Research School Network: EYFS and the Importance of Expression Through the Arts Penny James, Teacher at Billesley Primary School, explores how ​‘the arts’ are a pupil’s individualised means of communication


EYFS and the Importance of Expression Through the Arts

Penny James, Teacher at Billesley Primary School, explores how ​‘the arts’ are a pupil’s individualised means of communication

by Billesley Research School
on the

Every child that enters any Early Years setting has their own individual take’ on the world. The individuality that each child has to offer, regardless of their ability, is what goes hand-in-hand with the arts. The arts (the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, and dance) provide a means for children to express their emotions. Children begin their school life full of innocence and curiosity, and it is important that practitioners elicit the unique artistic gifts of these children. The way in which each child expresses themselves artistically, through child-based learning, is a unique window of communication for that child, which also has a positive impact on their learning.

The arts are a universal platform for children to share their own responses to what they experience through their senses. Art’ is one form of expression, which allows the opportunity for all seven areas of learning within the EYFS. Successful practitioners create opportunities for children in their environment where they can express themselves, as well as develop lifelong skills (those skills which will be necessary for navigating all aspects of life, such as problem solving; critical thinking; communication; adaptability; and regulating emotions).

Opening up communication with a student can take many forms, the obvious one being talking’. However, the arts, and art’ in particular, create an opportunity for a practitioner to communicate via the work itself. Questioning the pupil about what they have created is an open-ended conversation where the pupil can be led to a structured discussion and, ultimately, the extension of their vocabulary.

Communication with a student who might not speak could be executed through copying or mirroring the actions of the child, and building a safe environment for that child to express themselves, thus forming an all-important relationship. In art’, there is no right or wrong way of doing things, which is significant, given that, as children move along their educational journey, much of what they learn will lead to an answer which is either right’ or wrong’.

Art’ is such a powerful tool for breaking down the barriers we find in our society. Language barriers are one of the main obstacles that we find in Early Years, with many children having a delay in their language development. Art’ has the ability to give every child the same opportunity to be creative and equal, transcending the difficulties of language.

The Early Years stage is the perfect time in life for children, not yet burdened with responsibilities and information, to freely experiment with ideas, materials and equipment. As pupils progress through school life, there are progressively fewer of these freestyle’ opportunities. For as long as we’re able, why can’t we just allow children to experiment?

Further reading:

Arts Council England (2014). The Value of Arts and Culture to People and Society. [online] Manchester, pp.1 – 54. Available at:

Bacon, S. (2022). The Arts in Schools: Primary School Provision. A New Direction. Available at:

Cooper, B. (2018). Primary Colours: The decline of arts education in primary schools and how it can be reversed. [online] London: Fabian Society, pp.1 – 24. Available at:

Durham Commission (2021). Durham Commission on Creativity and Education – second report 2021. [online] Durham: Durham University. Available at:

‌O’Hanlon, J., Cochrane, P. and Evans, M. (2020). Arts and Cultural Education in Outstanding Schools. [online] London: The Royal Shakespeare Company. Available at:

‌Thomson, P. and Maloy, L. (2022). The benefits of Art, Craft and Design education in schools A Rapid Evidence Review. [online] Nottingham: School of Education, The University of Nottingham. Available at:

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