Planning for Continuous Provision

Alistair Bryce-CleggContinuous Provision, Uncategorized18 Comments

Whether you are referring to ‘Continuous Provision’ as an environment, a group of resources or a period of time. The ethos and the aspiration are exactly the same.

Well planned Continuous Provision can be an absolute gift when it comes to raising the attainment of children through active learning and high level engagement. Badly planned Continuous Provision can also be a curse that promotes low level engagement and low level attainment – so what is the secret of good CP?

Continuous Provision is NOT just the resources that you have out all of the time. It needs to support adults in their teaching and interactions with children, allow children to consolidate and rehearse what they know, but it s also there to  ‘continue the provision for learning in the absence of an adult


In any area where you put a range of resources and a group of children there will be potential to develop those children’s skills in personal interaction and exploration, but unless those resources have been carefully selected to meet the development needs of those specific children, then the learning potential is limited and greatly left to chance.

When it comes to any Early Years environment, ambiguity is an essential. Ambiguous, open ended resources and experiences encourage children to think,investigate and explore. To interpret what they are experiencing and handing in a way that is meaningful to them.


We should also be very aware of how children will develop key skills in areas of provision. How in their sand play they will be continually revisiting concepts like: digging, pouring, filling and emptying, transporting, sieving, sifting, enclosing, moulding, mark making – to name but a few.

If we constantly provide the same (often basic/emergent) resources in these areas, then we encourage children to revisit basic/emergent skills. Using a system of Common Play Behaviour identification can support us in providing challenging resources to compliment our open ended play spaces. (For more information on Common Play Behaviours see here).

Sometimes what we can end up doing as practitioners is not providing Continuous Provision, but instead only providing an ‘enhancement’.


Say for example you are talking about  jungles and your Small World provision is a jungle set on a tough spot or table. What you have provided there is an enhancement to Small World play, not Continuous Provision. If I am not interested in jungle or have no knowledge of jungles then I am not likely or able to play with the Small World.

We also have to ask ourselves what is our expectation of what or how children will play with jungle resources when they have little or no knowledge of what happens there. How is this facilitating their play/skill development?

Continuous Provision for Small World Play would contain lots of resources that enabled children to access all of the skills of Small World/dramatic play regardless of the theme you were talking about. Then you would (possibly) enhance that provision with resources linked to your theme.

When we are short term planning for CP (weekly) then what we should be planning are the enhancements that we are going to add into the bank of resources that are already in place.

I find that people usually enhance around 5 main areas

  • Children’s interest
  • Theme or topic
  • Skill (such as joining, printing, cutting etc)
  • Basic Skills (elements of Literacy and Numeracy)
  • Direct challenge


I would not expect that you would add an enhancement to every area every week (you would be dead by Friday)!

Sometimes you will add more than one type of enhancement to an area, sometimes you won’t add any.

Some enhancements will last a couple of days, some a week and some will then become part of your Continuous Provision.

(If I enhance my Creative Area this week with printing resources so that I can build my children’s skills and experiences in printing, then once I am confident that they secure with the idea of printing, the resources become part of what I offer them all of the time.)

It is important that our Continuous Provision is linked to assessment and observation and that we plan, assess and review it regularly. We need to be sure that we are creating spaces that support adults in their teaching and interactions with children, allow children to consolidate and rehearse what they know, but also ‘continue the provision for learning in the absence of an adult‘  We don’t just provide ‘enhancements’ linked to topic and theme that can be very limiting to children’s interest learning and development.

Let me know your thoughts…


18 Comments on “Planning for Continuous Provision”

  1. This course has provided quite an intense view of how to enhance child development in provision for learning.

  2. This is exactly what I need to work on going forward with play based learning in P1. I thought I would have a focus area, roughly every fortnight to begin with until I get my head around the planning (might need to be a different time scale depending on how schools go back in August). This planning model will be very helpful for this. I’d appreciate further examples of different areas too.

    1. Glad you found it useful Lynne. You are absolutely right to make sure you feel secure in what you are doing whilst taking steps to do it differently! Good luck

  3. Very interesting summary. I am pleased to note you remind about the importance of allowing children to re visit and consolidate so that there does not have to be new resources and new planned activities in every area of the playroom. Currently my experience in a variety of playrooms and P1 classrooms is that if the EY practitioner is not planning and providing ‘exciting and different’ resources and activities they are not doing their job. And often this planning is on a weekly basis! Sometimes it feels like a carousel!
    Thank you

  4. Are there any ‘generic’ common play behaviours out there yet? I am really struggling to find the time required to complete this with my TA but after your conference I attended in Bath, I really want to move this way with my planning for September.

  5. I teach in one of the international schools in Uganda and I should say knowing about your blogs was heaven sent. I am beginning to adopt your ideas and I can see change already in me and children’s level of envolvement. Thanks to you.

    1. It is called Continuous Provision – the skills. You can find it on Amazon or direct from Bloomsbury.

  6. Hi Alistair,

    Would you plan for all of your areas of provision or only the ones you are enhancing?



    1. I would use common play behaviours for every area of Provision and then plan enhancements.

  7. I would love to hear how long your CP plan is in place for the setting is work at has something different everyday, both morning and afternoon also are different

  8. Thank you for the reminder! I bought your skills book last summer and my planning matches yours. Reading this has helped to refocus on continuous provision. I love your sand examples and would be grateful for examples of other areas. I would love to hear how everyone else manages to put it all into action every week. Any tips gratefully received!

  9. We have been focusing on our continuous provision this year, linking it to assessment and ensuring it engages and challenges both FS1 and FS2 children. One thing that has helped us is carrying out CP Audits as a team. I was lucky to attend your Mark making course last year and you recommended this. It still a challenge for us but we have seen higher levels of engagement in all areas and can target improving specific skills more efficiently. The FS1 and FS2 combination remains a challenge and we are seeing more units running seperately in our area. We are keen to maintain free flow between fS1 and Fs2 and would be interested in hearing how other settings/schools are managing this?

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