What a brilliant start we've made - Well done Reception!

We are very pleased with the fantastic start that our Reception children have made to their school lives and we wanted to share some of what they do with you, in order to give you an idea of what has kept them so busy between 8:50 and 3:20 each day!


As you will see from the photo gallery, learning in Reception is based around exploratory, hands-on play – which may explain why your child comes home exhausted and grubby most days! While we always encourage the children to wear aprons when engaging in messy play, we do believe that if dirty clothes and messy hair is necessary to get brains buzzing with learning and eyes sparkling with joy, then it’s worth it! However, if the extra laundry is putting a financial burden on your family, please do speak to a member of staff, in confidence, about this.

Characteristics of Effective Learning

One of the most important factors in early education is developing not just knowledge but the skills required to be a good learner – the children are learning how to learn. Here at St. Mary’s, we are very proud of the importance we place on this aspect of the children’s development. This half-term we have been focusing on ‘finding out and exploring’, ‘playing with what we know’, ‘being willing to try something new’ and ‘keeping on trying’. We use story characters to teach the children each of the characteristics of effective learners and then use these to reflect on our own learning. The children are becoming very successful at this and will tell the adults that they are “being like Zog,because they’re not giving up” or are “trying something new, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.


Our Early Years curriculum is based around 7 Areas of Learning and the Reception staff plan provocations for learning around these areas, as well as being guided by the children’s interests and passions. These Areas are:

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

This has been a key area for us as the children settle into their new school and renew Nursery friendships, as well as build new relationships with other children and teachers. 

We have enjoyed developing a sense of our new class as a family – making biscuits and party hats, to celebrate a class party with our Peacock or Flamingo friends was a lot of fun!

We have also been thinking a lot about recognising and naming our feelings as an important step in being able to regulate our emotions. We have read lots of books which associate feelings with colours, such as “My Many Coloured Days” and “The Colour Monster”, which led to us having lots of fun exploring colour. We loved making our sensory ‘calm down’ bottles – although our classrooms were covered in glitter afterwards! 

Communication and Language

The development of children’s communication and language runs through every aspect of our learning in the Early Years. As adults, we model and encourage children to speak in extended sentences, we teach children how to develop their listening and attention and, of course, we all love it when we learn a fancy new word! We also try to make sure that our indoor and outdoor learning environments give plenty of opportunities for children to develop their communication and language skills. For example, our ‘small world’ areas indoors are stocked with ambiguous resources to encourage children to devise their own storylines and our large-scale role-play resources outdoors are open-ended to allow children to use them in any way they choose, developing imaginative games together.

Physical Development

Children love to use their whole bodies in play and every day, during their outdoor learning time they have been challenging themselves to move in different ways. They have also been challenged by their teachers to run, jump, balance, throw and catch and their energy never ceases to impress! 

As well as these gross motor skills, we have also been developing our fine motor skills. This happens during the children’s independent learning time in areas such as water play (where they have to develop their control over different types of jugs, containers, sieves and droppers) and the ever-popular playdough area, where children particularly enjoy helping an adult to make different types of dough. We also all enjoy our weekly “Funky Fingers” sessions, where children are directed to a fine motor activity to ensure they are all using the essential muscles needed to develop their pencil grip.


We are happy to see that our new Reception children love books as much as the rest of us here at St. Mary’s! Books are an integral part of children’s daily experience at school, whether they are independently enjoying a book in our new ‘book nooks’, or listening to a story read by an adult as a provocation for learning. We are flooding the children with high-quality texts – in fact, we are aiming for the pile of books we read to be as tall as the children by the end of the year!

We have also been focussing on lots of large-scale mark-making, as we know that developing our big movements is essential for developing our smaller movements, as we learn to write. Favourite activities have included using stepladders to reach large, vertical pieces of paper and ‘Michaelangelo’ writing – under the tables!

In phonics, we have been doing the crucial training of our ears to discriminate between different sounds before the exciting work of linking sounds to letters starts after half-term. We have listened to different environmental sounds on a Listening Walk, we have played with and listened to different musical instruments and we have loved exploring rhyme and alliteration in lots of different ways.


We have been focussing on numbers to 5 so far this half-term, with each week dedicated to a ‘deep-dive’ on each number. While this may seem to be taking it slow, particularly for those children who can go on counting until they run out of breath, we know how vital it is to really understand, for example, the ‘threeness of three’. Taking the time for children to become completely familiar with the concepts of each number and its relationships to other numbers will prove invaluable when it comes to developing later calculation skills.

We also provide children with many chances to develop key maths concepts such as ordering, sorting and classifying throughout the learning environments, particularly through ‘loose parts’ play. This is always popular with the children – although it makes tidying up very hard work!

Understanding the World

The changing seasons have provoked lots of learning for us this half-term. We have enjoyed exploring Autumn treasures and investigating the gooey insides of pumpkins! We have mixed autumn colours and used these to print with apples and paint with conkers. We have made hedgehog hotels in the hope of attracting some hibernating hedgehogs and, of course, we have enjoyed lots of Autumn books. One of these was the inspiration for us making some Harvest soup – to mixed reviews!

Expressive Arts and Design

We have learnt a lot about mixing colours this half-term and the children, who are only provided with red, yellow and blue paint have become very good at mixing their own colours. They can even create new colours using food colouring, pipettes and slices of bread! Our Workshop Areas are always well-used, whether the children are expressing themselves creatively with collage or paint or developing their critical thinking and problem solving by trying to work out how to turn their own ideas into 3D models, using the ‘junk’ materials provided.