How your child develops in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Reception children with teacher
As your child starts their primary education, here's how they’ll develop during their Reception year.

Your child’s Reception year is a time of many changes. Although the curriculum revolves around play and child-led learning, there’s still a lot for them to get used to. Some children are facing time away from Mummy and Daddy for the first time; others are used to being at nursery but now have to adapt to the new structure and boundaries of school life. So how can you expect them to develop during their first school year?

What’s going on in there?

Your Reception child is:

  • making huge leaps in their language development.
  • very chatty with the family, but may be monosyllabic in unfamiliar situations.
  • interested in learning new words, particularly big words.
  • speaking with more clarity and grammatical accuracy.
  • keen to ask questions, particularly ‘why’ questions, to find out more about the world.
  • honing their fine motor skills and doing more recognisable writing and drawing.
  • living in the moment, finding it hard to wait for things to happen.
  • able to play imaginatively.
  • most interested in learning when the project is hands-on and creative.
  • eager to please and receive praise.
  • getting better at sharing, taking turns and playing cooperatively.
  • keen to participate in one-to-one activities with adults.
  • gaining independence in personal hygiene and care.

Potential pressure points

Starting school presents many challenges for your child. They have to get used to being away from you during the day, learn and follow a new set of rules at school, become more independent in dressing, eating and using the toilet, adapt to taking turns and sharing their teacher’s attention, and fend for themselves in the playground.

“They also have to learn lots of new social rules, making new friends and balancing those friendships with the ones they have come from pre-school or nursery with,” says chartered educational psychologist Julia Busch Hansen. “But the main issue is tiredness, which tends to get worse as the week goes on.”

Warning signs to watch out for

Children of this age who are tired and stressed may become either quiet and withdrawn, or noisy, boisterous and aggressive. Other signs that your child is finding his reception year hard-going include sleep problems such as insomnia or nightmares, bedwetting, clinginess or tearfulness, aggression at school or at home, and physical symptoms like headaches or tummy aches.

“Try to develop a good relationship with your child’s teacher,” advises chartered educational psychologist and educational adviser Susan Brooks. “This ensures that there is a connection between what happens at school and their home life, which is enormously important to a young child.”