Evidence Base

The value of the broad range of strategies associated with high quality early years experiences, professional practice and intervention is supported by strong, reliable evidence.

A wide spectrum of Early Years approaches have been assessed by the EEF Toolkit as having a +5 months effect size.[1] This significant research base is underpinned by meta-analysis and Randomised Control Trials.  The impact of attending an outstanding Early Years setting on achievement in primary and secondary phases is supported extensively in the extensive EPPSE and EPPE Reports, but not all children have access to this provision.[2] [3] EPPE also identify the importance of a high-quality home learning environment. The crucial impact of Early Years education on the relative progress of disadvantaged children has been reaffirmed recently the Education Policy Institute.[4] This is further supported by a recent CREC report. [5]

LS__0010_Brogan See The Stars.jpg


The 50 Things approach has been designed to support the most impactful pedagogies and parenting approaches in the home learning environment. Working with experts in the field, we have created content for each of the 50 things and developed approaches which have been drawn from the evidence base. While we are confident that 50 Things is supported by the findings of key research publications, we will work with CAER to use the large data-sets which will be presented by 50 Things activity to inform further refining of our methodology.  Our work with Born in Bradford, a large cohort data-set to combine health and educational outcome data is a exciting development.[6]


The content and approach of 50 Things has been designed to harness best practice from research from the wider evidence base:  

The evidence for focusing on communication and language approaches within the Early Years

The EEF also indicates that activity in this area is seen to be even more highly impactful with a +6 months effect size. It is also seen to be especially good value for money.[7] 50 Things has been explicitly designed to promote and support early language development.

The evidence that Smartphone apps help secure parental engagement and progress in Early Years

Our app, website and printed materials have not been formally trialed, although we are working with the Centre for Applied Educational Research (CAER), to develop and implement of a programme of monitoring and evaluation, for 50 Things. CAER will help us to evaluate 50 Things’ work nationally, but also help evaluate our targeted outreach programmes (such as Shine’s funded programme for our use of 50 Things to support effective use of the home learning environment for children not accessing free Early Education places at age two).


The evidence that strategies which support parental engagement secure better progress in the Early Years

Parental engagement in Early Years learning is consistently associated with children’s subsequent academic success. According to the EEF, on average, parental engagement programmes evaluated to date have led to a positive impact of approximately four additional months’ progress over the course of a year.[8] 50 Things is premised on parents as the key agents of early development and learning.

The evidence that strategies which focus on self-regulation and metacognition have significant impact in the Early Years

The development of self-regulation and executive function is consistently linked with successful learning, including pre-reading skills, early mathematics and problem solving. According to the EEF, strategies that seek to improve learning by increasing self-regulation have an average impact of seven additional months’ progress. [9]  50 Things has been designed to secure relationships and interactions between parents and child, which at the same promote resilience.

The evidence that strategies which support high-quality play have great impact in the Early Years

The evidence base for play-based learning – which lie at the heart of 50 Things – reveals a strong correlation between play and early learning outcomes. The EEF report that play-based learning approaches improve learning outcomes by five additional months on average (in studies that include a quantitative component). Positive outcomes have been identified for a range of early learning outcomes including vocabulary, reasoning and early numeracy. [10] There is evidence that programmes that combine physical activity with strategies to promote self-regulation can improve executive function and have a positive impact on learning. Evidence relating to the general positive impact of physical activity on cognitive outcomes is stronger than that related to specific physical programmes. However, there are some indications that physical activity, including outdoor play, can support children’s learning.[11]

The evidence that motor skill development is key to improved attainment

Born in Bradford research (conducted within CAER) has provided unequivocal evidence a child’s fine motor skills are highly predictive of later educational attainment, as well as physical and mental health. CAER’s programmes to support the development of young children’s fine and gross motor skills are showing promising results in the development of motoric performance. [12]

Furthermore, CAER are looking to better understand the link between motor development and infant brain development, with impacts expected in overall outcomes (physical and mental health, educational attainment and social mobility). 50 Things activities have been created to provide regular and varied opportunities to support motor development in the Early Years to give children the best possible foundations for subsequent development.

Recommendations of the Public Health England and EEF Report: Early Language Development

We have using the recommendations of this significant report to inform the development of 50 Things. According to the report:[13]

  • children’s gestures, such as pointing, are key to their early language development
  • toddlers need to be using between 50 and 100 words before they start putting words together, a skill that can be a better predictor of later abilities than the number of words used
  • at some point between the ages of two and three, children typically start to produce longer, more complex sentences

However, the most recent figures suggest that between 7-14% of children struggle with language before school starts. This can hold back their reading and writing ability later in school. This is a key rationale for 50 Things - early intervention in language development will promote improved school readiness, not only for disadvantaged young children.

This report’s researchers identified a series of intervention studies which have had positive results on developing language skills. They found one of the best ways to improve early language development for this group is through training for practitioners in early years settings so that they can deliver cost-effective and evidence based interventions to those children who have fallen behind.  We have evidence that several parent and toddler group and stay and play provisions utilise 50 Things to inform their provision.

In addition to high-quality early years provision, the researchers identify interactions with parents as key. They highlight the need to promote positive interaction between parents and their children before they get to nursery at 2-3 years.

The report also stresses the need for better monitoring of children’s progress at different stages of their development, to catch those children falling behind and to identify those who need targeted, specialist support. In support of these conclusions, CAER have shown that children with SEN who arrive at school with good ‘readiness’ perform well relative to the children who are less school ready.

Written by: Christian Bunting


[1] https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit/early-years-intervention/

[2] http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/research/featured-research/effective-pre-school-primary-secondary-education-project

[3] http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/8543/7/SSU-SF-2004-01.pdf

[4] https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Closing-the-Gap_EPI-.pdf

[5] http://www.crec.co.uk/HAWWC%20Boys/HAWWC%20Boys%20Project%20Report.pdf

[6] https://borninbradford.nhs.uk/

[7] https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/early-years-toolkit/communication-and-language-approaches/

[8] https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/early-years-toolkit/parental-engagement/

[9] https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/early-years-toolkit/self-regulation-strategies/

[10] https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/early-years-toolkit/play-based-learning/

[11] https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/early-years-toolkit/physical-development-approaches/

[12] https://caerbradford.org/our-research-areas/

[13] https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Law_et_al_Early_Language_Development_final.pdf


With first-hand experience of raising young children at home, combined with a professional understanding of how children learn, Carrie Priestley is able to speak with authority and enthusiasm about…
50 Things has a strong research pedigree which continues to underpin its development. Our partnership with The Centre for Applied Educational Research (CAER) presents an ongoing opportunity for us to…
Calderdale Council took a population based, universal approach to supporting children to be school ready with the introduction of the ’50 things to do before you’re five’ project.
50 Things was launched in East Sussex in March 2019 at a conference for early years practitioners, which comprised schools and childminders and practitioners from private, voluntary and independent…
Wakefield’s 50 Things was given the green light by the Children’s Board during Covid-19, to help support families and encourage under 5’s to become more school ready.
Kirklees has a varied geography, a range of communities and a wide variety of different languages. It is made up of many communities from rural and industrial areas where there is a wide range of…
The 50 Things app and activities have been promoted as ideas for engaging Leeds parents in their child’s learning. From the outset, our focus has been on learning at home and embedding learning and…
50 Things to Do Before You’re Five in Sheffield has been funded through the City Council’s Lifelong Learning & Skills department, to provide an innovative approach that will deliver benefits to both…