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Learning through play – Creative development

This clip from Learning Through Play, looks at the role of communication and language during play.

Good for looking at

  • Creative development
  • Learning through play
  • Effective adult support
  • Parents
  • The three year old

Creative development

Creativity is traditionally seen in the context of art, music, dance, role-play and imagination. It is also about some important positive dispositions for learning such as resourcefulness, curiosity and being able to take risks. It’s about getting our ideas out into the world, finding different ways of expressing ourselves, and recognising relationships with other areas of our learning.

When children feel safe and secure, they can use all the parts of their brain to try out new experiences, experiment with ideas and materials and use all their senses to stimulate and satisfy their curiosity. A child who is stressed or anxious doesn’t have the spare brain capacity to experiment, as all their energy is consumed by survival.

In the comfortable environment of his playgroup, Seb is able to collaborate and devise a complex imaginative role play about baking. With his friend and playmate at home in the garden he creates highly imaginative worlds and scenarios.

A play environment might have lots of wonderful stimulating resources in it, but to provide truly creative opportunities, children need permission to experiment and use resources in open –ended ways and to repeat an action or activity over and over again, refining and revising until they arrive at their own satisfying conclusion. This is rarely about an end product and never about identical pieces of art work. This is because it is the creative process that is fundamental to the learning development. Techniques and skills are acquired through meaningful repetition and purposeful practice and children are very good at knowing what they need to do more of. Here we see Seb spending several concentrated minutes marking the dough with patterns, over and over again until he is satisfied, and then roll it out to do something else with it. Linked with his creative development, this activity may also have been driven by a particular schema that was prevalent for Seb at that time.

A truly enabling environment is one where the ‘continuous provision’ ensures that children always have access to all kinds of creative experiences both indoor and out; where they have plenty of open-ended resources, and where the practitioners are knowledgeable and interested in children’s schemas and motivations, recognising the part they play in extending learning.

Questions for reflection

  • Can you see evidence of Seb’s schemas anywhere else in the other video clips?
  • Some schemas carry over into our adult lives. Are you aware of any schemas that have particular resonance for you or other adults you know?
  • Feeling safe enough to take risks is important in promoting creativity. Do you see any other evidence of Seb feeling safe enough to take risks, creatively, physically or emotionally?
  • Is creativity always about using imagination?
  • What do you know of the approaches to creativity used by the Reggio Emilia pre-schools?
  • In situations where budgets for consumable resources (paper/paints/masking tape etc) might be restricted, how do you ensure children get the opportunities to experiment with and repeat activities as much as they need to?

Useful reading

  • Supporting Creativity and Imagination in the Early Years Bernadette Duffy OUP
  • Not Just Pictures – Children developing creativity through art by Cathy Myer (2002) Early Education
  • More Than Cooking – Developing children’s learning through cooking by Jane Khan (2003) foreword by Heston Blumenthal Early Education
00:02
Creativity is about getting ideas and images
00:04
out of your head and into the world.
00:07
And for children, it shouldn't be about pleasing adults.
00:11
Play is an ideal way for children
00:13
to reach that relaxed but involved state
00:16
so that they can have fun being creative.
00:22
There's lots of ways to express yourself creatively.
00:25
Seb's painting, and that helps develop his visual awareness.
00:30
He's choosing colors,
00:32
experiencing the feel of paint, the paper, and his brush.
00:51
We die of it don't we, mama.
00:54
Three.
00:57
There.
00:58
Seb likes giving mum a hand in the kitchen.
00:59
That's a big plop.
01:00
And he loves listening to stories.
01:04
"So he skipped from the oven into bread dough,
01:07
"all ready to rise in the kitchen.
01:08
"And he kneaded and punched it and pounded and pulled--"
01:14
You can see from the words he's using
01:15
that Seb's created this play situation
01:18
from his experiences in the kitchen.
01:20
And from the story.
01:22
Squeeze it in the pie, quick,
01:24
put the dough here.
01:29
He's using words from the story
01:31
as he forms his dough into a pie.
01:36
These are just two examples
01:37
of where children can get their creative ideas from.
01:41
Knead it and knead it and punched it, punched it,
01:46
and kneaded.
01:52
Seb's deeply involved in a creative process.
02:03
He's covered the surface of the dough with marks
02:06
and he's experiencing texture, shape, and form.
02:19
In Seb's play, creativity is the process.
02:22
The end product doesn't seem all that important.
02:25
He's been doing this for over five minutes.
02:28
But then he flattens the dough out to start something new.
02:41
With a bit of creative thinking, Seb uses a box as an oven.
02:45
You put it in the oven now.
02:48
Cook, cook.
02:49
Cook away.
02:51
You cook it in the wire because he couldn't have it.
02:57
He takes this further in the play group,
02:58
getting deeper into his role as a baker.
03:02
That's not goin' in the bin,
03:04
'cause there's cookies in there and they will burn ya!
03:09
'Cause they're very hot.
03:13
With imagination,
03:14
children can act out various roles,
03:17
putting their ideas and skills into action,
03:19
and so reach a deeper level of learning.
03:22
They're becoming flexible thinkers.
03:25
Seb's completely involved with his idea of making himself
03:28
into a horse.
03:29
I know!
03:31
I know what we can do with the stick!
03:33
Just put a big hole there.
03:36
And make a piece of rib right here then so on.
03:40
Then we can make a carriage to go in the back
03:44
and go, then I could be the horse and go--
03:47
He's using words and actions
03:48
to describe his idea and present it to those around him.
03:51
Let's do, yeah?