Example one-hour session plan 3-5 years - Debra Laxton

With thanks to  - Debra Laxton

Exemplar Early Years Plan for a Loose Parts Play Experience for 3 – 5 year olds

Note: teachers follow a planning cycle of: plan, do, review so that they learn more about how to teach members of a class group effectively.

Session Context:

This lesson will focus on a ‘planned purposeful play’ activity enabling children to actively engage in leading their own learning through an exploratory activity. The focus relates to exploring natural materials and enhancing language and communication skills by engaging in ‘talk’.

After an introduction children will be able to explore without time constraint or disruption other than the end of the session when a short plenary will allow children to reflect on their processes, learning and achievements.

Loose Parts Play (Nicholson, 1971)

A selection of natural materials (see resources below) will be available in the outside environment for children to play and explore. They will be able to fetch other resources to add to their individual play agendas as they see fit.

Links to EYFS themes

A Unique child – children choose to play and follow their own play agenda

Positive Relationships – adults will act as play partners and children will be encouraged to play cooperatively and collaboratively

Enabling Environments – emotionally safe and physically stimulating

Learning and Development – See below

Links to EYFS Characteristics of Learning (Early Education, 2012)

Playing & Exploring – Be willing to have a go – initiating activities

Active Learning - Being involved and concentrating - maintaining focus on their activity

Creating and thinking critically – Having their own ideas – finding new ways to do things

Links to EYFS Areas of Learning (DfE, 2017)

Loose parts play offers children the opportunity to learn holistically. Even though the key focuses will be personal, social and emotional and mathematical development, children are likely to learn in other ways as well:

Personal, Social and Emotional – Making relationships - Explains own knowledge and understanding, and asks appropriate questions of others.

Mathematics – Space, shape and measure - Uses familiar objects and common shapes to create and recreate patterns and build models.

Communication and Language – Speaking - Uses talk to organise, sequence and clarify thinking, ideas, feelings and events.

Understanding the World – The World - Looks closely at similarities, differences, patterns and change.

Physical – Moving and Handling - Handles tools, objects, construction and malleable materials safely and with increasing control.

Literacy – Writing - Ascribes meanings to marks that they see in different places


·         Stones/ pebbles

·         Rocks

·         Shells

·         Sticks

·         Twigs

·         Tree stumps

·         Bark

·         Logs

·         Leaves


·         Feathers

·         Fabric

·         Fir cones

·         Bottle tops

·         Sand

·         Mud

·         Soil

·         Gravel

·         Water


Organisation: Whole class or small groups:

This activity is available to all children as part of free flow play. Children are therefore able to choose whether they will be involved and for how long they engage.

Adult Role

·         Create a calm atmosphere where children feel safe to participate, cooperate and be curious.

·         Model using the resources to construct structures and patterns

·         Model key language e.g. shapes

·         Provide specific praise for collaborative working

·         Value children’s processes

·         Extend children’s thought through open questioning, making suggestions, offering resources

·         Make boundaries clear when necessary so children feel safe

·         Be an active observer – show genuine interest

·         Be a play partner and co-learner

Session Content

Teaching Points (how to perform a skill, what you want your children to know, key points to remember)





As a whole group, children will be introduced to the available natural materials by naming objects and talking about textures.

Children will be encouraged to reflect on their previous experience of ‘working’ with the materials to empower others to develop their creative thinking in relation to ways of using the materials.

Encourage children to plan how they might use the materials.

Children may choose to play alone or together.

Exploration and Construction




Be an active observer and participant.

Model using the resources in a purposeful way

Acknowledge and value children’s involvement and contributions so encouraging them to take active speaking and participatory roles.

Encourage all children to share ideas/ have a voice.

Provide provocation through pertinent, relevant additional resourcing and questioning in response to the children’s thoughts and ideas to promote creative and critical thinking.

Consider ways to help children develop their play experience and allow for sustained-shared thinking opportunities.

Make children aware of their actions and feelings sensitively and without taking control.

Model key language and use repetition of children’s speech to reaffirm.

Provide additional support as required.

Provide clear expectations of behaviour if required.



Children to be given the opportunity to review their play experience.

Use observations made to value individual participation and highlight children’s learning.

Ask children to consider ‘what next’ for their play and learning.