Birth to Three Further Reading

We hope you find these suggestions for further reading helpful.  We have provided links where appropriate, but in many cases a subscription will be required to access a particular research article.  Where an article is available without charge on another website, we have included a link to that for your information.  In the case of subscription articles, we do not recommend any particular provider and suggest that you use the information provided below to help you identify the most appropriate research source for you.

Manning-Morton, J. and Thorp, M. (2015) Two-Year-Olds In Early Years Settings: Journeys Of Discovery. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

This book offers an in-depth exploration of the distinctive features of the play, development and learning of two-year-olds and includes research and theory. It mirrors the ‘journey’ a two-year-old takes through key aspects of their experience, starting with being at home, through their transition into a setting and then through each aspect of provision. This journey of discovery helps you better understand the child’s viewpoint, and to explore and analyse concepts of good quality practice and provision by opening a window on the world of a two-year-old (not a baby and not yet a three year old), capturing what it is like to be two in an early years setting.

Goldschmeid, E. and Jackson, S. (1994) People Under Three: Play, work and learning in a childcare setting. Abingdon: Routledge, (second edition).

This lovely book is a classic, beginning ‘The landscape of early childhood services has been transformed [in recent years], but the trees are still quite sparse and most of them are only saplings, vulnerable to the whims of economic downturn or the whims of politicians’. It argues for the importance of the first three years of life and explores a range of important issues relating to this phase, including the key person approach. For many early years practitioners it will be the chapters on treasure baskets and on heuristic play that make this book especially memorable. This second edition ends on a positive note, albeit with a realistic take on the challenges that remain.

Moss, P. (2007) Bringing politics into the nursery: early childhood education as a democratic practice. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 15(1), 5-20.

This paper explores the possibility that early childhood institutions can be, first and foremost, places of political practice—and specifically of democratic political practice. The case for the primacy of democratic political practice in early childhood institutions is made more urgent by two developments apparent in many countries today: the growth of policy interest in early childhood education, leading to an expansion of services, and the need to revive democratic politics. As well as bringing democratic practice into the nursery, what this would mean and what conditions might enable it, the paper also considers democratic practice at other levels: not just the institutional, but also the national or federal, the regional and the local, and how each level can create ‘democratic space’ at other levels. The author argues that ‘it is both feasible and desirable to work, democratically, to identify a body of agreed values, principles and objectives for early childhood services: in short, to develop a European approach or policy on early childhood education’.

Abbott, L. and Langston, A. (2004) Birth to three matters: Supporting the Framework of Effective Practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

This publication provides a sound theoretical approach to babies’ and young children’s learning and development. It is supported and enhanced by a highly practical section, which links to the framework and shows how observation, play, interaction and creativity affects work with very young children. It also provides a resource that is research rich, each chapter enlarging on a particular issue relating to this age group. The Birth to Three Matters document (DfES) was originally published in 2002, but this book and the research presented remain just as fresh and relevant today.

Georgeson, J., Campbell-Barr, V. and Mathers, S. (2015) Staff perspectives on working with two-year-olds: preparation, support and working together. TACTYC. Available at

This study, commissioned by TACTYC in 2014, sought to find out how the early years workforce was responding to the government’s funding initiative for two-year-olds in England. This Occasional Paper is based on some of the findings. The two-year-old offer asks a lot from early years practitioners, but settings and practitioners are working hard to provide for them, including those taking two-year-olds for the first time. Settings are working very quickly and effectively to adapt their practice and provision to meet this new challenge; the consequent demands on time and resources, however, need to be recognised.

Full Report: Georgeson, J., Campbell-Barr, V., Mathers, S., Boag-Munroe, G., Parker-Rees, R. and Caruso, F. (2014). Two-year-olds in England: an exploratory study. Available at

 This study investigated the provision of funded places for two-year-olds in England. From September 2013 free early education has been provided for the 20% most disadvantaged two- year-olds, extending to around 40% of two-year-olds in September 2014, and reflects Government interest in early intervention to compensate for disadvantage and to identify and intervene to address possible special educational needs. The places are offered by a mixed economy of providers across the non-maintained and maintained sector. There were four elements to the research: a review of the literature; interviews with key informants; a national survey of practitioners and regional case studies. Summarising the research, the study makes a number of conclusions and gives implications for practitioners, including perspectives on quality; initial and ongoing experience, professional development and qualifications; working with families and other professionals; funding issues and observations of practice and pedagogy.

Dalli, C., White, E.J., Rockel, J., Duhn, I., with Buchanan, E., Davidson, S., Ganly, S., Kus, L., & Wang, B. (2011) Quality early childhood education for under-two-year-olds: What should it look like? A literature review.

New Zealand: Report to the Ministry of Education.

Synthesising the findings from this thorough and wide-ranging literature review, the authors conclude that three key messages summarise the findings of this report:

(1) Early childhood settings for under-two-year-olds should be places where children experience sensitive responsive caregiving that is attuned to their subtle cues, including their temperamental and age characteristics;

(2) Early childhood settings for under-two-year-olds should be low-stress environments because low stress environments are correlated to healthy brain development. Calm quiet environments are amenable to policy intervention through regulable elements such as adult:child ratios, and teacher preparation and

(3) Environmental conditions and teacher action interconnect in creating quality ECS for under-two-year-olds. The achievement of attuned teacher-child relationships requires a holistic pedagogical approach and environmental and policy conditions that act as a supportive membrane for pedagogical interaction.

Roberts, R. (2011) Companionable learning: a mechanism for holistic well-being development from birth, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 19:2, 195-205.

This article presents selected findings from a doctoral study, Companionable Learning: The Development of Resilient Well-being from Birth to Three and findings from a series of subsequent studies carried out in English settings. The main findings highlight the importance of companionable (social) learning, which is related to anchored attention, authority, apprenticeship, and allowing children the time and space they need. Also emphasised are the importance of rich situations and experiences; the need for play, play that is child-initiated, open-ended, un-rushed; adaptable, available, intense, intentional; leisurely, creative, free – and profoundly satisfying to the children. Finally the study emphasises the importance of collective well-being.

Rutanen, N. (2007) Two year-old children as co-constructors of culture, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 15:1, 59-69.

The author of this study asks how culture is co-constructed in everyday interactions in a daycare centre; what ‘culture’ is being constructed; who are the constructors and how is culture is constructed? The interesting findings revealed that the children engaged in resistance and experiments of what is possible and allowed to occur, creating a counter-culture in relation to the structuring attempts. Their positions were more complex than the children simply being observed by the adults: the children also invited the adults to join in and questioned the adults’ positions as passive observers by addressing and showing them the objects.

Learning and Teaching Scotland (2010) Pre-Birth to Three: Positive Outcomes for Scotland’s Children and Families. Scotland: Education Scotland. 

This Scottish document sets out to facilitate those working with and on behalf of our youngest children and their families and has relevance for England too. The booklet includes important information on pre-birth and brain development, highlighting practical case studies and making reference to current research to support improved evidence-based practice.

The National Guidance and Multimedia Resource can be found on Education Scotland’s Early Years website

Page, J., Nutbrown, C. and Clare, A. (2013) Working with Babies and Children: From Birth to Three. London: Sage Publications.

‘The first edition of this book set a milestone in writing about under threes. This second edition builds on that great achievement: its thinking about loving interactions in nurseries marks it out for its bravery and profound importance for a new generation of practice’ Peter Elfer, University of Roehampton.

Georgeson, J. Campbell-Barr, V. and Mathers, S. (2014) Staff perspectives on working with two-year-olds: preparation, support and working together. TACTYC Occasional Paper 6.

 This study commissioned by TACTYC, investigated the 2013 government initiative to provide free early education in England for the 20% most disadvantaged two-year-olds, (and extended to around 40% of two-year-olds in September 2014). This ‘occasional paper’ provides a summary of the findings. It concludes that the two-year-old offer asks a lot of from early years practitioners, but that settings and practitioners are working hard to provide for them, including those taking two- year-olds for the first time, and that the consequent demands on time and resources, however, need to be recognised.

Young, S. (2016) Infant Feeding Practices among Somali-born women now resident in Bristol. MLitt Thesis, University of Bristol.  A study at Redcliffe Children’s Centre, Bristol.

 This ethnographic study sought to understand Somali women’s infant feeding not from a public health stance but from their own perspectives and within the wider context of their lives, including their migration from Somali territories. The pattern of basic features is explained as a legacy of evolved adaptations to life in the resource-scarce environment of the Horn of Africa.

Georgeson, J., Campbell-Barr, V., Mathers, S., with Boag-Munroe, G., Parker-Rees, R., and Caruso, F. (2014) Two-year olds in England: an exploratory study. Plymouth University and Oxford University / TACTYC.

This full report of the study of two-years olds begins with a summary and key findings of the report. It provides thorough details of this research including a review of the literature, interviews with key informants, a national survey of practitioners and regional case studies.


We are building a bank of resources to support your early years research project.  Links to suggested further reading in each of the key research hubs can be found below.  Or contact us and let us know how we can make this website more relevant to you and your practice.

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