Our approach to learning

A strong mind, a happy heart, and a spirit of adventure.

Learning approach

All about play

At PAWS we are passionate about outdoor learning based on play, and where better to experience this than in our beautiful rural surroundings.


Play is often talked about as relief from serious learning but for children play is serious learning.

Our staff are trained to be scaffolding for a child’s development, posing questions, giving encouragement and helping them practise and explore as they play.

Learning through play builds social skills, empathy, and the ability to see things from the perspective of others. It encourages understanding of differences. Play feeds curiosity and imagination and gives children the ability to think laterally and solve their own problems.

And at the end of our day, we stop and reflect on our play, proud of ourselves and what we have learned, and determined to keep on growing.

Perhaps we should all find time to play!


More about our approach to learning

We follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum which sets standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old. It is the first stage of a child’s education and ends when the child moves into Year 1 and Key Stage One.

The EYFS curriculum has been developed by the government and is the framework that all Ofsted registered preschools, nurseries, school reception classes and childminders must follow. Its aim is to help early years practitioners provide the correct support, provisions and learning environment to best enable children to thrive and develop as well as be happy and healthy.

The EYFS curriculum emphasises a ‘principled play-based approach to learning and development’.

There are 7 areas of learning and development that shape our educational programmes. All areas of learning and development are important and interconnected. Three areas are particularly crucial for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and for building their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive, and these are known as the ‘prime areas’ of learning. The 3 prime areas are:

  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Communication and language development
  • Physical development.

This involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.

This involves giving children opportunities to experience a language rich environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations.

This involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co-ordination, control and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity and to make healthy choices in relation to food.

In addition, we also support children in 4 specific areas, through which the 3 prime areas are strengthened and applied. The specific areas are literacy, mathematics, understanding the world, and expressive arts and design.

This involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children are given access to a wide range of reading materials (books, poems, and other written materials) to ignite their interest.

This involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces and measures.

This involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.

This involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials as well as providing opportunities and encouragement to let their imaginations run wild and for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role-play and design and technology.

Play based learning appeals to children’s natural curiosity and desire to get involved in experiences based on their interests, strengths and developing skills as they make sense of their world around them. When children play it is more than simply ‘playing’. During this play, children are learning valuable skills including social, speech and language, cognitive and physical development as well as exploring areas that interest them. The Early Years Foundation Stage, which we follow, recognises that play underpins learning and all aspects of children’s development.

At PAWS play takes place indoors and outdoors and it is here they practise new ideas and skills, they take risks, show imagination and solve problems on their own or with others. We value play and provide safe but challenging environments that support and extend learning and development.

Further reading on the benefits of play based learning.

At PAWS we love to be outside exploring. We all know that being outdoors is good for the mind, body and soul but did you know that outdoor learning is also proven to encourage the holistic development of children?

High quality outdoor learning experiences helps children to become inquisitive and reflective thinkers, able to problem solve in ‘real life’ situations. Allowing them to develop resilience and adaptability. By letting them take risks, children learn how better to identify hazards and risks.

“The more risks you allow children to take the better they learn to take care of themselves” – Roald Dahl

Being outdoors builds self-confidence, self-awareness and self-esteem. It helps children to develop communication skills by collaborative working. It assists with gross and fine motor development by posing ever changing physical challenges. It also develops a love, appreciation and respect for nature and living things. Teaching children how we can care for our environment and developing a life-long love of the outdoors.

Here at PAWS we are so committed to outdoor learning that we have invested in developing a Forest School Association accredited Forest School with our first staff members undertaking the Forest School Leadership training later this year. We have also been working in collaboration with local landowners and other Forest School providers to extend our outdoor provision ensuring diversity in the range of environments we can access.

More information on Forest School and outdoor learning.