and interaction are likely to have a much different attitude about learning later on in life. Hence, why the supportive practitioner, and the environment they provide, need to nurture these Characteristics Of Effective Learning to occur, but without forgetting that children are individuals who bring their own needs, talents and histories to the learning environment. 


Play and exploring in early years settings means children are able to choose activities (or create experiences) where they can engage with other children or adults or sometimes play alone, and during these activities and experiences they learn by first-hand experience – by actively ‘doing’.  In order for this characteristic to come alive in the environment, children need sufficient space, time and choice with a range of activities and experiences, some of which have been planned and prepared by the practitioners on the basis of their observations of individual children’s current interests, talents, learning styles and stages of development. Therefore, the playing and exploring element of the Characteristics of Effective Learning involves the engagement of children with their learning environment.

Finding Out and Exploring

Children need open-ended, hands on experiences which arise from curiosity. These provide the basis on which a child builds concepts, tests ideas and finds out how things work. Showing curiosity about objects, events and people, using senses to explore the world around them, engaging in open-ended activity and showing particular interests are essential experiences within the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Playing With What They Know

A child uses imaginative play to understand, explore and embed ideas. Children use imaginative play to re-create experiences.  They pretend objects are things from their experience, represent their experiences in play, take on roles in their play and act out experiences with other people.

Being willing to have a go

This is when children use their particular interests to initiate activity ideas, look for challenges and opportunities within new experiences and to take risks. Children demonstrate a ‘have a go’ attitude and use new opportunities to learn by initiating activities, seeking challenge, showing a ‘can do’ attitude, taking a risk, engaging in new experiences and learning by trial and error.


Active learning focuses on a range of attitudes and dispositions that help to define a child’s motivation. It includes three key characteristics which demonstrate a child’s intrinsic motivation to achieve mastery – to experience competence, understanding, and autonomy.

Being Involved and Concentrating

Being involved and concentrating describes the intensity of attention that arises when children concentrate on ideas and activities which interest them. Evidence shows that high levels of concentration and involvement lead to ‘deep level learning’.

 Keep Trying

Keeping on trying highlights the importance of persisting in the face of challenges or difficulties, thereby building up the disposition of resilience.

 Enjoying Achieving What They Set Out To Do

Enjoying achieving what they set out to do refers to the reward children feel when they meet their own goals and build on the intrinsic motivation which supports long-term success, rather than relying on the approval of others.


This characteristic of learning is all about thinking. We are aware that babies and young children are thinkers who make sense of their experiences through perceiving patterns and developing concepts. As children engage in all the different activities which take place in the early years setting, they actively think about the meaning of what they are doing. Over time they will begin to become more aware of their own thinking – we call this metacognition. This awareness of oneself as a thinker and learner is thought to be a key characteristic of a successful learner.

Having their own ideas

Having their own ideas focuses on creativity – generating new ideas or ways of doing things across all areas of learning and development. By being inventive and creative, children can find new challenges or problems to solve and can come up with their own unique ways of solving these.

Making links

Using what they already know to learn new things begins when very young babies begin to organise the sensory input they obtain from their environment to notice patterns and make predictions. As children grow older, their thinking becomes more conscious as concepts are developed and linked together. They begin to finding meaning in sequence, in cause and effect, and in the intentions of others.

Choosing Ways to do Things

Choosing ways to do things, and finding new ways, is all about how children learn to approach goal directed activity in organised ways by making choices and decisions about how to approach tasks – planning what to do, and being able to change their approach if necessary. There is some evidence to show that when children were asked to explain how they had solved a problem, they learned more than when they were simply given positive feedback. Explaining errors seems to lead to more lasting learning than explaining why something is correct. This suggests that understanding the processes of how problems are solved is more important than simply getting the right answer.

We work closely with feeder pre-schools, nurseries and kindergartens to find out how children learn.



The Foundation Stage Framework Overview

The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) 2012-2021 is a play-based curriculum for children from birth to five years. The Framework is for all Early Years Providers and sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. It promotes teaching and learning to ensure children are ready for their next stage in education and gives children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life.  At school we continue from your child’s journey from pre-school, kindergarten, nursery or a child minder and home to cover the learning and development requirements through the characteristics of effective learning and the seven areas of learning.  

Prime areas

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Physical Development

Communication and Language 

Self Confidence and Self Awareness

Managing Feelings and Behaviour

Making Relationships

Moving and Handling

Health and Self Care

Listening and Attention




Specific Areas



Understanding of the World

Expressive Arts and Design




Shape, space and measure

People and Communities

The World


Exploring and Using Media and Materials

Being Imaginative



*Many of the areas overlap and the children will be accessing activities to support the areas throughout the day* 

Please follow the link to gain further information about the areas of learning.