An Introduction to In the Moment Planning

An Introduction to In the Moment Planning 1080 1080 Nursery Story

We know that children have a natural, innate desire to explore, question, and learn. They’re curious from their very first interactions. As they progress through their early years, this becomes even more pronounced and something that blossoms through parenting and their engagement with early years practitioners.

‘In the moment’ planning (ITMP), a deceptively simple concept, seeks to build on this and harness spontaneous interactions into providing children with some of the best, most beneficial, experiences they will have at a time in their lives when they need them most. 


Ideally, practitioners will consider the individual needs and interests of each child, understanding where they’re at in terms of their learning and emotional development. With ITMP, what we want to achieve is to have children become the focus instead of an activity that a practitioner has planned taking centre stage. Such child-led learning opens up a range of possibilities and learning opportunities that simply don’t occur when a child is placed in an environment where play is more organised. The observation stage, though, shouldn’t be overlooked. If done correctly, it will offer practitioners a series of insights as they observe the child play and take their lead.  

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We want to create an environment that will stimulate a child’s curiosity rather than direct them to a specific activity. There are a few things to consider here as a child-centered environment hopefully reveals itself. The atmosphere and feel of the environment is always worth reflecting on and seeing if it can be improved so that a child feels welcomed and experiences a sense of belonging. Once an enabling environment is established we want the child to feel like everything is available and accessible without having an activity set out. Children are then free to follow their own interests rather than a set agenda. 

Being ‘in the moment’

Most practitioners know that while activities can be planned in advance and can often lead to engaging sessions, the best interactions happen when they react to a child’s interests immediately. This idea is central to ‘in the moment’ planning. As children initiate what to do when they play, they become engrossed. Such instances present a valuable opportunity for early years practitioners, often referred to as ‘teachable moments’. Ideally, the practitioner will observe the child undertaking an activity of their choice and then wait for the right time to engage and respond to the individual needs of the child. Capturing the interest of a child in the present moment often sees their enthusiasm soar. Positive, open-ended questions can prove incredibly useful in these moments too. 

“Babies and young children… are experiencing and learning in the here and now, not storing up their questions until tomorrow or next week. It is in that moment of curiosity, puzzlement, effort, or interest – the ‘teachable moment’ – that the skillful adult makes a difference.” 

(Learning, Playing and Interacting – The National Strategy Early Years). 

Recording Observations

Recording observations completes the planning cycle and allows an early years setting to build upon any insights gleaned from a session at a later date. This is also a process that ensures practitioners are aware of their role to not necessarily become too involved in the play and often prompts them to retake their stance of an observer, allowing the child-initiated play to reach an organic conclusion. Thankfully, Ofsted understands that ITMP planning will naturally result in less paperwork as the children are not learning based on the traditional planning process. Note down the initial spark that set off the session, the teachable moments that occurred, and document any ideas for the future. 

At Nursery Story, our intuitive software enables nursery owners and practitioners to spend less time with paperwork and more time with little ones and is especially helpful for ITMP. If you’d like to learn more or try out a free trial then you can right here.

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