What does 'understanding the world' mean at early years stage?

Allowing children to explore their natural environment often leads to the discovery of wonderful things. This area of development is split into 3 main sections; People and Communities, Technology and The World.

People and Communities

Taking an interest in the people that live around us is fundamental to becoming a engaged member of society. Understanding people and communities may at first manifest itself as an interest in other family members, or the range of occupations they see in their community (teacher, baker, hairdresser etc).  Children at this age might...

... talk about past and present events in their own lives and in the lives of family members. They know that other children don’t always enjoy the same things, and are sensitive to this. They know about similarities and differences between themselves and others, and among families, communities and traditions. [Early Learning Goal]

Using photographs can be a great way of stimulating discussion about family members, family history and can help children relate their own experiences to others.  Taking trips to places within the local community can also help when introducing children to people and ideas that are not immediately familiar to them -- and they're great fun for parents and carers too. Certainly, giving children a range of cultural experiences is extremely enriching at this age and really helps clarify the idea that they, like other people, are unique, while also sharing a lot in common with others in their community.

Peeling back the layers of your family history.

Peeling back the layers of your family history.

Hold it there for one second....

Hold it there for one second....


Technology changes quickly, and increasingly children come into daily, if not hourly, contact with phones, tablets, computers and a range of other devices which require them to think and manipulate. Encouraging children to have a positive relationship with technology can be difficult, as we all know of the addictive qualities of the screen, but developing an understanding of how different technologies can be useful is important at this age. In the Early years children might...

...recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as homes and schools. They select and use technology for particular purposes. [Early Learning Goal]

There may be a huge market for games and apps that support child development, but our advice is to be mindful of screen time and encourage children to engage with technology on a wider level than just playing games. For example, using technological toys that use mechanisms, or realising that computers store information that can be retrieved. 

The world

A huge amount can be learnt about the world by just playing and observing. Whether it be cooking in the kitchen, planting seeds or going for a walk in the leaves.  A lot of understanding can be gained by engaging children in day-to-day activities. Children at this age might...

...know about similarities and differences in relation to places, objects, materials and living things. They [might] talk about the features of their own immediate environment and how environments might vary from one another. They [might] make observations of animals and plants and explain why some things occur, and talk about changes. [Early Learning Goal]

Being able to identify similarities and differences might eventually develop into a discussions about why things are similar or different, or why things change over time. Above all, getting children to discuss the things they find in their environment is far and away the best method of encouraging engagement with surroundings; What is it? What is its name? Where did it come from? Have you seen anything else similar to this? Is it like anything else you know? You can find lots of other good questions for stimulating discussion with children at our resources page

You don't have to wear a purple dress to learn about the world, but it might make it more fun.

You don't have to wear a purple dress to learn about the world, but it might make it more fun.

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