All About Starting Reception

On first look at the EYFS framework I felt a little overwhelmed and shocked that young children were expected to achieve so much in such a short amount of time.

Harry building a sand castle.
Harry building a sand castle.

What is reception?

Reception is the first year of primary school in England and Wales for children aged 4 and turning 5 within that school year. This is a transitional year between Nursery and Year 1. Children are not legally required to attend Reception year; however, they are legally required to receive a full-time education from the term following their fifth birthday.

Harry hanging upside down.
Harry hanging upside down.

Early Learning Goals

The EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) framework clearly states that the developmental standards at this level are not part of a curriculum and are referred to instead as Early Learning Goals (ELG). It is intended that children reach these goals by the time they are old enough to enter Year One at the age of five or six.

The framework covers seven strands of development which I cover in further detail below. It’s worth noting that the first three areas in this list are emphasised in their importance. The seven are:

If your child loves to play with cars; set your child the challenge of grouping their cars by colour or size. Use blocks to build tunnels for the cars to go under, draw pictures and paint road signs. The list is endless.

Using blocks and cars to help with maths.
Using blocks and cars to help with maths.

Reception Year for Teddy and Harry

On first look at the EYFS framework I felt a little overwhelmed and shocked that young children were expected to achieve so much in such a short amount of time. Then I realised they were already naturally developing many of these skills without any formal or structured learning.

They were developing their numeracy skills by counting shells found on the beach and using sticks to make different shapes. They were enhancing their physical skills by playing in the park and constantly climbing trees. At home the boys were building their love for books as we sat together and read story after story.

Once I placed my preconceptions of what I felt they ‘should’ be learning aside, I was able to calm down and enjoy guiding our children through their reception year. I was then able to relax and create an environment open to play and exploration.

Learning letters in a creative visual way.
Learning letters in a creative visual way.

Following Their Interests

My key advice for parents and educators working with reception aged children is to follow their interests. If you know your child loves sensory activities and enjoys feeling different materials in their hands, then why not let this be the focus of their day? It may feel repetitive to us, but repetition is vital for children developing their skills.

Use the type of play your children enjoy to support them in other areas. For example, if your child loves to play with cars; set your child the challenge of grouping their cars by colour or size. Use blocks to build tunnels for the cars to go under, draw pictures and paint road signs. The list is endless.

Maths with playdough.
Maths with playdough.

Developing Skills in Their Own Time

All children are unique and will develop skills in different ways and at different times. I find it frustrating that society places timeframes on this development.

When Teddy was nearly 6, he began to consistently hold his pencil in a tripod grip with his left hand. Prior to this he tended to swap hands as he went along and almost exclusively used a fist grip. He was still developing the strength in his hand muscles along with honing his fine motor skills. At six he was finally ready to begin practising writing in this ‘proper’ way.

Harry, in contrast, began holding his pencil in a tripod grip at the age of 4. This is just the way it is. Neither child’s development is ahead or behind.

Making a train.
Making a train.

Reception and Hands-On Education

I have put together an inventory of free activity ideas to help you in guiding children through their Reception Year. I have used the ELG’s as outlined in the EYFS framework as a guide so you know that whilst your children are playing, they are also developing skills in these specific areas.

Tips for guiding children through their Reception Year:
  1. Value play
  2. Provide opportunities and experiences
  3. Follow their interests
  4. Keep it simple
  5. Communicate and listen
  6. Relax

Find our inventory of Activity ideas for reception below, all for free!

Reception
Mathematics

Mathematics picture.

Reception
Fine Motor Skills

Fine Motor Skills picture.

Reception
Literacy

Literacy picture.

Reception
Expressive Arts

Expressive Arts & Design picture.