“Design and Technology develops children’s skills and knowledge in design, structures, mechanisms, electrical control, and a range of materials, including food. It encourages children’s creativity and encourages them to think about important issues.” – D&T Association, 2023
Although the Technology aspect of the EYFS curriculum has been removed from 2021, children still start their Design and Technology journey in our EYFS, as the subject provides many opportunities to develop all areas of the current EYFS curriculum:
- Communication and Language
Through Design and Technology, children listen carefully to instructions and follow them accurately when using tools and practising techniques. When responding to questioning, children explain how their own and others’ products work, say who they think they are for and what purposes they fulfil.
They develop technical vocabulary and learn how to express their ideas for what they want to design and make.
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development
Design and Technology is ultimately about people and making things better for people. As a result, there are many issues to explore empathy, values and needs of users. Design and Technology also provides unique opportunities for children to develop their self-confidence and self-awareness, manage their feelings and make relationships.
- Physical Development
Design and Technology activities can significantly help with fine and gross motor experiences in children. Opportunities for sensory explorations and co-ordination can be achieved through tasks and play. Using small tools, with feedback and support from adults, allows children to develop proficiency, control, and confidence.
Communication is a key aspect in Design and Technology. We ensure there are opportunities for children to discuss their creations and those made by other people. As part of the EYFS curriculum that many children find accessible, enjoyable and motivational, Design and Technology provides contexts for children to communicate about what they have made and designed.
This area of learning enables children to explore and further their understanding of shapes, spatial awareness, and measure. Developing a risk-taking approach is also key and should help to embed a growth mindset which is vital for Design and Technology.
- Understanding of the World
This area of learning enables children to learn about products and environments that have been designed and made by people. Children think about how a range of everyday and less familiar products are used in places such as schools and homes. They select and use these products for purposes and investigate and evaluate them using a range of questioning techniques. They talk about features of their indoor and outdoor environment.
- Expressive Arts and Design
This is the area of learning where Design and Technology related aspects can be explored. The area focuses on children’s creative development and mentions the need for a wide range of materials, tools, and other resources. This provides opportunities for children’s learning in Design and Technology to draw on the ‘arts’ when they are designing and making.
Design and Technology Association, 2023
In Design and Technology, we often mention ‘something for somebody for some purpose’ and this is what our Design and Technology curriculum has been centred around.
We have used the Design and Technology Association guidance and Projects on a Page to create our long-term curriculum plan, which can be seen below.
Our Design and Technology curriculum ensures we are meeting the objectives set out in the National Curriculum for Design and Technology (2014). Each year group from Nursery to Year 6 covers three units of Design and Technology per year. By the time children reach Year 1, they will work through the whole Design and Technology cycle during each unit studied:
- Technical Knowledge
We have developed a spiral curriculum for Design and Technology to ensure both substantive and disciplinary knowledge are revisited and built upon as children progress through school.
The core themes that are taught through our Design and Technology curriculum are:
- Mechanical Systems
- Electrical Systems
Products: Cups, Cutlery and Slippers
Children name and identify products, with a focus on everyday items, including cups, cutlery, and slippers. When exploring and discussing products, children learn that products are made for somebody, for some purpose. For example, a sippy cup is made for a toddler, so they don’t spill their drinks.
Materials, Mechanisms, Structures: Toys
During this unit, children explore a range of toys and learn to name some of the materials they are made from. Through play and adult interaction, they begin to learn that some toys have mechanisms which enable them to move, including joints, wheels, and motors.
It’s all about hats as children learn about textiles! Children explore the shape, size, materials, and uses of different hats (woolly hats, sun hats, hard hats etc.) They establish when they would be worn and for what purpose. Children draw hats and make models of hats using playdough. They talk about who their hat has been made for and for what purpose. From this, children explore the best material to make a sun hat from and they learn how to join fabrics using different methods, e.g., stapler and staples, Sellotape, masking tape, glue sticks and PVA glue. They look at and discuss the features of a range of sun hats, including peak, and wide brim before creating their own sun hats, by applying the knowledge they have gained across the unit. They decorate their hats, so they appeal to the intended user before wearing them to test them and evaluate their suitability.
Children discuss their experiences of builders and building. Through photos, videos or a real visit, if possible, children are exposed to a building site and discuss what can be seen including shapes, numbers, materials, equipment and tools, and they talk about the people on the site.
Children learn about:
- Health and Safety equipment – why special and colourful clothes are worn on building sites: hard hats, reflective coats, gloves and strong boots.
- Roles – Who does what, including project managers/contractors, bricklayers, plasterers, plumbers, painters, joiners, etc.
- Construction – why deep foundations are dug for walls; how bricks and blocks are put together; what scaffolding does; how the roof is constructed, etc.
- Materials – different materials used in construction including bricks, blocks, wood, concrete, cement and mortar, water, metals in electrical cables and plastics in plumbing materials.
- Vehicles – what is the function of different vehicles on the building site? Why are they different shapes and not like cars at home?
- Tools – hand tools and larger tools and their different functions.
- Health and Safety what are the dangers and how do we avoid them?
- Users – Who are the buildings for? Who will live or work in them?
Children look at a range of tools and materials, including safety goggles and hard hats. Through visiting the local area, they look at buildings and talk about the materials used in windows, doors etc, and the sizes of different elements.
From what they have experienced, children design and make their own structures using construction kits such as Lego. They might choose to create a building, a tower, a bridge, a house, a factory, or a platform to hold an object. The children decide who their structure is for and the purpose of it.
Mechanisms: Hinges and Catches
Children learn about simple mechanisms and the way things work through investigating hinges and catches. The children look around school to find working examples of hinges and catches. Children learn how to make simple hinges and ways to fasten. The main outcome of this unit is to design and make a box that incorporates a hinge and catch and decorate it with a particular purpose and user in mind.
Food: Developing Techniques
Children develop their food skills across this unit, which leads to them creating their own Teddy Bears’ picnic!
Children are taught how to:
- Pull fruit, such as grapes from the vine
- Crush soft fruit such as raspberries as a yogurt topping
- Peel fruit such as bananas and oranges.
Children follow instructions given one at a time by an adult and carry out the instructions with support. They experience:
- Mixing / Stirring to loosely combine ingredients and mash ingredients together using a fork
- Spooning ingredients between containers
- Measuring using a spoon, e.g. dried fruit or herbs
- Cutting out ingredients with a cutter, e.g., dough for scones
- Tearing g., fresh herbs
- Cutting g., soft foods with a butter knife, e.g., bananas and canned peach slices.
The foods that children experience in Reception year have low friction, which heightens their success rate of being able to achieve the above techniques. As children move through school, the greater the friction of the food becomes.
Mechanisms: Levers and Sliders
Building on children’s knowledge of flaps and hinges developed in Reception, children explore and evaluate a range of books with moving parts, including those with levers and sliders. Through this, they develop their vocabulary associated with mechanisms, including lever, pivot, slider, left, right, push, pull, up, down, forwards, backwards, in, out. Over time, children develop their knowledge and skills by creating sliders and levers and adding illustrations to create pages for a moving picture book. These will link to the wider curriculum subjects studied in Year 1, such as traditional tales, Victorians, or the human body, for example. Children will evaluate their developing ideas and final products against the original design criteria.
Using construction such as Lego, children design and make a home, building on their knowledge of construction in Reception. After discussing the different types of homes we live in (links to History in Reception), children draw different homes and label their main features, materials, and shapes. Children are taught joining and finishing techniques to support them in creating features of their home, such as doors and windows. Throughout the unit, children discuss the suitability of materials and learn how walls are built for stability. They experiment with different wall building techniques and decided which makes the strongest wall. Using the knowledge they have gained across the unit, children design, build make and evaluate a home for someone, for some purpose.
During this unit, children learn about the wide variety of fruit available; how it is prepared; how to create a fruit-based dish and the role of fruit in a balanced diet. During this unit children explore fruit using their senses and develop appropriate vocabulary. Children use the knowledge they gain to plan and make their own creative fruit dish.
Mechanisms: Wheels and Axels
Children research transport during this unit, with a particular focus on wheels and axels. They design, make, and evaluate a vehicle for a user with a purpose and develop their technical vocabulary. Children design through drawing and build and construct with a wide range of materials, so they can select which are most appropriate for their product. Through questioning, children are encouraged to reflect on their developing product and give reasons why they are happy or unhappy with their final piece.
Food: Dips and Dippers
Children learn basic food preparation techniques and ways of combining components to create simple food products for a particular purpose, i.e. designing a healthy dip for a party. They develop their designing skills by using their own experiences and evaluating existing products to develop ideas. Through discussion, they develop criteria for their design proposals and suggest ways to proceed. They develop their making skills by learning to combine components according to taste, appearance, texture, and aroma to create a product that contributes to a healthy diet. Through this activity, children develop an awareness of health and safety and learn that the quality of the product depends on how well it is made and presented.
Textiles: Hand Puppets
This unit involves children making a textile product by marking out, cutting, and joining pieces of fabric. Children look at a selection of hand puppets and base their design on their investigations into how the puppets have been made and who they have been designed for. This unit provides a context for work in English and offers an opportunity for children to make up their own play or to retell a familiar story using their puppets, building on their learning in EYFS linked to joining fabrics.
Structures: Packaging to Banish Broken Biscuits!
Building on children’s knowledge of different joining, cutting, and finishing techniques with paper and card, which they developed in Year 1 Structures: Homes, children focus on designing and making shell structures using sheet materials and additional strengthening for a particular purpose: transporting and displaying biscuits.
Children learn about building 3D structures from 2D nets, ensuring the resulting structures are appropriate for the task: protecting, displaying, and transporting biscuits. This provides an ideal opportunity to apply learning in Maths to a real-life context, allowing children to measure accurately, identify and construct nets of a range of 3D shapes and use a range of mental calculation strategies.
Children develop their designing skills through trying out ideas with materials to make a mock up before developing and drawing a design and planning their making. Making skills include techniques in cutting, shaping, and joining to combine components, and by selecting tools and equipment to measure and cut accurately. Both the functional and decorative attributes in a finished product are considered, thinking about the user and purpose of their model.
Food: Sandwich Snacks
Many children bring sandwiches to school in their lunch boxes or enjoy a packed lunch on a school visit and this unit allows children to make a more informed choice of sandwich filling based on a balanced diet. The balance of foods which should be consumed to achieve a healthy diet, is a focus of this unit and a positive approach is used to encourage a wide variety of foods, including wholemeal, brown, or high-fibre breads where possible. After testing and evaluating existing sandwiches and fillings, children design, make and evaluate their own sandwiches. They communicate their designs through exploded diagrams and evaluate their work against a design criterion.
During this unit, children research, design, make and evaluate an apron. Through investigating a range of aprons, bibs and tabards, they develop their own ideas. Children are taught and practice a range of stitching and joining techniques and test which method makes the most effective hem or seam. They practise techniques in attaching fastenings and testing their effectiveness. Children discuss how fabrics are made and their suitability for different types of aprons, and they explore ways of making a simple paper pattern for an apron using newspaper, scissors, and masking tape. Children learn how to attach a pattern to fabric and cut it out. When the apron is completed, they evaluate it against their own specifications and suggest improvements that could be made.
Mechanical Systems: Mighty Mascots (Pneumatics)
In this unit children design and make a mascot suitable for an opening celebration, e.g. Olympics, Coronation, Eurovision, World Cup etc. Children research a range of countries represented at the event and develop ideas that reflect the diversity of each country’s identity. Additionally, children explore the nature of pneumatic systems and how these can be incorporated into a design for a mascot which they go on to make. This unit helps to develop children’s understanding of control through investigating simple pneumatic systems and designing and making a mascot that has moving parts controlled by pneumatics.
Electrical Systems: Night Lights
Through the story, “The Owl Who Was Afraid of The Dark” by Jill Murphy, children consider the need for a night light to aid sleep. They have a selection of different lights to evaluate using certain criteria and they consider the materials involved in its production, the parts, the function, and who may use it, before evaluating existing products. Through this unit, children will also continue to build their awareness of the danger of mains electricity, which links to their unit on electricity in science.
During the learning process, children practise making a range of switches including push-to-make, toggle and rotating. They test the functionality of each switch in a circuit to control a bulb.
This unit works toward the children designing, making, and evaluating a night light for someone and for some purpose.
Food: Super Salads
Children learn about the wide variety of different salads available, the origins of some of them and the ingredients they contain. They identify and sort salad components into the Balance of Good Health food groups and understand how different salads can contribute to a healthy diet. They learn which food groups they should be eating most, and which foods provide a good source of energy (carbohydrates – bread, other cereals, and potatoes group) and that these can form a base for salads. Children research their salad by tasting ingredients and using different research techniques, e.g. the internet. They expand their food skills and sensory vocabulary by expressing taste preferences and explaining their reasons. They revise and practise hygiene rules, safe use of equipment and safe food storage. Children develop criteria for their product and plan their work in a detailed way. They plan their ingredient choices thoughtfully, considering the taste and the appearance of the product, and their criteria. Children make various dishes, demonstrating a range of food skills. Children will present their work, explaining their decisions and evaluating their salad against the original criteria. They evaluate the work of others in a positive and fair way.
Structures: Bird Hides
In this Dragons Den style unit, children learn about structures. They learn that structures can fail when loaded, and the use of techniques for reinforcing and strengthening structures. They are shown the strength of tubes as a construction material and textiles as a suitable cover for a framework. The main outcome of this unit is the design and construction of a framework-type shelter for an identified purpose. This can be a model leading to a full-size structure. Children pitch their small-scale models to a panel of dragons e.g. civil engineer, headteacher and caretaker.
Food: Fair Trade Cookies
This unit develops children’s skills, knowledge and understanding of food, building on the previous units in which children prepared food products using simple processes. Children learn how to adapt a basic recipe to develop a product with specified criteria. Investigation of existing products, including fair trade, will inform design ideas. Children research fair trade products and design and make creative cookies. Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory book is used as a stimulus for this Design and Technology unit of work, which also develops real life practical maths skills, such as measuring accurately, converting measures (kg-g and g-kg) and beginning to apply ratio and proportion to recipes. In addition to this, this unit of work provides opportunities for children to conduct market research and use reflective and critical thinking skills as they encounter some problems along the way, such as sourcing all the fair trade ingredients. This unit precedes a Year 6 Geography unit in Year 6, where children study World Trade in more detail.
Mechanical Systems: Mechanisms with a Message (Gears and Pulleys)
Building on learning about levers and sliders, children learn about different types of movement through investigating mechanisms in everyday objects and designing and making a moving model to reinforce a message. They learn how a simple cam can be used with a lever or a slider to control movement. Children then design and make a cam board to get across a message to a particular set of users. The choice of message is negotiated with the children but will link to work from across the wider curriculum. Children develop their designing skills through trying out ideas with materials to make a mock up before drawing a design and planning their making. Their making skills are extended by developing techniques in cutting, shaping and joining to combine components, and by selecting tools and equipment to measure and cut accurately. Both the functional and decorative attributes in a finished product are considered, thinking about the user and purpose of their model.
Textiles: Designer Bags
In this unit, children learn how products e.g., bags are designed for different purposes and people. They learn that designers must address a range of needs when designing bags e.g., appearance, safety, comfort, practicality, and size. Children learn about making accurate patterns/templates and detailed working drawings. They develop making and finishing skills to enhance the quality of their bags. They learn to evaluate their products critically against design criteria and identify what to do to improve them.
Electrical Systems: Alarming Vehicles
Building on learning about wheels and axels in Year 2, shell structures through packaging in Year 3, electricity in Year 4, and gears and pulleys in Year 5, children apply their knowledge by creating an alarmed vehicle, thus developing their knowledge of mechanical systems and electronics. Through this unit, most children will draw on their understanding of simple electrical circuits and switches to help them generate ideas about their alarm. They produce a labelled drawing to communicate their ideas to others and they cut and shape materials and join components with precision to assemble their frame or chassis, body and circuit, using appropriate techniques. This unit builds on the Gears and Pulleys unit in Year 5, where motors in vehicle frame structures aid learning about motion, ratio and gearing, and circuits.
This unit brings together the knowledge children have gained about food preparation and handling from previous year groups. Children explore a real-life context for designing and making a soup, generating initial ideas based on their prior knowledge and from researching soups from other countries and cultures. From this, children carry out sensory evaluations of a range of soups and record these using a table or chart, developing their sensory vocabulary related to savoury soups. Children develop their knowledge to know that climate and conditions affect when and where food is produced. This is linked to a Year 6 geography unit on ‘World Trade’. When making soup, children use a range of cooking techniques such as peeling, grating, chopping, and slicing vegetables safely and hygienically and they follow a recipe for making soup. When designing their own soup, children create their own design criteria and use the results of their own research when developing design ideas, before planning, making and evaluating their soup against their design criteria.
Useful Links and Documents
Our Design and Technology Ambassador is Mrs Taylor. If you have any questions about our Design and Technology curriculum, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.