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Letter-like signs




A cheque for £500

     When playing builders, Isaac (4 years, 6 months), wrote a reversed and inverted 

 inverted letter “a” on a pretend cheque, 

to signify “£500.00.” Isaac wrote a letter-like sign he knew, generated by those he’s seen his teacher model and from his peers’ writing.


  • Taxonomy - written number and quantities: Explorations with signs and symbols; Early written numerals
  • Money


Measuring medicine

Kiera (5 years, 4 months), was playing doctors

with her friends Tanny and Lauren. She gave

some medicine to Tanny, explaining that the

number on the cup said "Eighty. It tells how

much medicine you are giving."

   Lauren also enjoyed being a mummy,

using the phone and making a list of 'phone

numbers. She wrote and read "300" for the

doctor, and "37", this time saying "three

and seven for Oma [Grandma]."  


  • Taxonomy - written number and quantities: Explorations with signs and symbols; Early written numerals
  • Number























A visit to the Baby Clinic (children 4-5 years)

     Visiting the local Baby Clinic, the children

watched as Health Visitors weighed

babies and recorded their weights on charts and in a book, and listened to what was said about their progress.

     On their return to school some rich 

pretend play developed spontaneously.

This was supported by a real set of analogue baby weighing scales that the clinic no

longer used, since they had changed to 

digital scales.

     Over several days, a piece of paper on

which one child made marks and signs, was

added to by others. Their graphics show


  • They understood that adult use

         written marks and symbols for

         specific purposes.

  • They drew on their knowledge of

          symbols, including approximations

         of letters and numerals they had


  • Some children used the initial letter

          of their name or their age number to

        stand for what they said.

    During their play the children freely used

language of measurement such as 

"heavy", "this big","three long" and "getting bigger" - and made general comments and asked questions such as "How’s your baby

doing?" as they weighed dolls and teddies.

     The conversations between health professionals and mothers and their

purposeful writing had made an impression

and the children were able to integrate their experiences into their play.


  • Taxonomy - written number and quantities: 

       Explorations with signs and symbols

  • Weighing

Playing shops

Amelia (3 years, 4 months) was playing shops

with three friends, busy organising and chatting.

'Reading' her signs as “chocolate biscuits, rice

pops and sausages”she appeared to to be

thinking about food she liked to eat, and items

that her mum bought when they went to the

supermarket together.


  • Taxonomy  - written number and

         quantities:  Explorations with signs and symbols

  • Itemising