Get started today.

‘Understanding the World’ EYFS activities to blow them away

10 min of reading
08 September 2023
Understanding the World EYFS activities

Understanding the world in EYFS allows children to foster a curiosity for learning. Giving them the tools to explore, question and discover the world around them. We show how to effectively plan and teach understanding the world (UW) in the early years and share 17 of the top EYFS activities for you to try in your nursery.

In this article, you will find:

    What is ‘Understanding the World’ in EYFS?

    Understanding the World in EYFS is one of the seven areas of learning. You may previously have known it as Knowledge and Understanding of the World from the original EYFS Framework. So, what does UW cover in the EYFS curriculum?

    Split into three sections, EYFS Understanding the World helps children make sense of their physical world and the community through exploration skills and investigation.

    People and communities.

    In this area of the EYFS curriculum, the children explore the different roles people have across families, work and community. Discovering different types of relationships and building friendships. They will also look carefully at their local and global community

    The world.

    The world covers the environment, nature and the wider world. Discovering interesting information about global areas of importance like pollution and recycling.


    Although some children may be more tech-savvy than us, they explore different types of technology in EYFS. This will include technology in the home, technology seen in everyday life, and how to learn through technology.

    How is ‘Understanding the World’ taught in EYFS?

    There are lots of different ways you can teach Understanding the World through your EYFS curriculum. It is handy that lots of EYFS activities lend themselves to curiosity, exploration and play.

    Here are a few ways you can evidence teaching Understanding the World in your nursery:

    Hands-on experiences for children.

    The Curiosity Approach encourages child-led discovery. Hands-on experiences where children do rather than observe exploration. Open-ended play, where children can create something from nothing, expand their imagination and develop their understanding of the world around them, helps development across all seven areas of learning in the EYFS.

    Exploration and scientific learning.

    Scientific learning in EYFS follows the same concepts as KS1 and KS2; children are guided to make and test theories about concepts. For example, if water is poured from a height, will it cause large splashes every time? The beauty of evidencing Understanding the World EYFS activities in your nursery is that often, child-led exploration isn’t planned; it is facilitated through environment, resources, and freedom.

    Outdoor learning in EYFS.

    Getting outside, in all weathers, and learning outdoors is a key aspect of the early years. Unfortunately, the encouragement to get dirty, experience chilly weather and make a mess dwindles the older children get. Teaching about the seasons is best done first-hand (especially as England can demonstrate all four seasons in one day).

    Language and communication development in EYFS.

    This can be a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. Do children learn about the world around them because they have more developed language skills? Or, are language skills developed due to wider experiences? Regular discussions about people, communities, the world and technology can help increase toddlers’ UW communication and language skills.

    Cultural diversity in EYFS.

    Tailor your EYFS curriculum to meet the needs of your pupils and the local area. For example, if you are in a majority-white British area, your children will benefit from experiencing different cultures. Organise workshop days, guest speakers and audit the cultural representation across your curriculum, including the texts and books you read with the children. You can become really creative with how you explore race and diversity in the early years once you have a few ideas to try!

    Sensory experiences and UW in EYFS.

    Sensory EYFS activities can be an excellent way to teach about the world around them. The textures available on a woodland stroll are unlimited, feeling the rough bark and spikey grass. Not forgetting all of the smells and sounds they experience through the walk. These small but essential interactions all build an understanding of the world in early years.

    Resources and equipment for ‘Understanding the World’ EYFS.

    Resources can be the vehicles used to develop an understanding of the world they interact with daily. The choice of loose parts play, outdoor play equipment or carefully chosen reading books can help children understand their world.

    17 EYFS activities for ‘Understanding the World’.

    Your nursery practitioners are responsible for evidencing progression through observations. It can be easy for your nursery team to fall out of love with observations; the associated admin can remove them from participating in important learning moments. We share 17 of our favourite Understanding the World EYFS activities for you to try. Share these with your practitioners to help them know what to look for, making their EYFS observations easier.

    Sensory material feel:

    Allow the children to experience different materials like velvet, bubble wrap, tin foil, weighted blankets and silk. Ask prompting questions about their favourite and how it feels, sensory play activities in the early years are a creative way to develop several skills.

    A nature walk:

    Get out and about in your local area; if you don’t have any parks or forests nearby, not to worry. You can sit in your outdoor space and listen carefully to the noises they hear. Can they identify the noises they hear?

    The floating egg experiment:

    if an egg is too fragile for your toddlers, use a marble, a button or something small and dense. The aim is to get the object to float using material as a ‘boat’. Experiment with sponges, paper, cardboard and other materials to see what makes a good life raft.

    Mixing colours:

    Such a simple activity can create wonder and awe. Begin by choosing three paint colours and encourage the children to mix some of them; what do they notice? Giving them small areas to try out different combinations might be useful.

    A volcano experiment:

    Some combined vinegar and bicarbonate soda can make quite a mess! But what fun, challenge the children to predict what might happen if you mix the two substances, play around with the measures of each.

    Melting ice:

    Who knew how much fun water could be? If you can, make a giant ice cube using a lunchbox container, a large freezer and patience. Place the giant ice cube in a tray and notice how long it takes to melt. Question the children about their predictions before and during the long experiment.

    Green fingers for toddlers:

    Planting seeds is more than just a fun, sensory activity. It requires good listening skills, cooperation with others and a foundation understanding of what it takes to look after growing things. Watercress is our suggestion; it grows quickly and is easy to grow!

    Community roles role-play:

    The dressing up box is a firm favourite for children’s role-play. After discussing different roles in the community, update your dressing-up box to include uniforms for specific jobs. You may want to discuss with parents what roles they have and see if any old uniforms or clothing can be donated.

    Cultural celebrations in EYFS:

    From World Earth Day to Islamic New Year, nursery settings can join in with lots of awareness and celebration days throughout the year. Don’t forget to share your activities with your parents through their Parent App.

    Maps and globes:

    Use local maps, draw your own, or look at the world map. Any map-related activity helps children begin to understand the world’s vastness. You may want to use a spherical globe to spin and choose a country to research; Google Maps and Google Earth can help you here (have some chosen out beforehand to monitor for suitability).

    Weather watcher:

    You may want to assign a child this role or complete it as a group; note the weather each morning (or look at your local online weather forecast). This can help children prepare for the day and can help make your setting more Autism-friendly by planning for potential changes in routines, like indoor play due to bad weather.

    Recycled art projects:

    Children will learn about the environment and how to keep it healthy. Using recycled materials for art projects is a great way to explain how they can be creative when reusing, reducing, and recycling.

    Cooking and food tasting:

    Tying in with developing cultural diversity. Tasting and cooking foods from different cultures can be an exciting way to explore the world around them.

    Tech-savvy children:

    Most children know their way around an iPad or tablet, so it is important to encourage methods of method learning. There are lots of great learning apps to try with EYFS children. You can share some ideas for EYFS apps parents can try at home via your Parent App, helping to give parents fresh ideas for educational and engaging activities.

    Construction ideas EYFS:

    Construction areas in EYFS are one of the firm favourites. Opportunities to dig, explore and make a mess, yes please! Construction activities are a creative way to develop children’s fine and gross motor skills. Try using spaghetti and marshmallows to create the largest tower they can; it will take some balance and patience.

    Lifecycles in EYFS:

    Learning about the lifecycle of a frog, plant, or butterfly can spark a future interest in animals, horticulture, or biology in toddlers. There are many ways you can learn about lifecycles in nurseries; you may even want to try raising your own butterflies!

    Shadow play:

    Shadow play is the perfect way to explore the different positions of the sun throughout the day. You can place simple small toys (like plastic animals) outside onto the playground and, using chalk, draw around the shadows they make. Make it even more scientific and measure the shadow change each hour.

    For more brilliant EYFS activities, check out our Ultimate guide to EYFS activities blog post and easily cover the seven areas of learning!

    Sign up to our newsletter for more great content insights like this!

    Know someone who'd like to read this article?
    a 30min session
    no strings attached