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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