You are here:

Last reviewed on 7 June 2021
Ref: 3785
School types: All · School phases: Nursery, Primary

Learn what constructive child-led learning practice looks like and how to find a good balance of child and adult-led activities. Use our expert's guidance to understand how to provide challenge to your EYFS children.

This article was written with help from Kym Scott, an independent EYFS consultant.

Child-initiated vs adult-initiated learning: what’s the difference?

Child-initiated learning refers to all activities that a child might do in an early years setting that are not explicitly guided by a teacher, support staff or any other adult.

This can be classic symbolic or imaginative play, for example using toys and games, but can also refer to less ‘playful’ activities such as gardening or reading. 

As Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) settings are never empty rooms, all activities will have been set up by an adult - the difference comes in the directions given to the child. 

Adult-led learning: a member of staff tells a child to get out art supplies and draw their favourite animal Child-led learning: the child is given free access to different resources - the child then chooses to get out art supplies and

More from The Key


Bitesize training with a big impact

Our on-demand training has your whole board covered and lets them learn at a time and pace that suits them.

Help your new governors hit the ground running with our expertly-designed induction training, and our role-specific courses support your link governors develop key skills and confidence in their role.


New eLearning: DSL refresher training

Your DSL’s training should be refreshed at least once every 2 years. 

Designed in collaboration with safeguarding experts, our 2.5 hour online refresher training course reminds DSLs how to put their knowledge into practice, with in-depth, real-world scenarios.


The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.