14 Great books for the Early Years EYFS

All books published by Bloomsbury, many part of the Featherstone Series


The Early Years of a child’s development are a delight to behold. Finding their place in the world, young children are keen explorers, and their innate nature to learn allows for fantastic opportunities to build a rich and stimulating environment to thrive as individuals.

For practitioners working in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) ensuring that young children can access rich learning opportunities is critical, yet ensuring that experiences are refreshed and linking with EYFS expectations can sometimes be troublesome.

Yet, help is at hand, and we’ve picked out 14 books aimed at students or teachers who are placed into the EYFS setting. Combined, the books offer over 500 activities to support EYFS practitioners with inspiration for the inexperienced, as well as refreshing ideas for more experienced teachers. Throughout, the focus is on play, and this is what the EYFS stage should be based around – learning from play, allowing for opportunities to explore, stimulate senses, and try new experiences to help young children thrive, and feed that internal drive to learn.

We have briefly reviewed each book below and, helpfully, have linked each book directly through to the Amazon (UK) store. Simply click on each title where you can purchase each book you wish.

1. Getting it Right in Reception by Neil Farmer

The Reception class (pupils aged 4-5 years) is an important staging post for children as they continue to develop into individual characters full of curiosity and embarking fully on a formal educational journey that will last, at least, 13 years+. In the UK, the Reception class can be the final year before more formal teaching takes place in Key Stage 1 (pupils aged 5-7), so making sure young children are prepared for what is expected is an important aspect of the role of the Reception teacher.

In his book, ‘Getting it Right in Reception’, Neil Farmer offers advice and ideas to practitioners working in a Reception class to inculcate independence, resilience and creativity within young children allowing them to become confident learners who will be ready to face the challenges that their educational journies will throw at them. Offering insights into the developments practitioners should expect to see, along with case-studies in how other schools approach learning in Reception classes, this is a great book for any school-leader or Early Years practitioner wanting to enhance provision in their setting.

2. How to be an Outstanding Early Years Practitioner by Louise Burnham

Working in the Early Years (EYFS) truly is a delight to behold, and observing how children develop over a short span of time is incredible. Everyone working within the EYFS area is committed to ensuring young children are happy, challenged, and developing to realise their full potential. To become an outstanding EYFS practitioner takes time, patience and dedication, and thankfully there are plenty of opportunities in allowing individuals to achieve this.

In this book, Louise Burnham offers eleven chapters of advice, tips and strategies all ensuring that practitioners become well-rounded experts in EYFS, including working with parents; planning, evaluation, observation and assessment; safeguarding; managing behaviour; and continuing professional development.

This is a great book for those wanting to get involved working within the EYFS area, particularly student-teachers, volunteers, or other Early-Years staff.

3. 50 Fantastic Ideas for Small World Provocations by Judit Horvath

Every good Early Years setting will have boxes filled with Lego, small animals figures, and miniature vehicles, which are always a nightmare when it comes to tidying up! Yet, these toys provide rich opportunities to help a child’s imagination and language development, so ensuring that imaginary scenarios are created can really provide rich learning.

Using cardboard, plastic bottles, blocks, along with items mentioned above, Judit Horvath has showcased a rich bank of ideas that can stimulate language, problem-solving and emotional development. Accompanied by a fantastic range of photographs, the ideas and activities within this book are an inspiring collection to support practitioners create enjoyable learning sessions that will deepen children’s understanding of everyday life and create a buzz in any setting.

4. 50 Fantastic Ideas for thing to do with Mud and Clay by Judit Horvath

If you go home, after a day working in an Early Years setting, and your clothes are not covered in crayon, chalk or general mess, then you’re not doing it right! Getting down and messy with young learners is essential to help them develop in terms of their language skills, improving confidence, and helping to build relationships.

In this messy book, Judit Horvath offers a collection of practical messy ideas involving mud and clay, which can be undertaken inside and outside the setting. Accompanied by photographs and resource requirements this book encourages you, and the children you are working with, not to be scared to get messy, split into seven sections engaging sensory play to express their creativity, draw on their imagination, as well as enhance fine motor skills and sensory development.

5. 50 Fantastic Ideas for Fearless Play by Judit Horvath

Don’t worry, this book is not advocating that you allow children to climb the tallest tree in your locality, or to jump off the roof of your setting. Instead, ‘Fearless Play’ is all about giving children the confidence to try activities that they may be concerned about, in a bid to enhance their experiences in dependable and controlled safety.

Using photographs and resource ideas, Judit Horvath has compiled a useful collection of practical ideas to help self-esteem, confidence and resilience. Carefully managed and planned, these activities draw on children’s sense of adventure, offering practitioners with inspiration to build characters who thrive with their learning.

6. 50 Fantastic Ideas for Exploring Food by Judit Horvath

There are fewer opportunities in life to get children interested in food than by getting them involved in the preparation process. Such involvement helps children understand how their food is made, along with an appreciation of where food comes from.

Packed with ideas (and recipes), Judit Howarth has compiled a collection of practical activities that actively involve children in the food preparation process through pretend and real-life exploratory activities. Mixed with opportunities to extend learning through other areas, this is a great book to inspire fun and practical food explorations with young children, being ideal for those who are less-confident in their cooking skills.

7. 50 Fantastic Ideas for Investigations by Phill & Sally Featherstone

Get out the paints, and get out their wellies, this book is all about giving young learners practical, engaging, and sometimes messy opportunities to investigate the world around them. As with the other books in this series, the book is filled with photographs showcasing how activities could be used in your setting, offering tips and lists of resources that you will need to carry out activities. Adults will have to overcome their own squeamish fears for some of the bug investigations, but this is a great book offering practical activities, including a handy vocabulary guide to support development.

8. The Little Book of Talk by Judith Dancer

Concerns have been raised, on a national level, of the quality of communication skills that young children have developed (or not) by the time they reach an Early Years setting. Gaining a solid vocabulary is critical for everyone for communicating effectively, and if the foundations of learning to talk are missed, then problems are likely to follow that individual for many years ahead, affecting future attainment.

Judith Dancer understands the concerns regarding language development, and in the creation of this book, argues that talk is the precursor to both reading and writing, so encouraging children to speak will help them with their future learning. Offering a selection of activities that can be used inside and outside, this book offers a collection of ideas and prompts to support adults in building a rich vocabulary for children, supported by a selection of storybooks that should be in every Early Years setting.

In a nutshell, the book offers ideas and prompt for adults through the art of careful and considered questions to encourage children to talk, improve language through scaffolding, and inspire imagination.

9. Time to Discover Maths by Trudi Fitzhenry & Karen Murphy

Attitudes to maths, later on in life, are usually imprinted from attitudes and challenges children are exposed to in the early years of life. Being exposed to other people who ‘aren’t good at maths’ can create a self-fulfilling prophecy that they are no good at maths too, without really trying. Therefore, offering fun, practical and achievable activities to young learners can start to help challenge any negative beliefs starting to form.

In their book, Trudi Fitzhenry and Karen Murphy have compiled a series of activities for children aged 0-5 years, helping to build solid foundations for mathematical learning. This is a great book for practitioners working in the Early Years, but also for parents who can support their child, with practical and fun learning activities. The book provides observation points, along with ideas on how to assess and plan future learning.

10. Coping with Crises: Learning the lessons from accidents in the Early Years by Bernadina Laverty & Catherine Reay

Allowing young children to explore the world around them does not come without dangers. Some of these dangers can be predicted and prepared for, whereas other dangers are unforeseen and surprising (allergies, for example).  Where common sense is applied, most Early Years settings run safely day after day, but accidents will happen and knowing how to demonstrably deal with such incidents is the responsibility of each adult working with young children.

Health and safety considerations are critical, and Bernadina Laverty and Catherine Reay have compiled an important book advocating record and report incidents, manage risks, as well as offering an insight into how often accidents happen across the sector. Offering four main themes (Actions have consequences; classification; enforcement, and; learning the lessons for the future), this book is an essential read for practitioners working in settings with young children, where the health and safety of everyone is a priority – in other words, every setting should have at least one person who is proficient with the guidance, advice and procedures set out in this book.

11. An Anthology of Educational Thinkers: Putting Theory into Practice in the Early Years by Sally Featherstone

The majority early years practitioners are devoted and dedicated to their role, enjoying their critical work with young children who are, developmentally, going through an important time of their lives. The foundations of the first few years of life play an important influence into the rest of their lives, but understanding this developmental process can seem overwhelming. There are many theories, guidance and strategies for working with young children – including Piaget, Vygotsky, Maria Montessori etc. – and understanding how their approaches and theories impact on child development can be very enlightening.

In this book, Sally Featherstone has compiled together the most popular theories in regards to a child’s development, aligning with policy guidance set across the UK countries, and would be a very handy reference guide for any student teachers wishing to work in the EYFS sector, to experienced teachers who are moved into an Early Years classroom, or for those who wish to study to improve their qualifications further.

12. The Little Book of My Neighbourhood by Judith Harries

This is a great little book that stimulates learning using the local neighbourhood and surrounding facilities as the inspiration. Matched with EYFS goals, ideas support young children looking at how they love, the journey they take to school (or nursery), along with exploration activities including baker shops, the police, the fire station, the local library, and so on.

This book also includes extension ideas to inspire further in-depth explorations, including online activities and exploring further afield.

13. Will you be my Friend? by Molly Potter

As young children learn to understand a sense of identity and consideration of others, ensuring that they are able to develop good friendships is important. Beautifully illustrated by Sarah Jennings, ‘Will you be my friend?’ by Molly Potter is a fantastic picture book full of advice on helping children understand how to make friends. This book is great for sharing with children, perhaps one-to-one, or in small groups, and openly acknowledges that things don’t always run smoothly in friendships.

14. Making Sense of Neuroscience in the Early Years by Sally Featherstone

More and more Early Years practitioners are becoming more aware of the benefits of understanding research in neuroscience, in particular to the development of young children, and how their minds work.

Exploring past mistakes and beliefs, along with current research and understanding, Sally Featherstone’s important book looks at the dangers of over-enthusiastically promoting contemporary educational and neuroscience thinking, how some of the research has been misinterpreted, and how practitioners should approach new ideas to be more effective in their work with young children.

This book is a fascinating read and should be consumed whole-heartedly by anyone who wants to develop a rounded understanding of early brain development in accessible language, along with offering links to current UK requirements for schools and settings who offer early years provision.






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About @digicoled 446 Articles
Colin Hill - Founder, researcher and editor of ukedchat. Also a bit of a tech geek! Project management, design thinking, and metacognition.

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