Your child's learning and development

A guide to how your child will learn and develop during their first five years.

Last updated: 20 October 2023

Next review: 20 October 2024

children playing with toys

The first five years of a child's life are not only very exciting but also deeply important. A child’s experiences during these years shapes their future health, happiness, growth, development and learning achievement at school, in the family and community, and in life in general.

A parent / carer’s guide, ‘What to expect when?' (PDF) is a booklet that has been designed to help parents / carers find out more about how their child learns and develops during their first five years. Children develop more rapidly during the first five years of their lives than at any other time.

This booklet has been written to help parents / carers know what to expect during these vitally important years, by focusing on the seven areas of learning and development, which are covered in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

The Early Years Foundation Stage is a play-based framework for all children aged 0-5. The framework also focuses on the Characteristics of Effective learning, these are how children learn:

The 7 key areas of learning

Prime areas

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Physical Development
  • Communication and Language

Specific areas

  • Literacy (including phonics)
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design

The booklet is also conveniently divided up into 6 age ranges, so it is easy to follow:

Age ranges:

  • Birth to 11 months
  • 8 to 20 months
  • 16 to 26 months
  • 22 to 36 months
  • 30 to 50 months
  • 40 to 60 months

To find out more, simply:

Building your child’s brain 0-5

Between the ages of 0-5 children are learning rapidly and trying to make sense of the world around them, 80% of a child’s brain growth and development happens during the first three years of their life, your child’s brain will never again grow as rapidly! The experiences your child has during the first three years of life shapes how they see the world. 

The Importance of Play

Play is very important to a child's development - it supports their learning and emotional development.  Young children can develop many skills when playing and engaging in playful experiences.  They will develop their language skills, emotions, creativity and social skills.

Early Education and Childcare Providers

Sending your child to an early education / childcare provider is one of the biggest steps you will have to make as a parent / carer. It can be a very sensitive time. Being in a childcare setting can have a positive and long-term impact on your child’s capabilities, progress and social development.

Further information and recommended reading: