How to Use a Learning Journey Template (with free template included!)

Learning Environments

child colouring in

During every child’s early learning and development it is essential to use a Learning Journey template to track, and keep a record of progress in every area.

The Early Years Foundation Stage framework (EYFS) outlines specific early learning goals that each child needs to meet before progressing onto the next stage of education.

These goals cover all areas of learning, from expressive art and design, to numeracy, and physical development, to ensure all children are receiving consistent education, guidance and support across the board.

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This blog post will outline what a Learning Journey template is, why it is useful, and how it can be used by nursery practitioners and parents to help document how each child is meeting their early learning goals.

To help you keep track of the progress and development of the children in your care, we have also provided a useful, free, Learning Journey template so you can record snapshots, and observations of early learning goal achievements.

What is a Learning Journey Template?

Every moment of every child’s development should be recorded throughout each stage of early years learning. Both parents and practitioners should be able to access and review a child’s work easily, in order to fill any gaps in their development to ready them for their next stages of learning.

This is where the Learning Journey template comes in handy, as it provides one place for you to give an overview of what each child has learnt, what they want to learn and their next steps.

This template can be included on the front of documentation of learning and development, for example a booklet or file, which should consist of various pieces of work and photographs, with comments and observations provided by nursery practitioners.

What is Contained in a Child’s Learning Journey Template?

To accurately record a child’s progress in all areas, examples of their development in areas such as literacy, art and design, and communication should be consistently provided in their Learning Journey template.

To help ensure there are no gaps in a child’s learning, you must collect various examples of their work, and significant achievements in each area of learning.

This shows that you are providing each child with the facilities and support they need to progress in every area of their development, and creating an environment that encourages experimentation and exploration.

Within each and every child’s Learning Journey booklet or file, it is important to include a variety of examples of work, such as:

  • Photographs with comments or annotations
  • Snapshots of significant achievements
  • Quotes from the child
  • Observations made by practitioners
  • Art work/ examples of work
  • Examples of mark making
  • Comments from parents / carers

This ensures that each child has relevant examples of work they have created or completed at nursery, as well as records of conversations and significant learning achievements all in one place.

two young children reading together

What is the Purpose of a Learning Journey Template?

The learning and development of each child should be central to all early years learning settings, and each setting should allow children to naturally develop their actions, behaviour and expression.

The Learning Journey template allows practitioners and parents to identify and provide observations of each child’s progression in line with the EYFS, early learning goals. These observations can then be used to build up a picture of each child, based on what they know and feel they can do well, as well as their interests, and preferred learning style.

It is important to include children in this process to find out which aspects of learning they are enjoying, and which aspects they are finding more difficult. Involving children throughout also allows you to discuss with them what they are learning now, and what they will learn next.

This collection of achievements and observations can then be used to plan relevant activities and experiences for each child to help them reach each early learning goal.

The Learning Journey template better prepares children for their first year of primary education, and means they can be put into groups easily based on what they can do so far, and which early learning goals they may need to work on.

The EYFS: The Learning Journey in Practice

The EYFS outlines a range of early learning goals in each area that children are expected to reach by the end of their learning and development in the nursery setting.

These goals involve all elements of learning and development including:

  • Communication
  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Physical development
  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the world
  • Expressive arts and design

The Learning Journey template you use for the children in your care should be based around these goals, as it will help to keep track of each child’s progress in each area.

Equally this gives you physical documentation in the form of artwork, observations, and photographs, and helps you to manage where extra work or support is needed.


  • Listening, Attention, and Understanding

At this stage of early learning, children should be able to hold conversations with other children, parents, and practitioners, which includes listening and responding to questions, making comments, and asking questions.

In order to document each child’s development in communication you should be providing observations of conversations between children. It will be useful to provide comments explaining that each child waited their turn before making comments of their own, and asked questions when they didn’t quite understand a certain word or phrase.

  • Speaking

Participation in conversations is essential if children are to develop their communication skills, this includes expressing how they feel, and offering explanations of what is happening around them.

To demonstrate development in this area, you can include a quote from the child during a conversation you’ve had with them about their feelings and why they feel a certain way. This may include a child expressing their happiness as they have been able to play outside, or the child’s description of what other children are doing at nursery during your conversation.

Personal, Social, Emotional Development

  • Self-Regulation

Self-regulation involves a child understanding their own feelings as well as the feelings of others, setting goals and controlling impulses, and focusing their attention.

In the Learning Journey template it will be useful for you to include comments on how the child continues to self-regulate by listening carefully during storytime, and controlling themselves by not speaking over others.

  • Managing Self

It is important that children grow in confidence during early years learning, rising to new challenges, slowly starting to take care of their own personal hygiene, and being able to explain why rules are in place at nursery,

To capture this, you should be collecting images of children washing their hands or getting involved in a new activity for the first time, as this demonstrates confidence growth.

  • Building Relationships

Children should be forming relationships and positive attachments in nursery and at home, and this is done by working and playing with other children, and learning to be sensitive to the needs of others.

In order to collect examples of this, it is important to observe children in group settings as you should be able to capture a photograph of them sharing toys with others, or giving their friend a hug.

children practicing balance

Physical Development

  • Gross Motor Skills

Improving gross motor skills involves practising activities that involve strength and balance, running and dancing, and negotiating space and obstacles.

Setting up physical activities such as dancing to different genres of music, and observing them will allow you to provide comments on how children moved to the music and kept their balance when changing positions.

  • Fine Motor Skills

Children should gradually become more precise and accurate when drawing and using small tools, such as pencils and scissors, as this means they are improving their fine motor skills.

The best way to demonstrate this within their progress records, is to include a drawing or piece of artwork where the child has shown care and taken their time.


  • Comprehension

It is essential that children’s vocabulary improves during their early learning years, and this can be supported by allowing children to retell stories from storytime, using the new words and vocabulary they have learnt.

For example, recording quotes from children during story retelling into their Learning Journey template, with a comment explaining the use of newly introduced vocabulary helps to demonstrate comprehension development.

  • Word Reading

In addition to comprehension skills, letter and word reading is a key skill for children in your care, such as sounding out letters of the alphabet, sounding out words and reading simple sentences within stories.

A good way to capture this is to collect photographs of children while they are reading, including each book as they become more confident and experienced. This will highlight how their reading skills are improving as they move onto more difficult sentences and phrases.

  • Writing

Finally, alongside reading it is important that children are slowly beginning to build up their writing skills, this includes writing recognisable letters, spelling words by identifying their sounds and moving onto writing sentences and phrases.

You should record this by including updated examples of children’s writing, as it develops and becomes more precise and accurate.


  • Numbers

Numeracy is another key area of development that should be monitored and recorded for every child. Children should have a deep understanding of the numbers 1-10, be able to recognise quantities without counting up to them, and recall number bonds up to 5.

An easy way to record this is by including a comment or observation, that you have witnessed the child counting up and down using different objects to help them.

  • Numerical Patterns

There are other areas of numeracy that are equally important in a child’s development such as verbally counting up to 20 and beyond, recognising that quantities are less than or greater than one another, and representing number patterns up to 10.

During an activity involving numerical patterns, it is important to get an example of each child’s work displaying how they can write number patterns. For example, to help remind them that some numbers are bigger than others, it may be useful to write a big number 10 with 10 little flowers, next to a small number 2, with two little flowers.
children and teacher holding a globe

Understanding the world

  • Past and Present

At this stage of learning children should be beginning to understand the world around them. For example by talking about the people in their lives, beginning to understand the difference between past and present events, and understanding the past through storytelling.

To record this it may be easiest to provide an observation or quotes from a conversation a child has had with you about their family, and what they did last weekend.

  • The Natural World

Equally, as well as talking about people in their lives children should also be encouraged to explore animals and plants in the world around them, contrasting environments, including processes and changes such as seasons and the weather.

Encouraging play in an outdoor environment gives children the opportunity to explore, you should pair this with an activity that involves children drawing what they saw outside or can see out of the window. Include a photograph of children outside along with their drawing of something within the natural world into their file of work that represents Learning Journey progress.

  • People, Culture and Communities

Describing the environment around them, doesn’t just require children to explore plants and animals, but people too. At this early learning stage, children are encouraged to discover more about the similarities and differences between cultures and religions, as well as life in this country and life in other parts of the world.

Therefore, documenting conversations both at home and in nursery in each child’s Learning Journey template, helps to demonstrate that children have been engaged in discovering more about other communities.

Expressive arts and design

  • Creating with Materials

It is important for you to create an environment where children feel comfortable expressing themselves creatively, not just emotionally and academically.

While engaging in art and design activities, children must slowly learn and begin to demonstrate that they can safely use materials and tools such as scissors and pens, share their creations with others, and play creatively with props and materials.

Expressive arts and design is a great way to include examples of children’s work into their Learning Journey file and display their skills, for example by including a piece of work that demonstrates cutting and sticking or drawing pictures and neatly colouring them in.

  • Being Imaginative and Expressive

Being creative and expressive includes encouraging children to get involved in performances, telling stories and singing songs. At this stage of learning children should be able to sing a range of songs and nursery rhymes, invent and retell stories, and move in time to music.

Capturing images of these types of activities, for example children performing a song in front of the rest of the class or using props or dressing up during play is a great way to show children exploring their creative side.

How to Use a Learning Journey Template (with free template included!)

To recap, we have highlighted the importance of using a Learning Journey template in your nursery setting to help track the progress of the children in your care.

Recording examples of development and progress for every EYFS early learning goal, is essential for both parents and nursery practitioners to understand how far along each child is in terms of learning and development.

The Learning Journey template we have provided allows you to record progress in key areas of learning, and identify gaps where more focus is needed. Every child needs to be provided with next steps to work towards to prepare them well for their next steps in education.

Learning Journals is a platform we created to be able to do the same, by keeping you connected with parents or practitioners so you can provide updates on the progress of the children in your care.

We make it easy for you to capture significant moments of development as and when they happen at home and at nursery, and share them with parents and practitioners. This makes communication easy and ensures everyone is involved in the learning and development of every child in their care.

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