Expressive Arts and Design

At Fairfield, we place a high focus on engagement in and delivery of our Arts Curriculum. Whilst we value children's final artwork, we are in fact most encouraging of engagement in the creative process. We do not offer ready mixed paint and instead, encourage children to engage with the process of mixing paint from the youngest age. Clay and clay tools are accessible at all times.

We have an arts space, our Atelier, where children are introduced to a variety of adult led provocations and activities in order to extend and deepen their knowledge and understanding of different media and materials.

Following participation in the SLiCE (Specialist Leader in Cultural Education) Fellowship in 2018-2019 through Curious Minds and the Arts Council England, we now offer Arts Award 'Discover' to a select group of children in their final nursery year.

At Fairfield we believe children need the following to be able to develop effectively:


Children need time to explore, experiment and play with the resources around them. They need support in being able to understand what you can do with the different media and they may require trial and error before they feel satisfied with their efforts.

It is important to recognise that children need uninterrupted time. Only then can young children become truly involved, absorbed and inspired. If the session/day is constantly interrupted by adult-directed activities and routines - phonics time, snack time, group time - children will quickly learn that it is not worth becoming involved, as they will soon have to stop. Constant interruptions limit the possibilities for children to explore, use media and materials and be imaginative and creative.



Having too much or too little space can make creative possibilities a challenge. A large space may be intimidating for one child but inviting for another, while a small area can be frustrating when you want to paint on a large scale but other children may need a small space to feel comfortable. So it is important to consider a variety of different sized areas for children to access.

As practitioners, we need to find ways round any limitations on the space we have available. For example, creating something on a small scale with junk materials inside and then recreating it on a large scale outside with natural materials such as stones, conkers, fir cones, canes, tent pegs and ropes can be exciting for children. It also enables the children to work collaboratively, exchanging ideas and helping each other.

Likewise, having the space to paint on an easel as well as on a flat surface (floor, table or outside) provides the scope for children to work alone or collaboratively, express themselves on a small or large scale, and explore 'big' ideas and experiment with more delicate techniques.

Pushing back the furniture to make space or ridding the room of some tables can often lead to inspirational, creative experiences, including dancing and singing. And always make the most of the outdoors.



The kind of resources offered to young children greatly affects the development of their imagination and the opportunities they have to explore, be inquisitive and learn about the properties of materials and how to use them to express their ideas.

By offering children open-ended materials it provides them with many possibilities that can be used in all sorts of inventive ways. For example, a basket of silk scarves can become flags, fairy ribbons, a secret path to the magic cave and a magic potion in a big pot; a collection of stones, shells and leaves can be turned into patterns or used to recreate and personalise the story We're Going on a Bear Hunt.

The materials we provide need to be of a high quality - for example, a range of paints that are well mixed and powder paints that children have to mix themselves, includes sharp colours and a variety of shades, alongside good-quality brushes and paper in varying sizes and shapes. It is then the practitioner's responsibility to provide knowledge and understanding in how to create paint that doesn't drip and run.



We need to be sure that children are given as many opportunities to experience all aspects of creativity and imaginative play. Providing opportunities also means following children's interests and taking them as the starting point for learning, rather than always planning an adult-directed activity. Expressive Arts and Design is an area of learning where children's imaginations, ideas and fascinations can come to life and they are able to recreate them in all kinds of ways with adult support and encouragement. It is important to find a balance between child-initiated play and learning and adult - directed activities.


Language and talking

Creative experiences are full of opportunities to talk and develop language. They enable children to communicate their ideas in many ways, from singing and dancing to painting and modeling 'One Hundred Languages (Loris Malaguzzi)".Tina Bruce expresses this well by saying, 'Creativity is part of the process through which children begin to find out they have something unique to 'say' in words or dance, music, or hatching out their theory'.


Our Principals for Creating with Materials are:
  • To develop children’s experiences and engagement with a variety of media and materials

  • To develop children’s skills in using tools and different techniques.

  • To encourage children to share their thought, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music and design and technology. 


The new statutory framework (September 2021) for the Early Years Foundation Stage states:

"The development of children's artistic and cultural awareness supports their imagination and creativity. It is important that children have regular opportunities to engage with the arts, enabling them to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials. The quality and variety of what children see, hear and participate in is crucial for developing their understanding, self-expression, vocabulary and ability to communicate through the arts. The frequency, repetition and depth of their experiences are fundamental to their progress in interpreting and appreciating what they hear, respond to and observe".

Children at the expected level of development will be working within the Early Learning Goals:

  • Safely use and explore a variety of materials, tools and techniques, experimenting with colour, design, texture, form and function;

  • Share their creations, explaining the process they have used;

  • Make use of props and materials when role playing characters in narratives and stories. 


Expressive Arts and Design Curriculum