Prime areas of learning: Understanding the EYFS

9th November 2015

The Three Prime areas in the EYFS are –Personal, social and emotional, communication and language and physical development. These areas are fundamental in a child’s life and if they are not achieved then the further four specific areas cannot be developed efficiently. These three areas are seen as essential ‘building blocks’ for securing these positive outcomes for young children in later life and into adulthood.

‘‘ a strong foundation in the prime areas is essential as evidence shows that, if it is not securely in place by age five, it holds children back in other areas of learning and development.’’


The new EYFS framework makes it clear that practitioners should observe and respond to each child in their care on an on-going basis. It gives a message to practitioners that there should be a focus on the prime areas for younger children, with gradual building in support in the specific areas for older children, as they develop. In all instances, the support should be appropriate to every individual child’s level of development and progress.

All the prime areas support each other and you cannot have one without the other. This is how they support development –

Personal, social and emotional development supports:

Physical development – a child who feels secure and safe is confident to expand the boundaries of exploration and is motivated to reach, move and test physical capacities.

Communication and language – within relationships that establish turn taking, joint activity, a desire to communicate and understanding of shared meanings of words.

Physical development supports:

Personal, social and emotional development – increasing physical control provides experience of the self as an active person in the environment, promoting growth in confidence and awareness of control.

Communication and language – a child who can effectively use the large movements, gestures and fine movements involved in speech is able to convey message to others.

Communication and language supports –

Personal social and emotional development – a child who can communicate feelings, needs, and ideas develops a strong sense of self and is increasingly able to relate to others in rewarding and appropriate ways.

Physical development – through describing actions (which increase conscious control) and through talk about health and the factors which influence it.

Why these are important as prime areas of development

Through development of personal, emotional and social as a prime area, children will learn positive dispositions such as empathy at an early age, so enabling them to understand their identity, form relationships and become effective members of society.

The focus on communication and language stems from continuing concerns about the many children who currently lack communication skills appropriate to their age and the difficulties that flow from this problem, including difficulties in reading and writing skills, limited concentration and listening abilities and behaviour.

The inclusion of physical development as a prime area also stems from the recognition that physical skills are important to children’s self-confidence as well as leading to the development of many essential skills, such as balancing, climbing and, eventually, page-turning or holding a pencil. Also, it is only through exercise and eating well in early life that children learn to take of themselves and learn the habits for a healthy lifestyle.

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