Continuous provision is the resources we offer children as part of an enabling environment, or the resources that are safe for children to explore independently. It is both these things, but it is important to remember that continuous provision is not just provision that is continually accessible; it is also a selection of resources that continue children's learning in the absence of an adult.
Effective continuous provision provides children with the opportunity to demonstrate all three characteristics of effective teaching and learning identified by the EYFS. For example, in the construction area, children may independently investigate how high they can build a tower by using wooden blocks. Trying to arrange the blocks in different ways or testing if they can add any other construction materials to their tower to make it more sturdy demonstrates aspects of both playing and exploring.
Continuous provision also enables children to return to their explorations and consolidate their learning, over the course of a day or a more extended period. When children do this, they can explore what happens to things as they change over time, and make changes to explore new ideas.
Continuous provision also allows children to make choices and initiate play without interaction with an adult.
Continuous provision is across all areas of learning.
Even with continuous provision, the practitioner’s role is crucial. It’s important our adults provide a high-quality environment but also support your children’s ability to interact with the resources. When children engage with continuous provision, staff make careful observations. This is especially important, as observations should then determine how the environment is enhanced at a later stage. Creating a well-oiled environment also means that practitioners need to establish rules, boundaries and behavioural expectations. Children need to be clear about the rules and what’s expected, they will then be able to carry out their explorations with an increased sense of confidence. If children do not know their boundaries, then they will often return to ‘familiar’ play, which is less challenging.
Staff also play alongside the children. This helps to model language and ideas and will strengthen your relationship with the children you teach. It also gives you opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions, extending the children’s learning even further.
Observing children within the areas of continuous provision is a crucial part of the adults role. Through observations, they identify typical behaviours, interests and patterns of children’s learning and development, which will have an impact on what they plan next.