Physical, social and emotional development, also known as PSED, is one of the key areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. Gaining self-confidence and self-awareness, learning to manage feelings and behaviour and building relationships and friendships are all part of PSED. While some of these skills will come naturally to young children, others will need some encouragement and guidance from parents and teachers.
Play time provides the perfect environment for children to practise the skills that are involved in PSED. Research has shown that the outdoors can be a more relaxing learning environment for children and may encourage quieter children to speak more. Through using the right outdoor play equipment, schools and nurseries can create an environment that promotes PSED without children needing direct instructions from a teacher.
Sand Pits, Waterways and Mud Kitchens
Sensory based play opportunities give children the freedom to get hands on and a little bit messy, allowing children to have fun and feel comfortable. These play spaces are ideal for learning how to share and take turns, which are important elements of PSED. Children may need to share buckets and spades in order to build sandcastles, work together in order to get water flowing and not spilling out with waterways, and take turns mixing mud in a kitchen. As well as sharing and turn taking, children will need to work together in order to achieve play-oriented goals and negotiate the space so that everyone is able to participate in the play.
Dens, Tree Houses, Play Houses and Home Corners
Role play is another great way for children to develop social skills and emotional understanding. Creating smaller social spaces by providing dens, tree houses, play houses or home corners in the playground can make children feel more comfortable expressing their emotions and learning through pretend play. These learning environments promote role play as they set the scene for children to imagine they are a family at home, doctors in a hospital, kings and queens in a castle, and anything else that they can conjure up! By ‘putting themselves in someone else’s shoes’ they are taking on different roles, playing out relationships and developing an understanding of how others feel.
Performance Stages and Amphitheatres
As children gain confidence, performance stages and amphitheatres can be excellent playground resources. These encourage children to role play in a more public and open way, and also support the part of the curriculum dedicated to expressive arts and drama. Getting up on stage and acting, singing, dancing or even just playing gets children physically active, working on their social skills and even becoming more emotionally aware. For quieter learners, teachers can split classes into smaller groups so only a few children are using the performance area at one time, or find smaller parts for students to play if they are putting on a performance for another class or even their parents. Stages can also be used during lessons to gradually build confidence.
All schools and nurseries should look to provide their learners with playground equipment that encourages creative plays and support PSED. A well structured environment will allow children to be at the helm of their own learning without the need for constant direction from a teacher or adult.
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