Early Years Foundation Stage

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets standards for the learning, development and care of your child from birth to 5 years old.  All English schools and Ofsted-registered early years providers must follow the EYFS, including childminders, preschools, nurseries and school reception classes.
Below are a selection of statements that link to reading and writing skills. You can find more detailed information and the rest of the statements in the Early Years Outcomes guidance. Each band overlaps to take into account the fact that children develop at their own rate and in their own ways. The statements should be used to help make best-fit judgements about whether a child is showing typical development for their age and to idenify their next steps. 

Physical Development - Moving & Handling

8-20 months

  • Picks up small objects between thumb and fingers.

  • Enjoys the sensory experience of making marks in damp sand, paste or paint.

  • Holds pen or crayon using a whole hand (palmar) grasp and makes random marks with different strokes.

16-26 months

  • Beginning to balance blocks to build a small tower.

  • Makes connections between their movement and the marks they make.

22-36 months

  • Turns pages in a book, sometimes several at once.

  • Shows control in holding and using jugs to pour, hammers, books and mark-making tools.

  • Beginning to use three fingers (tripod grip) to hold writing tools.

  • Imitates drawing simple shapes such as circles and lines.

  • May be beginning to show preference for dominant hand.

30-50 months

  • Draws lines and circles using gross motor movements.

  • Uses one-handed tools and equipment, e.g. makes snips in paper with child scissors.

  • Holds pencil between thumb and two fingers, no longer using whole-hand grasp.

  • Holds pencil near point between first two fingers and thumb and uses it with good control.


  • Can copy some letters, e.g. letters from their name

40-60+ months

  • Handles tools, objects, construction and malleable materials safely and with increasing control.


  • Shows a preference for a dominant hand.

  • Begins to use anticlockwise movement and retrace vertical lines.


  • Begins to form recognisable letters.

  • Uses a pencil and holds it effectively to form recognisable letters, most of which are correctly formed.

Early Learning Goal

(End of Reception)

Children show good control and co-ordination in large and small movements. They move confidently in a range of ways, safely negotiating space. They handle equipment and tools effectively, including pencils for writing.


Children can hop confidently and skip in time to music. They hold wpaper in position and use their preferred hand for writing, using a correct pencil grip. They are beginning to be able to write on lines and control letter size.

Literacy - Reading

8-20 months

  • Handles books and printed material with interest.

16-26 months

  • Interested in books and rhymes and may have favourites.

22-36 months

  • Has some favourite stories, rhymes, songs, poems or jingles.

  • Repeats words or phrases from familiar stories.


  • Fills in the missing word or phrase in a known rhyme, story or game, e.g. ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a …’.

30-50 months

  • Enjoys rhyming and rhythmic activities.

  • Shows awareness of rhyme and alliteration.

  • Recognises rhythm in spoken words.

  • Listens to and joins in with stories and poems, one-to-one and also in small groups.

  • Joins in with repeated refrains and anticipates key events and phrases in rhymes and stories.

  • Beginning to be aware of the way stories are structured.

  • Suggests how the story might end. 

  • Listens to stories with increasing attention and recall.

  • Describes main story settings, events and principal characters.

  • Shows interest in illustrations and print in books and print in the environment.

  • Recognises familiar words and signs such as own name and advertising logos.

  • Looks at books independently.

  • Handles books carefully.

  • Knows information can be relayed in the form of print.

  • Holds books the correct way up and turns pages.

  • Knows that print carries meaning and, in English, is read from left to right and top to bottom.

40-60+ months

  • Continues a rhyming string.


  • Hears and says the initial sound in words.

  • Can segment the sounds in simple words and blend them together and knows which letters represent some of them.

  • Links sounds to letters, naming and sounding the letters of the alphabet.


  • Begins to read words and simple sentences.

  • Uses vocabulary and forms of speech that are increasingly influenced by their experiences of books.

  • Enjoys an increasing range of books.


  • Knows that information can be retrieved from books and computers.

Early Learning Goal

(End of Reception)

Children read and understand simple sentences. They use phonic knowledge to decode regular words and read them aloud accurately. They also read some common irregular words. They demonstrate understanding when talking with others about what they have read.


Children can read phonically regular words of more than 1 syllable as well as many irregular but high-frequency words. They use phonic, semantic and syntactic knowledge to understand unfamiliar vocabulary. They can describe the main events in the simple stories they have read.

Literacy - Writing

8-20 months

Children’s later writing is based on skills and understandings which they develop as babies and toddlers. Before they can write, they need to learn to use spoken language to communicate. Later they learn to write down the words they can say.

16-26 months

Early mark-making is not the same as writing. It is a sensory and physical experience for babies and toddlers, which they do not yet connect to forming symbols which can communicate meaning.

22-36 months

  • Distinguishes between the different marks they make.

30-50 months

  • Sometimes gives meaning to marks as they draw and paint.

  • Ascribes meanings to marks that they see in different places

40-60+ months

  • Gives meaning to marks they make as they draw, write and paint.

  • Begins to break the flow of speech into words.

  • Continues a rhyming string.

  • Hears and says the initial sound in words.

  • Can segment the sounds in simple words and blend them together.


  • Links sounds to letters, naming and sounding the letters of the alphabet.


  • Uses some clearly identifiable letters to communicate meaning, representing some sounds correctly and in sequence.


  • Writes own name and other things such as labels, captions.


  • Attempts to write short sentences in meaningful contexts.

Early Learning Goal

(End of Reception)

Children use their phonic knowledge to write words in ways which match their spoken sounds. They also write some irregular common words. They write simple sentences which can be read by themselves and others. Some words are spelt correctly and others are phonetically plausible.


Children can spell phonically regular words of more than 1 syllable as well as many irregular but high-frequency words. They use key features of narrative in their own writing.

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