How To Follow Development Matters in PE

Written by Dan

Physical Education (PE) in Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is a crucial aspect of young children’s development. One of the primary guiding documents for educators in this area is the Development Matters framework.

This framework provides a comprehensive overview of how children develop and learn, offering a solid foundation for educators to plan and assess PE activities in EYFS settings.


Understanding the Development Matters framework is essential to facilitate children’s physical, social, and emotional growth in a structured and age-appropriate manner.

By incorporating the framework into PE lessons, parents and practitioners can work together to encourage children to reach their full potential, ensuring their overall well-being.

Key Takeaways

  • Development Matters is a vital resource for EYFS PE planning and assessment.
  • Aligning PE lessons with the framework promotes effective physical, social, and emotional development.
  • Collaboration with parents and practitioners enhances the overall experience and success of PE in Early Years.

Understanding Development Matters in PE

Development matters

Key Principles of Development Matters

Development Matters is a guidance document providing a top-level view of how children develop and learn early. It is designed for all early years practitioners and offers insights into the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of children from birth to five years old.

In the context of Physical Education (PE), Development Matters focuses on the importance of physical development and the role it plays in fostering a healthy lifestyle for young children.

Physical development is fundamental to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) . It encompasses gross motor skills, such as running, jumping, and balancing, and fine motor skills, like handling tools and objects with precision. To support these skills, Development Matters emphasises three main areas:

  1. Moving and Handling: Encouraging children to develop control and coordination of their bodies through various activities.
  2. Health and Self-care: Helping children understand the importance of exercise, a balanced diet, and personal hygiene.
  3. Active Learning: Engaging children in physical activities that promote concentration, persistence, and a sense of achievement.

Importance of Physical Education

PE plays a crucial role in children’s overall development. By incorporating the key principles of Development Matters in PE, early years practitioners can help children develop the necessary skills to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Some benefits of PE, based on the guidance offered by Development Matters, include:

  • Physical Well-being: Regular physical activity promotes growth and development, prevents obesity, and enhances overall physical health.
  • Emotional Well-being: PE offers opportunities to develop confidence, resilience, and self-esteem, enabling children to cope with challenges in various aspects of their lives.
  • Social Skills: Participating in group activities fosters social interaction, teamwork, and communication, helping children build positive relationships with others.
  • Cognitive Development: Physical activities engage the mind and body, enhancing concentration, problem-solving, and creativity.

In summary, following Development Matters in PE ensures that children receive a well-rounded education that encompasses intellectual growth and physical, emotional, and social development.

By understanding the key principles and incorporating them into PE classes, practitioners can create a positive and engaging environment for children to thrive in the early years.

Curricular Framework and Planning

EYFS Framework and Curriculum Planning

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework provides a comprehensive structure for the education and care of children from birth to five years old. It focuses on developing essential skills and understanding necessary for each child’s success in later life.

Curriculum planning within the EYFS Framework is critical for creating a well-rounded and effective learning environment for young children.

The new EYFS framework is more specific and better suited for curriculum planning in early years settings. It is essential not to use the Early Learning Goals (ELGs) as a starting point for planning the curriculum; instead, they should only be used for assessment purposes during the summer term at the end of the reception year.

Incorporating Development Matters

Development Matters is a non-statutory curriculum guidance that complements the EYFS Framework. This guidance offers a top-level view of how children develop and learn, suitable for all early years practitioners.

It focuses on the development of children’s spoken language, which underpins all seven areas of learning and development in the early years curriculum.

Incorporating Development Matters into Physical Education (PE) planning is crucial, as it helps early years practitioners understand and track a child’s development at various stages:

  • Birth to 3: Focus on developing fine and gross motor skills, body awareness, and spatial understanding through tummy time, rolling, crawling, and exploration.
  • 3-4-year-olds: Enhance essential movement skills, coordination, balance, and agility through games, dances, and simple sports activities.
  • Children in Reception: Foster good posture, control, and accurate movements while introducing children to a broader range of sports and physical activities that develop stamina, strength, and flexibility.

By using Development Matters as a reference, early years practitioners can ensure that PE lessons and activities are tailored to the unique needs of each child, offering a balanced and well-structured PE curriculum that promotes overall physical and mental well-being.

Assessment and Progress Tracking

Professional Judgement and Evidence Gathering

Assessment is crucial in understanding a pupil’s progress in the context of following Development Matters in PE. It is essential to rely on professional judgement and gather various evidence types to inform accurate and meaningful evaluations.

Educators should observe children’s performance in different activities, considering their individual strengths and areas of development.

One way to gather evidence systematically is by employing The EYFS Tracker. This web-based application aids early years settings in recording and analysing a child’s progress throughout the Early Years Foundation Stage.

This tool allows teachers to document observations, evaluate against the Early Learning Goals (ELGs), and identify each child’s next steps.

Monitoring Children’s Progress

When monitoring children’s progress in PE, it is essential to use the simplified age bands within the updated Development Matters Document recommended by the EYFS Statutory Framework 2021.

These age bands include Birth to 3, 3 to 4 year olds, and Children in Reception. By assessing a child’s capabilities within these bands, teachers can measure progress against the ELGs, determine areas for improvement, and tailor their lessons to individual needs.

To track progress effectively, educators should utilise formative and summative assessment methods.

For instance, teachers could use ongoing observations, verbal feedback, and peer assessments during lessons, while formally evaluating children’s performance through practical tests and skill demonstrations at the end of a unit.

Professional judgement, evidence gathering, and accurate progress tracking using essential assessment tools, can ensure that educators are well-equipped to support each child’s development in PE, adhering to the Development Matters framework.

Strategies for Effective PE in Early Years

Age-Appropriate PE Activities

It is essential to provide age-appropriate PE activities to ensure children in early years develop their physical abilities and skills effectively.

These activities should be tailored to meet the individual needs and interests of each child, whilst also featuring elements that challenge and support their development. For instance, for children aged 3-4 years old, activities can include:

  • Simple running games
  • Jumping and hopping exercises
  • Throwing and catching using beanbags or soft foam balls

For children aged 4-5 years, more advanced activities can be introduced, such as:

  • Tag and relay games
  • Balance beam exercises
  • Developing throwing and catching skills with different size balls

Fundamental Movement Skills Development

Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are vital in children’s physical development, providing the foundation for more complex skills in later years. Strong emphasis should be placed on developing the following FMS in early years PE:

  1. Gross motor skills: These skills involve the use of large muscles in movements such as crawling, walking, and jumping. Activities that promote gross motor skills include obstacle courses, dancing, and climbing exercises.
  2. Agility: Agility refers to the ability to change direction quickly and effectively while maintaining control of one’s body. Activities that develop agility include playing tag, zigzagging between cones, and dynamic stretches.
  3. Balance: A core aspect of physical development is maintaining control and stability of the body. Balance can be promoted through activities such as standing on one foot, walking along a balance beam, and balancing a bean bag on one’s head.
  4. Coordination: Coordination involves using different body parts simultaneously, such as using one’s arms and legs to throw and catch a ball. Activities that help develop coordination include playing catch, dribbling, and skipping.

By incorporating these strategies into PE sessions, early years practitioners can ensure that children are allowed to develop essential movement skills and engage in an enjoyable and stimulating physical activity environment.

Engaging With Parents and Practitioners

When following the Development Matters approach in Physical Education (PE), engaging with both parents and practitioners plays a crucial role in promoting a child-centred learning environment.

Effective communication, feedback, and partnership are essential in creating a positive and supportive atmosphere for children’s physical development.

One of the key aspects in fostering this relationship is maintaining open and regular communication between parents and practitioners. This can be achieved through various means, such as newsletters, email updates, social media platforms, or face-to-face meetings.

Clear and concise messaging helps parents stay informed about their child’s progress and achievements in PE.

Practitioners should actively involve parents in their child’s learning process by providing regular feedback on their performance, strengths, and areas for improvement. This can be done during parent-teacher conferences, written reports, or informal discussions after PE sessions.

Sharing specific examples of a child’s achievements or progress can help to reinforce parent’s understanding of the child-centred approach used in PE.

Furthermore, practitioners should adopt a child-centred approach to create an inclusive and supportive environment for all children.

Emphasising the importance of participation, enjoyment, and skills development rather than just competition is key to building a positive attitude towards physical activity.

Encouraging parents to model a similar approach at home helps to create a shared understanding between both parties.

Encouraging parents to participate in PE-related activities with their children can further strengthen the home-school connection.

Events such as family sports days, workshops, or parent-child PE sessions can allow parents to experience the child-centred approach and support their child’s physical development.

In conclusion, engaging with parents and practitioners is vital to following Development Matters in PE.

By fostering effective communication, providing meaningful feedback, and adopting a child-centred approach, a supportive and inclusive environment can be achieved for children to develop vital physical skills and participate in physical activities.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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