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The Child-Led Play Approach

Child-led learning Alfriston Pre-School style

Our take on child-led learning is all about providing our children the opportunity to choose the activity they access, the location, and the length of time spent on their chosen activity. It is important for us those children feel they have control of the activity; staff are there to scaffold and extend play, noting when learning opportunities are present but in a non-intrusive way.


Learning opportunity - a child balancing blocks; a practitioner can incorporate counting or colours by integrating the learning with the activity.


Staff recognise that as the child has chosen the activity, they will be relaxed and open to suggestions and expansion of their knowledge. We feel that this approach can also decrease resistance to learning and improve enjoyment and therefore engagement and confidence.


Access our provision


We don’t tend to look at our provision as ‘inside and outside’ — rather as one space.  The door is always open and children are encouraged to transport equipment and activities to where they want to access them. 


Just because staff think the doll’s furniture looks great in the cosy corner with the doll’s house doesn’t mean the children don’t think it is better suited in the sand pit surrounded by dinosaurs! 


Staff understand that some children will engage in an activity more outside than in, while others won’t engage unless they’re inside. We recognise the diversity of our children and aim for a balance that allows for free flow of movement throughout the Pre-School.


No resource limitations


As much as possible we believe that children should also not be told when to stop a game or flow of activity, we believe that if children are enjoying an activity and are focussed and engaged artificially stopping the game can upset children and discourage independent learning and creativity.


We aim for our routine to be led by the children, naturally occurring story times where children can choose to listen in a way that feels comfortable; we don’t expect all children to access our stories and songs sitting on a carpet with their legs crossed. Perching on a log stool or squashed in a basket is great if they are happy, relaxed and engaged. Our snack table is open for an hour and children can come as is convenient to their play.  We do all sit down for lunch together, staff and children eating together, everyone is always hungry and keen to sit down to eat after a busy, active morning!


During meal times staff help foster a ‘family’ environment where we chat around the table with the children about our day so far, our food and topics that interest us.


Staff knowledge


Staff are employed not only on their qualifications but also on their belief in our ethos, it is important that we work as a cohesive team.  We share practice, thoughts and ideas and build each up. This creates a supportive learning environment for staff and children alike.


Whilst we follow our children’s lead, practitioners also make a termly working document of children’s likes and interests, this helps when we are getting the room ready for the day to ensure that the room is tailored for each child and there will be an activity, resource or experience waiting for them.  These opportunities mean the staff ensure that each child is extending their knowledge, testing their boundaries and reaching their potential, but always with an element of choice.




Child-led learning is an important aspect of our children’s learning journey. Feedback from Primary schools that have received our children is that they are self-sufficient and self-assured, they have great resilience and problem-solving skills.  We pride ourselves that every child that passes through our doors can empty their welly of a pebble and put it back on again without getting muddy socks.

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