Curriculum Overview

At Little Acorns we keep the children at the centre of all the things we do.  Children’s lives are affected by the world around them; their families, community and the pre-school are all so important to them and their development.  We want to build strong relationships with parents and carers and with the local community to help build on their experiences.

We believe all children have the right to feel safe, be happy and play.  This is our aim before anything else.  To make the children feel safe, be happy and have the longest amount of time to play and therefore learn.  We strive to understand each child and give each child a ‘voice’.

Our Values:

By the time children leave us to go to school we want them to:

Have independence and be resilient learners

Be able to celebrate their individuality

Be respectful and kind

Engage in learning, their surroundings and with others

Be effective communicators

These underpin our core values:








What do these values actually mean?

Respect – At Little Acorns we aim to teach the children about respect for each other (children and adults) and for the environment around us.  We believe that we are setting the foundations of learning about boundaries, right from wrong, understanding that we are all unique, tolerance for each other’s similarities and differences.

Independence –  We have high expectations for the children when it comes to independence.  From the minute children join we encourage independence which we believe helps to build resilience and confidence.  We encourage positive thinking and problem-solving skills to allow the children to thrive.

Communication – Effective communication, in whatever form, is a life skill.  We encourage children to use their communication skills to tell us their needs and to be able to ask for help.  Communication is the key to engagement with others and with learning.

Kindness – We aim to teach the children about kindness and model that every minute. We show how kindness can build strong friendships and warm relationships. We want children to learn about helping one another and that there are many different ways of being kind.

Individuality – We teach children to embrace their uniqueness. We want to begin to teach children to understand how we are similar and different to other children.  We want children to understand that each individual responds to certain situations differently and how we can learn to cope in those situations through self-regulation. We are beginning to give children the tools to cope with and recognise big feelings.  

Engagement – Through developing creativity and using imagination we want to engage the children in their learning.  We have a love of lifelong learning and aim to teach the children this by showing that we are still learning…everyday.  We want to show children how to embrace learning to allow them to engage with their environment and the people around them.

All early year’s settings follow the document Early Years Foundation Stage (2021) which sets out the learning and development, the assessment and the safeguarding and welfare requirements we must provide for the children in our care.  For the purpose of this document, we will be focussing on the learning and development sections.

In the diagram below the EYFS is shown by the three outer rings. The smallest being the characteristics of effective learning, then the prime areas and then finally the specific areas of learning.  Bringing it all together with Little Acorns values and beliefs, the diagram below shows how we at Little Acorns believe there are many layers to the development of children’s learning.  Whilst children would be able to make progress in the outer rings without the firm foundations of the inner rings, that progress would not be as great.  By working together as a team with the family and the local community to make children feel happy, safe and have the opportunity to play, by instilling the values of respect, independence, communication, kindness, individuality and engagement and by understanding that children learn in different ways, we believe this allows the children to access their learning at the highest possible level.

Educational Programmes

The following sections are directly from the EYFS (2021) and can be found at Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (

Communication and Language

The development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development. Children’s back-and-forth interactions from an early age form the foundations for language and cognitive development. The number and quality of the conversations they have with adults and peers throughout the day in a language-rich environment is crucial. By commenting on what children are interested in or doing, and echoing back what they say with new vocabulary added, practitioners will build children’s language effectively. Reading frequently to children, and engaging them actively in stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems, and then providing them with extensive opportunities to use and embed new words in a range of contexts, will give children the opportunity to thrive. Through conversation, story-telling and role play, where children share their ideas with support and modelling from their teacher, and sensitive questioning that invites them to elaborate, children become comfortable using a rich range of vocabulary and language structures.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Children’s personal, social and emotional development (PSED) is crucial for children to lead healthy and happy lives, and is fundamental to their cognitive development. Underpinning their personal development are the important attachments that shape their social world. Strong, warm and supportive relationships with adults enable children to learn how to understand their own feelings and those of others. Children should be supported to manage emotions, develop a positive sense of self, set themselves simple goals, have confidence in their own abilities, to persist and wait for what they want and direct attention as necessary. Through adult modelling and guidance, they will learn how to look after their bodies, including healthy eating, and manage personal needs independently. Through supported interaction with other children, they learn how to make good friendships, co-operate and resolve conflicts peaceably. These attributes will provide a secure platform from which children can achieve at school and in later life.

Physical Development

Physical activity is vital in children’s all-round development, enabling them to pursue happy, healthy and active lives. Gross and fine motor experiences develop incrementally throughout early childhood, starting with sensory explorations and the development of a child’s strength, co-ordination and positional awareness through tummy time, crawling and play movement with both objects and adults. By creating games and providing opportunities for play both indoors and outdoors, adults can support children to develop their core strength, stability, balance, spatial awareness, co-ordination and agility. Gross motor skills provide the foundation for developing healthy bodies and social and emotional well-being. Fine motor control and precision helps with hand-eye co-ordination, which is later linked to early literacy. Repeated and varied opportunities to explore and play with small world activities, puzzles, arts and crafts and the practice of using small tools, with feedback and support from adults, allow children to develop proficiency, control and confidence.


It is crucial for children to develop a life-long love of reading. Reading consists of two dimensions: language comprehension and word reading. Language comprehension (necessary for both reading and writing) starts from birth. It only develops when adults talk with children about the world around them and the books (stories and non-fiction) they read with them, and enjoy rhymes, poems and songs together. Skilled word reading, taught later, involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing).


Developing a strong grounding in number is essential so that all children develop the necessary building blocks to excel mathematically. Children should be able to count confidently, develop a deep understanding of the numbers to 10, the relationships between them and the patterns within those numbers. By providing frequent and varied opportunities to build and apply this understanding – such as using manipulatives, including small pebbles and tens frames for organising counting – children will develop a secure base of knowledge and vocabulary from which mastery of mathematics is built. In addition, it is important that the curriculum includes rich opportunities for children to develop their spatial reasoning skills across all areas of mathematics including shape, space and measures. It is important that children develop positive attitudes and interests in mathematics, look for patterns and relationships, spot connections, ‘have a go’, talk to adults and peers about what they notice and not be afraid to make mistakes.

Understanding the World

Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community. The frequency and range of children’s personal experiences increases their knowledge and sense of the world around them – from visiting parks, libraries and museums to meeting important members of society such as police officers, nurses and firefighters. In addition, listening to a broad selection of stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems will foster their understanding of our culturally, socially, technologically and ecologically diverse world. As well as building important knowledge, this extends their familiarity with words that support understanding across domains. Enriching and widening children’s vocabulary will support later reading comprehension.

Expressive Art and Design

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.

What this looks like at Little Acorns

Communication and Language

Communication and language cover such a vast range of skills. It is about developing listening, attention, understanding and speaking skills and is the heart of learning. From the minute a child joins our setting, practitioners are tuning into that child to see how they communicate for example through body language, physical action and verbal skills. Practitioners skilfully develop children’s communication and language skills by modelling conversations, introducing new vocabulary, commentating on what children are doing, asking sensitive thought-provoking questions, reading stories, singing nursery rhymes and songs, encouraging role play and providing a language rich environment.  We ensure that snack and mealtimes are social situations where conversation is encouraged. We encourage parents to talk to their children and help with this through parent information evenings, home learning ideas and gathering information, for example, before a child’s focus period.  We have a book lending library and encourage parents and carers to let their children choose books to share at home. We believe that talking with children and having authentic conversations with them is incredibly important because it doesn’t just build communication skills; it also develops self-esteem and self-worth.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Each child is unique and personal, social and emotional development to us at Little Acorns is about understanding that this is a wonderful thing.  It is about children understanding that the child next to you might like trains too, but they also like to eat oranges, which you hate, and realising this is O.K.  It is about learning that you will get a turn with that toy that you are desperate to play with and learning to wait. It is about building resilience, making mistakes, and learning to keep trying at something you can’t do…yet! It is about learning about yourself, both physically and emotionally. Practitioners, with the help of RICKIE, help children learn about their feelings, those of others and how to begin to cope with those feelings. Through using Zones of Regulation children learn that there are no negative feelings, that all feelings are normal, but it is how we respond to these feelings that is important.  Kindness to everyone is encouraged using the ‘Kindness Bucket’ method (based on the story ‘Have you filled a bucket today by Carol McCloud) which also encourages a partnership between pre-school and home. We help children make friends and teach them how to remain friends. We use conflict resolution skills to help children resolve conflict with support at first but with an aim of them managing this process independently. By practitioners building good relationships with children, listening to them, being consistent, fair and tuning into them we build their confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.  Parents and carers are a large part of this journey too.  Key people will build a relationship with parents and carers with an aim of learning more about the child and the world they live in.  The more we know the more we can work together to develop the children’s skills at whichever stage they are at.

Physical development

At Little Acorns, we have a huge variety of equipment and resources to develop physical skills, both gross and fine, inside and outside and across the full age range.  Children have access to these resources and equipment for a large proportion of the sessions as the sessions are free flowing.  Children are encouraged to play outside in all weathers, as there are different learning experiences created by all seasons. Children can design and build obstacle courses and dens (among other things), developing strength, co-ordination and balance alongside developing problem solving skills and the ability to work as part of a team.  Practitioners play games such as ‘What’s the time Mr. Wolf’, parachute games or aiming at targets which develop mathematical skill as well as the obvious physical ones. Yoga movements are developed with the children linking physical to wellbeing and personal, social and emotional development. We aim to make physical activity fun and available so that developing these skills becomes part of their daily lives. Practitioners at Little Acorns understand that gross and fine motor skills are closely linked. Developing those large muscle groups helps when we get to the fine motor development. Children have access to a wide variety of resources that develop fine motor skills from puzzles to arts and crafts.  We have a woodwork table where children design, plan and build their designs available as an enhancement.


Little Acorns has books everywhere!  Children always have access to fiction and non-fiction books and they are encouraged to listen to, re-tell, act out or simply enjoy.  Practitioners extend children’s vocabulary depending on their stage of development. As mentioned in the Communication and Language section above, reading stories, singing nursery rhyme and songs, role play etc all help with developing literacy skills. We have a set of 15 core texts from traditional tales and old favourites, such as 3 little pigs and We’re all going on a bear hunt, to more contemporary texts such as Oi Frog and My Family. These are read and discussed with the children more regularly and are always available to the children. It is this repetition that helps with language development, comprehension, and early sentence/story structure. 

Phonological awareness is something practitioners know is very important to early reading skills.  We follow a singing phonics programme and engage the children with Phase 1 activities from Letters and Sounds.  If the children, ask we help them to discover individual phonemes and/or oral blending and segmenting.

Children are exposed to and have the resources available to participate in writing as soon as they join the setting.  Writing is modelled by practitioners as it is important children see adults writing so they are able to copy.  We have various writing implements with paper on clipboards and pencils in all areas of the pre-school. We have a small role play office outside of the main office as children want to copy what we do inside!  To build confidence in mark making we provide resources and activities inside and out for example chalks, paints, water and paint brushes, whiteboards etc to give them the opportunity to develop these important early writing skills.

From early in their time at pre-school we introduce the children to their names in written form to ensure there is an awareness of the unchanging nature of the letters in words.  Due to this most children leave pre-school being able recognise their written name with some being able to write it and others represent their name with marks.  


At Little Acorns, we believe that maths is all around us and so we model, discuss and encourage the children to explore the mathematical world right from the beginning of their educational journey.  Practitioners understand having a positive relationship with maths is important for future learning and we work hard to provide an environment where children can access resources that will help them develop these skills.  Mathematical vocabulary is developed through activities and conversation in all areas of preschool rather than in a traditional ‘maths area’.  Children will be encouraged to have a go and develop resilience while exploring using trial and error.  They will learn to count, understand that a number e.g. 5 means 5 in all situations, notice patterns, make, use and identify shapes, identify connections between different areas of learning and in the community in partnership with home.  Stories, nursery rhymes and song will be used to develop mathematical skills. Spatial reasoning has strong links with physical development and communication and language. It is about understanding how an object moves in relation to its space.

Understanding the World

Children find our world fascinating and we aim to build and develop this curiosity. We will introduce new objects or items that they haven’t seen before to spark interest and develop a whole new set of vocabulary for example a ukulele, or a plant/flower, or a shell.  We encourage regular visitors to the setting such as parents, grandparents, the librarian, and teachers from local schools. We often visit the school and use the school grounds to play and learn. We organise trips to the local park and post box and once a year a larger trip to an activity centre or farm. Practitioners know the children and families well and therefore we can tailor visitors or visits to their interests. For example, we have had a visit from Zoo Lab due to the fascination of a large number of children in reptiles.  We celebrate events from practitioners and families lives and cultures for example, Lunar New Year, Diwali and Eid.  Minibeast hunts, pond dipping, frog spawn, caterpillars and planting all help to develop interest in the natural world and changes over time.  We often discuss the past and present with the children through photographs, for example, looking at photos of when they were babies or looking at pictures sent in for a focus meeting/learning journeys from last term.

Expressive Arts and Design

Developing children’s imagination and creativity is very important to us at Little Acorns and is developed throughout the pre-school. Children have access to resources to be able to develop these skills at all times. This area of the curriculum is not just about making and creating artwork.  It is about all areas of the arts; music, drama, craft, design, dance.  We provide different materials for the children to create with from card and paper to clay and wood.  We purposely have open ended resources to allow children to use something as anything they wish from retelling favourite stories on the stage to a tea party role play in the kitchen. We have chosen not to have dressing up costumes that are only one character but provide materials of various colours and sizes for children to create their own. The children sing nursery rhymes and songs and make music, listening to a growing variety of music. For some children this will be immersing themselves in sensory play while for others it might be acting out a narrative with small world figures.  Practitioners work carefully with children to understand what it is they want to play and help to create that with them, supporting and developing skills as they play. We aim to introduce new techniques and materials regularly to ensure we are offering a wide and varied experience.  We encourage children to evaluate their creations and comment on what they would do differently next time.


Technology is all around us and there is a lot of research out there about screen time and how much children should or shouldn’t have.  We believe that balance is important in all our lives and not becoming too attached!  We have adult iPads for recording observations of the children and taking photographs, but we are not on them all the time.  Our interactions with children are too important to be behind a screen.  We allow the children to use these iPads, under adult supervision, and use this time to teach important messages about online safety…in an age-appropriate way and as a teaching tool. For example one child might have an interest in a steam train and another wants to see a picture or to find a recipe for dairy free cakes etc.  Children also have access to a computer with a mouse (as schools still widely use computers with mice) but time on this is limited to 10 minutes per child per session.  We use technology in various ways for example listening to music, stories and nursery rhymes but emphasis is placed on the adults reading and singing with children rather than using the technology. 

However, technology is not just about iPads, computers and screen time!  It covers things such as household items e.g. kettles and kitchen equipment, hoovers, woodwork tools and scissors, to remote control cars, walkie talkies or phones, to cameras and

How we deliver our curriculum

Little Acorns believes that children should be given the opportunity to make choices and decisions about their likes and dislikes, what they play with and how they learn.  We believe that in giving children this autonomy means that the most learning occurs.  We have drawn largely from Anna Ephgraves ‘Planning in the Moment’ which means we do not forward plan set activities but are led by the children and their interests.  However, we also provide provocations for children to spark interest and curiosity.  The vast majority of the play is child led but there will also be adult led activities introducing the children to new skills and ideas.   At the heart of what we do is the children.  Going back to the beginning of this document and the circle diagram; the child is at the centre. We want them to be happy, feel safe and have the longest available time to play.  We make choices about the environment and curriculum based on their needs and interests.  No two years will look the same.


We assess how young children are learning and developing by observing them. We use information that we gain from observations of the children, to understand their progress and where this may be leading them.  We believe that parents know their children best and we will ask you to contribute to assessment by sharing information about what your child likes to do at home and how you, as parents, are supporting development.

We may make periodic assessment summaries or focus periods of children’s achievement based on our on-going observations.  These help us to build a picture of a chil’s progress during their time with us and form part of their learning journey’s. We undertake focus periods every term (at regular intervals).

The progress check at age two

The EYFS requires that we supply parents or carers with a short-written summary of their child’s development in the three prime areas of learning and development – personal social and emotional development, physical development and communication and language – when a child is between 24 and 36 months old.  Your child’s key person is responsible for completing this check using information from on-going observations carried out as part of our everyday practice, taking account of the views and contributions of parents and other professionals.

Learning Journey

We keep a learning journey for each child on our pre-school management software, Famly.  Your child’s learning journey helps us to celebrate together their achievements and work to gether to provide what your child needs for their well-being and to make progress.

Your child’s key person will work in partnership with other practitioners and yourselves to keep this record. To do this you and your child’s key person will collect information about your child’s needs, activities, interests and achievements.  This information will enable the key person to identify your child’s progress.  Together, we will then decide on how to further support your child’s learning and development.


Our staff can explain our policies and procedures to you.  Copies of all policies are on our website

Our policies help us to make sure that the service we provide is of high quality and that being a member of the setting is an enjoyable and beneficial experience for each child and their parents.

Our staff and parents work together to adopt the policies and they all have the opportunity to take part in the annual review of the policies.  This helps us to make sure that the policies are enabling our setting to provide a quality service for its members and the local community.

Special educational needs

To make sure that our provision meets the needs of each individual child, we take account of any special educational needs a child may have.  We work to the requirements of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years (2015).

Our Special Educational Needs and Disability Co-ordinator is Jo Logan.

The management of our setting

Our setting is a charity and as such is managed by a volunteer management committee – whose members are elected by the parents of the children who attend our setting.  The elections take place at our AGM (Annual General Meeting).  The committee make up the registered person with Ofsted and are responsible for:

  • Managing our finances
  • Employing and managing our staff
  • Making sure that we have, and work to, policies that help us provide a high-quality service
  • Making sure that we work in partnership with parents

The AGM  is open to parents of all the children who attend our setting.  It is our shared forum for looking back over the previous year’s activities and shaping the coming years plan.