10 May, 2021

Real-life experiences in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Real-life experiences in the Early Years | La Côte International School Aubonne - real-life-experiences-in-the-early-years
Real-life experiences in the Early Years Foundation Stage In the Early Years Foundation Stage, real-life experiences play an important role in providing valuable, enriching learning opportunities for our youngest learners. Find out why. Wheelchange copy

In the Early Years Foundation Stage, real-life experiences play an important role in providing valuable, enriching learning opportunities for our youngest learners. Relevant, stimulating and exciting hands-on experiences enable children to make deeper connections between subjects and topics and to understand their learning in context. 

by Emmy Ryves, Early Years Coordinator

Stimulating broad learning opportunities 


When children are immersed in their environment, given responsibility and trusted to find their own way, they are enabled to develop problem-solving skills and creativity. Hands-on learning provides them with rich opportunities to develop their imagination, inventiveness and resourcefulness.

Understanding the world in context

Encouraged to experiment and explore, children can acquire the tools to develop a broader understanding of the world. For example, children can explore the weather, the seasons and many other simple scientific principles by exploring and accessing the physical world in which they live.  

Developing social skills

They also get the chance to develop their social skills, which often leads to improved behaviour. The opportunity to leave a familiar environment and explore a new setting or situation helps them learn appropriate behaviour in different situations. 

Early risk management 

Real-life experiences are also an excellent opportunity to teach children personal safety skills and engage them in early risk management, e.g. road safety, stranger danger, exploring water safety and learning about what is safe to touch and what to avoid. 

Language development

In addition, real life experiences support language development: when children are exposed to a rich language environment and encouraged to talk about their experiences, they have the opportunity to learn the associated vocabulary and develop their confidence and ability to express themselves. 

Extended learning opportunities

These opportunities for accelerated language development also lead to progress in other areas. For example, to progress in mathematical development (shape, space and measure), children need to be able to compare and talk about height, weight and length. To build this vocabulary, children need to have had an experience that provides learning opportunities. And of course, real-life experiences can give context to mathematics; for example, children can be encouraged to use real objects such as leaves to count or to identify different shapes in the buildings around them.

Cars and wheels in Foundation 1

In Foundation 1, our children have recently been very interested in "wheels" and "vehicles". They found out which vehicles have wheels and how many wheels each type of vehicle has, and then learned about bikes and cars, memorised the terms for the different parts of a vehicle and finally built their own representations of a vehicle using a selection of materials and colours. 

To further reinforce the children's learning, our Early Years Foundation Stage practitioners then offered a real-life learning experience that captivated the children: the children were able to watch car tyres being changed, use a jack to lift the car off the ground, loosen and tighten the bolts on the wheels, change the tyre on the wheel from winter to summer, deflate and re-inflate. The children were even allowed to help tighten some of the bolts themselves. 

To embed what they have learned in the classroom, our Early Years Foundation Stage teachers will then use these experiences as a talking point in the classroom and act them out in role play. 

Recently, our resident chef, Robert Meyer, visited our Foundation Stage 2 children in their French class, and together they prepared and baked tartes aux pommes. This lesson tied in with the children's interest in apples, which they had been exploring all week, while the apple orchards around our building are bursting with them. Our French and English teachers work closely together to create tangible links between the children's learning in both languages, helping them to expand their vocabulary and learn in context to accelerate language acquisition.