What Geography Is Taught in Reception?

Written by Dan

Geography in the reception class marks the beginning of a child’s formal education in understanding the world around them.

At this early stage, geography is often integrated within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework, under the strand ‘Understanding the World’.

Young learners start to explore and make sense of their immediate environment, incorporating elements like local landmarks, natural features, and basic map skills.

Through interactive and practical experiences, reception children begin to grasp the concept of place and the human and physical elements that define their surroundings.

Related: For more, check out our article on What Spelling Rules Are Taught In Reception?

What Geography Is Taught in Reception?

The EYFS framework guides educators in developing children’s geographical understanding in an age-appropriate manner. Lessons are designed to be engaging, utilising storytelling, play, and observation to encourage curiosity about places, people, and communities.

In reception, geography is not just about imparting facts; it’s about fostering a sense of connection to, and wonderment for, the environment both local and global.

As children interact with maps, models, and engage with outdoor learning, they lay down the foundations for more complex geographical knowledge and skills to be built upon in later years of education.

Key Takeaways

  • Reception geography introduces foundational concepts through play and observation.
  • Geography in the EYFS is part of ‘Understanding the World’, bridging environmental awareness and cultural diversity.
  • Creative teaching methods in reception support the development of basic geographical skills.

Related: For more, check out our article on How To Follow Development Matters In Geography?

Understanding the Basics of Geography

In the initial stages of teaching geography, students are introduced to fundamental concepts that lay the groundwork for their spatial understanding of the world.

These keys ideas include the spherical shape of Earth, basic landforms and bodies of water, as well as introductory climate knowledge.

The Earth and Its Coordinates

Children begin by learning that the Earth is a sphere with a grid of imaginary lines that help us pinpoint locations. They learn about latitude, the set of horizontal lines that run parallel to the Equator, and longitude, the vertical lines that stretch from pole to pole.

The Equator is introduced as the zero-degree latitude line that divides the Earth into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Comparing Landforms and Bodies of Water

Students are taught to identify different landforms and bodies of water such as mountains, valleys, rivers, and coasts. They understand mountains as significant elevations on the Earth’s surface, while valleys are lower areas usually located between hills or mountains.

Rivers are presented as flowing bodies of freshwater that move towards an ocean, sea, or another river, and coasts are defined as the areas where the land meets the sea.

MountainsElevated, often steep, largeMount Snowdon
ValleysLow area between mountains/hillsThames Valley
RiversFlowing freshwaterRiver Thames
CoastsLand meeting the seaJurassic Coast

Weather and Climate Fundamentals

The basics of weather and climate are also covered, with distinctions made between the two. Weather represents the day-to-day conditions that we experience, such as sunshine, rain, or snow.

In contrast, climate is understood as the long-term patterns of weather in a particular area. Children are introduced to the concept of climate zones, which can range from tropical to polar, and understand that climate impacts the environment, including the landforms they’ve already studied.

  • Earthquakes and volcanoes are explained as major geological events that can drastically change landforms.
  • Rivers are discussed in the context of weather and climate, affecting and being affected by both.

Developing Geographical Skills

A colorful map of the world hangs on the wall, surrounded by images of different landscapes and animals. A globe sits on a table, with children gathered around, pointing and asking questions

In Reception, children begin the foundational journey of understanding the world through geographical education. They are introduced to basic concepts that foster spatial awareness and the ability to relate to their immediate environment.

Map Reading and Interpretation

Children in Reception are introduced to simple maps, using them to identify familiar places and routes. They learn to recognise basic symbols commonly found on maps, which represents different physical features and places.

This early map exposure helps to develop their understanding of their locality in relation to broader geographical contexts.

Simple Fieldwork Techniques

Reception students partake in simple fieldwork activities, which might include exploring the school grounds. They learn to make observations using their senses and might draw rudimentary representations of their findings.

These activities encourage young learners to connect with their immediate environment, laying the groundwork for more complex fieldwork skills in later years.

Exploring Our Environment

In Reception, geography begins with children gaining a practical understanding of their immediate surroundings, forging a base from which they can gradually extend their comprehension of different environments.

Local Area Investigations

Reception pupils start by familiarising themselves with their local area, which may include their town or village. They learn to identify key landmarks and basic physical features such as hills, rivers, and parks.

Educators encourage them to observe similarities and differences within their environment, enabling a connection between their personal experiences and the geographical knowledge they acquire.

Appreciating Physical and Human Features

Children also learn to appreciate both physical and human features. They explore common elements such as roads, buildings, and other man-made structures, which constitute the human aspects of geography.

Comparing these with natural elements like forests, beaches, or fields helps them understand the diversity and interplay between different components of their environment.

Through hands-on activities and observations, they develop a practical and tactile relationship with geography.

Geographical Knowledge in the National Curriculum

A colorful globe sits on a desk surrounded by maps, compasses, and books. A world map hangs on the wall, displaying different continents and oceans

The National Curriculum in England places a strong emphasis on geographic education from an early age. Specifically, in the Reception year, young learners are introduced to geography as a component of the broader area of learning known as “Understanding the World”.

The geography curriculum for this stage is designed to help children develop their knowledge and skills in a way that is appropriate for their age and developmental level.

Key Focus Areas:

  • Locational Knowledge: Children become familiar with the UK and their own locality.
  • Place Knowledge: They explore their immediate environment and learn about its physical and human features.

In Reception, teaching approaches are characterised by practical activities such as exploring the school grounds and using simple maps.

These activities are supported by a variety of resources, including maps, photographs, and storybooks with geographical contexts.

Skills Development:

  • Recognising simple patterns and relationships within the local area.
  • Communicating their findings through verbal and artistic expressions.

Planning is vital to ensure comprehensive coverage of the geographic elements within the ‘Understanding the World’ area and is usually interweaved with cross-curricular themes.

For teachers, the guidance provides a framework, leaving room for creativity in delivering content while offering support through suggestions for resources and methodologies.

Assessment in Reception does not follow formal testing but is rather based on ongoing observations to inform future planning and review. Through these evaluations, teachers can understand each child’s progress and provide targeted support where needed.

Ofsted recognises the importance of a well-implemented geography curriculum in providing children with the foundational knowledge and skills necessary for further geographical education.

Engaging with Geography through Creative Learning

A group of young children explore maps, globes, and natural materials to learn about different landscapes and environments in an interactive and hands-on way

Creative learning methods are crucial in geography education for young learners, offering a multi-sensory experience that captivates their interest and enhances their understanding of the world.

Such approaches encourage children to observe and record their surroundings, while also fostering a sense of global awareness through interactive and artistic integrations.

Integrating Geography with Art and Dance

Incorporating art into geography enables children to express physical and human landscapes creatively. They may draw or paint local or exotic environments, learning about different aspects of the world as they do so. Similarly, dance can be used to explore cultural traditions and physical geography.

Through choreographed movements, pupils might simulate the water cycle or mimic the formations of landforms, enhancing their geographical knowledge with physical activity.

Resources such as Teaching Geography Creatively can be instrumental in providing practical strategies for such interdisciplinary approaches.

Interactive Activities and Resources Use

Interactive activities are a pivotal component in early years geography. Educational resources like globes, weather stations, and map puzzles allow children to engage tactically with geographical concepts.

They learn to observe and record weather patterns, identify continents, and understand basic map skills with hands-on teaching resources.

The Geographical Association offers a variety of such resources crafted especially for young learners to assist with the interactive learning process.

Frequently Asked Questions

A colorful map of the world displayed on a classroom wall, with labeled continents, oceans, and landmarks. A globe sits on a nearby desk

This section addresses key queries regarding the foundational geography content taught to children in their early years, with a focus on the Reception class within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

What fundamental geographic concepts are introduced during the early years foundation stage?

In Reception, children are introduced to basic geographical concepts such as place, space, and environment. They begin to understand the world around them, recognising landmarks and natural features.

How is the EYFS geography curriculum structured for young learners?

The EYFS geography curriculum is designed to foster curiosity and encourage exploration of the immediate environment. Geography is incorporated into the ‘Understanding the World’ area of learning, focusing on observation and discussion of the natural world.

What are some common activities and themes used to teach geography in reception?

Activities often include exploratory walks, creating simple maps, and discussing weather patterns. Themes can cover local environments, contrasting locales, and familiarising children with geographical language by discussing their own experiences and journeys.

Which key terms and vocabulary are included in EYFS geography education?

Key terms in EYFS geography include words like “hill”, “river”, “beach”, and “map”. Children learn to use this vocabulary to describe places and features they explore or learn about.

How does geography in reception pave the way for Key Stage 1 learning?

Geography taught in Reception sets a foundation for further geographical education in Key Stage 1. It helps children to develop observational skills, spatial awareness, and the ability to communicate about the world, preparing them for more complex geographical concepts.

What resources are recommended for delivering geography lessons in reception?

Various resources are used such as picture books, simple atlases, and interactive games, along with practical explorations of the local area. These resources are designed to align with the EYFS framework to support immersive and engaging geographic learning.

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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