Nurture, Cherish, Succeed

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Cranborne Road, Newbold, Chesterfield, S41 8PF

01246 232370

Nurture, Cherish, Succeed

Nurture, Cherish, Succeed

  1. About Us
  2. EYFS
  3. EYFS Areas of Learning
  4. Expressive art and design

Art and design in the early years 

In the Early Years Foundation Stage, expressive arts and design is broken down into two aspects:

  • Creating with materials 
  • Being imaginative and expressive 

The development of children’s artistic and cultural awareness supports their imagination and creativity. It is important that children have regular opportunities to engage with the arts, enabling them to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials. The quality and variety of what children see, hear and participate in is crucial for developing their understanding, self-expression, vocabulary and ability to communicate through the arts. The frequency, repetition and depth of their experiences are fundamental to their progress in interpreting and appreciating what they hear, respond to and observe.


3 and 4-year-olds will be learning to:


  • Explore different materials freely, to develop their ideas about how to use them and what to make.
  • Develop their own ideas and then decide which materials to use to express them.
  • Join different materials and explore different textures.
  • Create closed shapes with continuous lines and begin to use these shapes to represent objects.
  • Draw with increasing complexity and detail, such as representing a face with a circle and including details.
  • Use drawing to represent ideas like movement or loud noises.
  • Explore colour and colour mixing.
  • Show different emotions in their drawings – happiness, sadness, fear, etc.


Children in reception will be learning to: 


  • Explore, use and refine a variety of artistic effects to express their ideas and feelings.
  • Return to and build on their previous learning, refining ideas and developing their ability to represent them.
  • Create collaboratively, sharing ideas, resources and skills. 
  • Develop storylines in their pretend play.

Early learning goals  

Creating with Materials

Children at the expected level of development will:

  • Safely use and explore a variety of materials, tools and techniques, experimenting with colour, design, texture, form and function;
  • Share their creations, explaining the process they have used;
  • Make use of props and materials when role playing characters in narratives and stories.

Being Imaginative and Expressive

Children at the expected level of development will:

  • Invent, adapt and recount narratives and stories with peers and their teacher;
  • Sing a range of well-known nursery rhymes and songs; Perform songs, rhymes, poems and stories with others, and – when appropriate – try to move in time with music

Expressive arts and design progression 

Creativity plays a significant role in thinking and understanding across all seven areas of learning. If children’s thoughts and feelings are sought and valued and they are encouraged to decide for themselves how best to represent their ideas, explore possibilities, make new connections and solve problems, they are developing the skills for life-long learning and confidence in themselves, both as thinkers and as learners. The characteristics of effective learning are essential in supporting learning and development in Expressive Arts and Design, empowering children to see themselves as capable, competent and creative learners. 

To be creative and explore, children need to feel emotionally secure so that they have the confidence to take risks. We support our children by encouraging them to explore and experience a broad, rich range of materials, media, music, stories, technology and design.


What expressive arts means for our children


Developing this area of learning enables children to:

  • experiment with inspiring and accessible media and tools
  • have the freedom to make a mess and mix materials
  • have space to create individually and collaboratively
  • have places for display/labelling or opportunities for taking work home 
  • have opportunities to make choices
  • have the right help at the right time; ensure children are given sensitive and appropriate help when they ask or are struggling
  • be supported to develop mastery in a range of skills, techniques and safety rules
  • have the vocabulary of feelings and opportunities to take part in activities that allow them to express their own feelings and emotions
  • have opportunities to talk about and evaluate their own achievements.



Nursery have the opportunity to mark make inside and outside – with a variety of tools on a very large scale.  

Nursery use loose parts to create transient art. Transient art or loose parts play is the creative experience of placing open- ended resources together on a surface. As part of transient art or loose parts play children will explore shape, space, pattern, positioning, colour, texture and overlapping.

Nursery explore sensory, messy play using large rollers, finger painting, sensory paints (mixed with sand/porridge etc) large scale printing for example using thick handled brushes, hands/fingers, with objects, stamps  and vehicles.

Nursery use smaller finger movements, they are beginning to develop and use the pincer grip for emergent drawing. Nursery use a variety of tools for example,  knifes and dough cutters in the playdough area.
Nursery explore role  play and blocks play, they add small world 
vehicles, people or animals to build for purpose. 


Nursery use  scissors and glue  to create a collage or junk model using: paper plates straws, lolly sticks, big and small paper.  

Last update: 2024-06-19