In The Moment Planning and Child Initiated Play for the EYFS

June 7, 2018 7:52 am
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What is In The Moment Planning and Child-Initiated Play for the EYFS?

You may have heard the term ‘in the moment planning’. Although a relatively simple idea, some find ‘in the moment planning’ challenging in practice. This is probably because there isn’t any forward ‘planning’ or focus activities involved. So, to make it clearer we have created a simple guide to ‘in the moment planning for EYFS’…

The idea is to capture the interest of a child or children in the present moment.

Young children have a natural desire to learn, explore and question. Settings should offer an environment that enables child-initiated play in order to capture the moment of engagement. Careful observation by practitioners is key to utilising the approach. Opportunities to seize the moment when a child shows interest in an activity which can be built upon needs to be recognised, these are normally called ‘teachable moments’. Written ‘planning’ is then carried out in the form of observations, records of the interactions and notes on the outcomes.

We have put together a template this template to make recording child-led play easy and in a way Ofsted, parents and fellow practitioners will love, find more information and view a sample here.

This fits in very nicely with the Early Years Framework:

“1.6. Practitioners must consider the individual needs, interests, and stage of development of each child in their care. They must use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience for each child, across all areas of learning and development.”

Teachable Moments During Child-Led Play

Teachable moments are about recognising that children learn in an unconscious way during informal interactions. It can be difficult to provide for, recognise and take advantage of individual teachable moments when it comes to in-the-moment planning as you are looking for opportunities to allow learning to take place through child-initiated play.

We’ve put together a few tips to help you:

  • Provide opportunities and environments that stimulate curiosity (each child will have different things that stimulate them – while one might enjoy painting, another might like dressing up). Learn more about enabling environments.
  • Observe and listen closely so you can follow the child’s lead
  • Identify the item/place/person/idea that has sparked the child’s interest
  • Use open-ended questions that require a description, rather than a yes or no answer – these usually start with what/how/why rather than do/is/can. (‘What do you like about that?’ rather than ‘Do you like that?’)
  • Praise and reinforce positive learning experiences

A good example of child-led play might be that there are areas in the setting for a number of different activities and varied items of interest. Children are given the opportunity to choose what or where they would like to play, rather than being directed to an activity by a practitioner. When the practitioner engages with the child, they approach the child to enquire about the activity, rather than calling the child over to them. The practitioner is then curious and enthusiastic about what the child is doing, which leads to a moment where child-led learning can take place.

For example, if a child is playing with a ball and they are asked what they like about it, they might reply ‘it’s round’. This can be used to engage the child and create curiosity and conversation about other shapes.

Planning for and Recording ‘In the Moment Planning’

One of the greatest hesitations practitioners have about in-the-moment planning is the question of exactly what and how to plan, in addition to how to reflect on what the children have achieved in a formalised way. It doesn’t help that the phrase includes the word ‘planning’ as in actual fact, there is very little structured planning involved, you cannot plan for a particular format to the play or learning if it is truly child-led.

It’s not necessary to prepare daily or weekly plans in advance to lead the session. The planning effort needed is to prepare an engaging environment with materials that will excite and interest the children, rather than detailing focus activities. Then it is important to showcase the child-led learning that has taken place to show how the learning was further extended in the moment.

We have created a simple In The Moment Planning Sheets Booklet to help practitioners of all abilities to easily record when in-the-moment planning has taken place in their setting.

Each observation template also includes simple tick box’s to Early Years Outcomes and Characteristics of Effective Learning, allowing you to easily see the extent of the learning covered at a quick glance.

Not only is this information useful for you to refer back to, but also for parents and any official inspectors too.

Each observation template has space for the following information:

  • Observation made
  • How learning was extended i.e. questions asked
  • Outcomes / next steps
  • The area in which the activity of the observation took place
  • Tick box for characteristics of effective learning covered
  • Tick box for areas of learning covered

EYFS blogger Nursery Nook gave our In The Moment Planning resource 5 stars!!! 

Nursery Nook said;
‘This guide got me very excited. ‘In the moment planning’ isn’t brand new but many settings are still discovering this for the first time and are struggling to find ways to incorporate this into the systems already in place, for example within the paperwork structure of a school.

Each page is very simply designed but very effective. You have a box for what is being observed by the practitioner, how the learning was extended, the outcome and next step, which area (presumably the provision area of in/outdoors), which characteristics are observable and which areas of learning are covered.

This type of guide would be incredibly useful for a setting because each page is clearly laid out and one single book (at a cost of £3.90) would cover an entire setting.  I really like the simplicity which means all staff at all levels will be able to complete regardless of their experience. It is also vital to include ‘next steps’ within your own planning and teaching and this is excellent evidence in case Ofsted or leadership need to see some and this has you covered.

Pros: Very simple and effective layout and a single guide with 50 pages and 6 boxes on each page (thats 300 observations which are influencing planning ON TOP of your current observations).

Cons: Would be good to include a space for photographs but this would then make it either much bigger or far less workable space.”

Don’t think ‘planning’, think ‘enhancing’.

If you’d like to create your own in-the-moment planning booklet;

  • Create a sheet or booklet for each child and retrospectively record accomplishments for each session. Record both practitioner/child interactions and child/child interactions
  • Remember that photographs (within guidelines) can be a useful addition to these progress records
  • Reflect with the children, examine what they have done/learned/found interesting during that session and put this into your records
  • Highlight areas of progress within the observation records
  • List EYFS learning outcomes for each child and tick off/make notes about any progress on a weekly basis, referring back to your original observation records

Remember, in the moment planning and child-initiated play can be a fun and relaxed way for children to learn and progress in an Early Years setting. Most settings using this approach find that both the children and the practitioners are more enthusiastic, more engaged, more relaxed, and forge better relationships.

As a practitioner, the observation necessary to recognise teachable moments within child-led play will improve with practice. Reflecting on sessions, and records of the children’s observations and progress will help you identify opportunities to enhance the environment and feed into teachable moments. It may also aid understanding of how moments initiated by the children themselves might have progressed.

Related Resources:

In The Moment Planning Sheets – Specifically designed to help you record evidence of ‘in the moment planning’ within your setting. Each observation template also includes simple tick box’s to Early Years Outcomes and Characteristics of Effective Learning, allowing you to easily see the extent of the learning covered at a quick glance.

My Learning Journey – My Learning Journey is an efficient and attractive way to record and organise observations and other child development evidence. It’s easy to add additional pages to make a fantastic, detailed and durable record.

Progress Path Development Tracker – A user-friendly and informative development tracker poster based on the Early Years Outcomes: track a child’s progress along the Progress Path at a glance – a really useful prompt when looking for teachable moments and aligning progress goals with child-initiated play.

Senses Activity Pack – Perfect for encouraging discussion about each of the senses, this bright, colourful and child-friendly activity pack is a great way to enhance learning.

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