Well planned indoors and outdoors play provides young children with a way to enjoy learning through challenge and fun.
Without encouragement to explore their world through play, children might have problems in forming healthy relationships in later years. Studies on rats have shown that when deprived of play when young, they show disturbed behaviour when mature.
Creative play helps children respond in a variety of ways to what they see, hear, smell, touch and feel. This kind of play includes art (helping children explore colours, textures and shapes and imaginative drawing) and music (giving the children the freedom to experiment with tunes and melodies).
Through creative development children will learn to express themselves in imaginative ways. Language skills are developed through listening to and talking about what they are doing. They should be encouraged to investigate objects and materials that are being used in creative play by using all their appropriate senses.
This gives children confidence to experiment and explore the world around them and to discover the different properties of material through their senses.
Between the ages of 3 and 5, a child’s manipulative skills are developing and they will enjoy exploring different materials such as wet and dry sand, water, paints, pens, clay and dough.
Ideas for Creative Play
Help design and build a large collage with a theme such as the changing seasons. This activity may involve a scavenger hunt to find materials for the project. Ideas for the collage could include: flowers to press (depending on the season) acorns, leaves, pebbles and stones. The children should also be provided with a range of other materials such as textured paper, fabric, ribbons, wool and textured thread, pasta and beans. Strong glue is needed so that the pieces don’t fall off too easily.
Through discussing ideas for the collage, this play helps the child to enjoy listening to and using the spoken language so that they readily converse in their play and learning.
Collecting items for the collage encourages them to respond in a variety of ways to what they see, hear, smell touch and feel. All this helps to promote a child’s learning as they are encouraged to investigate objects and materials by using all of their senses as appropriate and moving with confidence, imagination and in safety.
Encourage children to use their imagination through play that helps them mimic those around them. Use a large cardboard box to make for an entrance to a grocery store/post office/sweet shop. Paint the box to make for an attractive entrance into this game and set up the store by providing the children with canned goods and other items they might sell in their shop. Decide on prices for the goods. Let the children take turns in being the shopkeeper and shopper. They will have a great time pretending to shop and they’re learning mathematical and problem solving skills at the same time.
Learning and play can be simultaneous and helps to make learning fun, for young children.
Lindon, Jennie Understanding Children’s Play (Nelson Thornes 2001)
Pound, Linda How Children Learn: (Step Forward Publishing 2005)