Early years pedagogy

What is early years pedagogy?

When we talk about pedagogy in the early years, we mean how we teach, or all the things that adults do to foster children’s learning and development.  It covers a broad range of actions and activities, as the following quote illustrates:

Teaching in the early years should not be taken to imply a “top down” or formal way of working. It is a broad term that covers the many different ways in which adults help young children learn. It includes their interactions with children during planned and child-initiated play and activities, communicating and modelling language, showing, explaining, demonstrating, exploring ideas, encouraging, questioning, recalling, providing a narrative for what they are doing, facilitating and setting challenges. It takes account of the equipment that adults provide and the attention given to the physical environment, as well as the structure and routines of the day that establish expectations. Integral to teaching is how practitioners assess what children know, understand and can do, as well as taking account of their interests and dispositions to learn (characteristics of effective learning), and how practitioners use this information to plan children’s next steps in learning and to monitor their progress.

The role of the adult is crucial, and their ability to establish positive relationships with children:

Warm, trusting relationships with knowledgeable adults support children’s learning more effectively than any amount of resources. Follow the child’s lead to the meeting of minds. Tuning in, observing and wondering come first. A knowledgeable practitioner can decide when to stand back, when to interact, and what to offer the child. Learning together with adults and with other children is important across all contexts.

Observation, assessment and planning are at the core of effective early years pedagogy.

early years pedagogy
Diagram from Realising the Ambition: Being Me (Education Scotland, 2020)

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Articles about early years pedagogy

Friedrich Froebel

Who was Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) Born on 21 April 1782 Friedrich Froebel was a German educator who invented the kindergarten. He believed that “play is

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ICT in the early years

Updated Jan 2019 Using ICT in early childhood education Analysis: computers benefit children (October 2010) by John Siraj-Blatchford in Nursery World Technology in early childhood education:

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Loose parts play

Here are some links to resources to support your play. Loose parts play tookit is such a rich and comprehensive free publication from Inspiring Scotland to

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Teaching maths in early years What does maths in the early years look like and what does it mean to teach it? Cathy Gunning explores

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Messy play

Messy play provides so many explorative and investigative experiences, which promote so many of the characteristics of effective learning.  Some easy ideas to start you

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Project handbooks

SPACE to Flourish

Find resources from our ongoing project Supporting Pedagogy, Arts and Creativity Everywhere

Outdoors and Active

Handbook from a project supporting childminders, practitioners and parents to get children outdoors and active, commissioned by London Borough of Newham from Early Education and Learning Through Landscapes.

Child-Centred Competences for Early Childhood Education and Care

An e-book produced with a group of partners across Europe, funded through the Erasmus+ programme.

Using Early Years Pupil Premium effectively

Handbook from a DfE-funded project to support effective use of Early Years Pupil Premium.

Exploring the Wider World

Handbook from a project commissioned by Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area to support practitioners in building children's understanding of the World



Welcome to our Early Education Pedagogic Podcasts (PedPods) featuring pedagogical conversations with early years leaders, teachers and trainers. All our podcasts are available to download for free.