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Early Learning and Development: Expressive Arts and Design

Updated: May 31, 2023

We're back again with another focus on the EYFS as part of our wider series sharing insights into these milestone moments, and how we as parents can help our littles along their journey.

Today we're looking at Expressive Arts and Design!

The Expressive Arts and Design area of the EYFS is all about exploring and using different media and materials to express ourselves creatively and imaginatively. As well as being great for building a strong foundation for (unsurprisingly...) creativity, imagination and self-expression, it's also a key element in communication, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

So let's have a look at some top tips on how we can support our littles on their creative learning journeys...


0-11 months

  • Make a mess together with different materials and items!

8-20 months

  • Let your little use their hands and feet to explore the marks they can make with paint or to make items change, like popping bubbles

  • Make sock puppets together to move to music and songs

  • Encourage them to tap and clap along to their favourite songs (perhaps alongside those sock puppets!)

  • Place big sheets of paper or plastic on the floor to faciliate making a mess - baby sensory classes are a great way to support this activity if you don't have the space at home!

16-26 months

  • Get some ribbons or scarves for your little one to use as they move and dance, to explore the different shapes and sounds they can make

  • Listen to a variety of sounds and music together, and discuss them - what do they sound and feel like, do they have any favourites, how are they different?

  • Have a wide range of materials and sensory experiences available which help with exploration of colour, texture and sounds (again, baby sensory classes can be a great outlet for this, as well as a social opportunity!)

22-36 months

  • Explore the different sounds you can make together using everyday household items like spoons, pots and plastic bowls

  • Choose and celebrate interesting materials and resources, such as textured wall coverings and raffia, to continue building this exploration

30-50 months

  • Let them mix up colours with paints, and discuss why and how they change

  • Introduce vocabulary to enable them to talk about their observations, such as smooth / shiny / rough / prickly

  • Make suggestions and ask questions to extend ideas of what is possible, such as "I wonder what would happen if...?"

40-60+ months

  • Make believe and act out stories which encourage imagination, like Going on a Bear Hunt

  • Sing and dance together!

  • Encourage your littles to notice what happens to different materials and media when they're treated in different ways.


0-11 months

  • Speak to your baby about your day, activities and interests - the more words they hear, the better!

8-20 months

  • Provide a range of items to be explored such as scarves, boxes, rattles and (safe) mirrors

16-26 months

  • Offer soapy water to wash toys, and create a scenario to play through together

  • Show genuine interest - and be willing to play along! - as they make up scenarios and stories

22-26 months

  • Encourage dressing up so they pretend to be other people

  • Observe make-believe scenarios for themes and interests so you can fully engage and encourage

  • Speak in a variety of tones during pretend play, and encourage your little one to try too

30-50 months

  • Use toys and items in the house to make up stories together

  • Offer story stimulus to encourage more events and imagination - “This bear has arrived in the post. He has a letter pinned to his jacket. It says ‘Please look after this bear.’ We should look after him in our room. How can we do that?.”

40-60+ months

  • Help them to gain more confidence in the way they represent their ideas by actively listening and responding

  • Create new imaginery worlds and secnarios which you can explore together.

Early learning

Ready to get started on your own Onoco learning journey? We have over 460 milestones available to celebrate, broken down into age appropriate categories, each with their own hints and tips similar to those we’ve listed here…

You can even get those tips delivered directly to your profile with Onoco Premium.

Better yet, when you’re marking off your milestones, you can add photos to share with your connected family accounts so everyone can get involved in the celebrations!


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