Characteristics of Effective Learning

Parents often ask us how can I help my child? What can I do at home? So I thought I would write very simply about the Characteristics of Effective Learning (C.E.L)

Characteristics of Effective Learning is part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). It refers to self-driven learning, the skills that enable children to learn and discover for themselves. They are skills we can encourage by modelling, showing an interest in children and their ideas and through the toys and resources we use.

There are 3 areas:

  • playing and exploring
  • active learning
  • creating and thinking

As adults and parents we can support children to develop the skills to be independent, lifelong learners. By demonstrating our own interest in learning and trying new things we encourage children to ‘have a go’. By appreciating the process of their achievements and valuing the effort they put in as well as the end result we give children confidence and build their self-esteem.

When we praise children it is important to be specific, recognising their persistence, concentration or effort. We can support children by respecting their choices and ideas. It is lovely to spend time with children, playing and sharing interests. But adults should be wary of ‘taking over’ the games. Instead, allow children to take the lead. Give them time and space to extend their activities and allow the games to evolve.

Routine provides security, it builds connections and allows children to make links between different experiences. However, routine can still be flexible and flexible can be orderly.

Construction toys (Lego, stickle bricks), imaginary play (role play, dressing up, small world – cars, farm) and craft activities can all be excellent open ended activities. That means they do not necessarily have a defined finish point or set end product.



Outdoor play encourages more risk taking. Adults should support children to evaluate and calculate the risks involved in an activity.


Adults can model being a thinker, the creative process and problem solving by talking out loud and describing their actions, using phrases like “what will happen if I ….”, “how can we …..”, I wonder what will ………” “I think …….”. Model how to find out when you don’t know something; whether it’s asking someone else, looking in a book or google!