Working with children from birth to three

The first three years of life are a period of incredible growth in all areas of a baby’s development

Learn how the earliest relationships with caregivers can promote healthy brain development, how young children build social and emotional skills, and ways you can support language and literacy development starting from birth.

Every child deserves an equal opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life, and with the right kind of early intervention, there is every opportunity for secure relationships to be developed.

The period between pregnancy and 3 years is increasingly seen as a critical period in shaping children’s life chances, based on evidence of brain formation, communication and language development, and the impact of relationships formed during this period on mental health.

The first 1001 days from conception to age two

This is a period of rapid growth. During this time, babies’ growing brains are shaped by their experiences, particularly the interactions that they have with their parents and other caregivers. What happens during this time lays the foundations for future development.

Therefore, investing in the first 1001 days is a wonderful way to give children the best start in life and to invest in their future. Healthy development in the first 1001 days is linked to improved mental and physical health, reductions in risk and antisocial behaviour, and achievement at school and beyond.

The EYFS Progress Check at Age Two

 The Early Years Foundation Stage (2021) requires that practitioners must review children’s progress, and provide parents and/or carers with a short written summary of their child’s development in the prime areas: communication and language, Personal, Social and Emotional Development, and Physical Development and. In Oxfordshire, practitioners are advised to carry out the progress check when a child is aged between 2½ - 3.

 The EYFS Progress Check at Age Two will help you to make an accurate assessment of children’s development, health and wellbeing. This involves working closely with parents and other professionals involved in the child’s life. After completing the progress check at age two, parents and practitioners can take appropriate actions in the best interests of the child. It will also reduce unnecessary workload. Practitioners do not need to spend a long time away from the children to complete the check.

 The progress check at age two has three main purposes:

  1. Partnership with Parents: While practitioners and other professionals can support children’s development and well-being individually, they can achieve so much more by working together.
  2. Action for every child:  Writing down observations and sharing reports do not help children.  Practitioners need to listen to the child, talk with each other and then plan together.  Working together makes a difference.
  3. Early identification: Some children need extra help for a while as they grow and develop – for example, with their communication. Other children may have long-term developmental needs. Some families may struggle and need support. Whatever the circumstances, sensitive early intervention can make a big difference. Children develop rapidly between the ages of two and three – practitioners need to be quick to support and identify help where it is needed.

There is no prescribed format for the EYFS progress check at age two summary. Each setting can decide on its own progress check format, but as a minimum, it must include a short written summary of the child's development in the prime areas; the summary must identify the child's strengths and areas for improvement. There is an example format in the appendices.

The DfE has also published a vodcast to explain the new guidance to early years practitioners and a blog that highlights why the progress check is important now, more than ever as we support children to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Linking with your health visiting team and find out more about how they do the health and development review

The importance of play

Play underpins learning and all aspects of children’s development. Through play, children develop language skills, their emotions and creativity, social and intellectual skills. For most children their play is natural and spontaneous, although some children may need extra help from adults. Play takes place indoors and outdoors and it is in these different environments that children explore and discover their immediate world. It is here they practice new ideas and skills, they take risks, show imagination and solve problems on their own or with others. The role that adults have is crucial, adults are to provide time and space and appropriate resources; they value play and provide safe but challenging environments that support and extend learning and development.

Learning through play: Birth to three

For young babies play begins in their first encounter in the womb with their mother’s hand touching the place where they have just kicked her stomach or when she sings or talks to them. A mother’s voice before the baby’s birth and her face, touch and gestures when the baby is born all play a part in creating emotional warmth and interaction which lead to play and learning for babies.
Babies and young children love to play with anything from their fingers and toes, to their toys, as well as with sounds and with adults and children. When young children play they learn at the same time, so play is a very important way for children to learn.

When babies play, their whole bodies are involved in reaching, grasping, rolling and touching things.  As they become more mobile and they gain control over their bodies babies enjoy putting things together such as piling blocks on top of one another or banging balls together, or filling and emptying containers.

Two-year old’s love to pretend, basing their play on imitating things they have seen you, or other people do, like vacuuming, talking on the telephone or playing a trumpet. When they play like this they don’t always need the real thing, as they will make do with anything that they can adapt to their pretend play. By the time they are moving towards their third birthday children begin to play with others more, and increasingly enjoy playing with other children.

Babies and young children also enjoy looking at books, listening to stories and rhymes and joining in with songs. As they hear and join in with stories, songs and rhymes and look at  books, young children become familiar with different sounds and words, and they begin to anticipate events.

Early development and well-being

The Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory framework.

The EYFS sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. It promotes teaching and learning to ensure children’s ‘school readiness’ and gives children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life.

The Foundation Years website has other useful information and guidance

Development matters

Children develop quickly in the early years, and early years practitioners aim to do all they can to help children have the best possible start in life. Children have a right, spelled out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to provision which enables them to develop their personalities, talents and abilities irrespective of ethnicity, culture or religion, home language, family background, learning difficulties, disabilities or gender. Development Matters guidance helps adults to understand and support each individual child’s development pathway.

Unique child

In Oxfordshire, the two assessments at age 2 are complementary and equally important. They provide parents with a more complete picture of their child’s development while conveying the importance of early identification of needs and provision of support to ensure children’s health and good level of development

Positive relationships

Enabling environment

Learning and development



Personal social and emotional development (PSED)

Reflective practice

Evaluation tools

Training/Reflective practice

Children’s well-being


Leadership and management

Other useful links