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Exploring Creative Play in Early Learning

Many people immediately associate creative play with art experiences, but this is only one of many areas that can be easily developed to encourage imagination and self-expression.

Written by: Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

Many Educators have a long-held belief that they are not creative, and when planning activities within a program they may feel held back by what to provide. These feelings may stem from their own experiences marred by expectations or the lingering judgement of others that is still present today. However, a wonderful consequence of spending time with children is their ability to be accepting and open-minded and they can teach us and permit us to redefine what it means to be creative.

Creative Play is more extensive than Art and Craft

Choosing resources that are open-ended in nature is the first port of call in setting up spaces that invite imagination and are a stimulus to creative play. Many people immediately associate creative play with art experiences, but this is only one of many areas that can be easily developed to encourage imagination and self-expression.

Creating music through exploration of sound is all about finding the rhythm and beat. In a group time activity, such as a morning greeting, children could express their feelings by describing them with an instrument. To support their growing vocabulary or for less verbal children, they could choose an Emotion Stone and then make the sound. 

Whether following a pattern or simply experimenting, children are learning a unique language that has the power to make and share stories that are real or imagined! Children can try these skills with a group parachute game, stopping, starting, and moving in time to the music.

How Imagination & Choice Influence Creativity and Learning

Stimulating children’s social and thinking skills are the gateway to developing unique imaginations. This can be aided by making opportunities for them to solve problems based on everyday questions and situations. 

Before setting up a play area educators can involve children by asking them what they want to have included in it. They may like to record their ideas on a whiteboard, drawing or writing the letters or words they know. This could lead to them looking at resources in their play spaces with a different perspective, which is a natural link to developing creative thinking skills.

When a special event is approaching, different options can be explored in which resources are presented to the children. Traditionally educators may provide template ideas for making cards or other art activities - giving children an element of choice with the colours they choose can help them to personalise and celebrate their creativity.  

Considering alternative resources such as those used in drawing or painting may entice children to extend their level of creativity and expression. Many children may also believe they are not creative and tend to avoid messy or art-based activities, but love to build things with blocks and construction materials. There is a special kind of creativity that comes with having an idea in your mind to seeing it be realised in 3D! Combining skill with imagination, information is transformed into physical matter, which can become anything a child would like it to be. 

Role Play, Creativity and Problem Solving 

Creative play is an opportunity to be self-expressive and to have fun trying out new things, reflecting on what young children have observed and learned from during interactions with others around them.  ⁠

This type of play may involve dressing up and imitating a favourite person or character who has positively influenced a child in some way in their learning which they are replicating alone or in group cooperative play. ⁠Including props like scarves or a role-play kit can encourage children to retell their favourite stories or create alternative versions and endings for them.

Some children may choose to create their own costumes and props for characters with craft paper to make eye masks,  glasses, or wands made from paper or construction straws.

Creativity is a life skill that takes time to be developed through nurturing and encouragement. In doing so, each child has the potential to learn how best they express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas in their unique way. Listening to, and more importantly, responding to their voice by advocating their needs on their behalf in early childhood leads to children developing this skill in ways that reflect who they are as a learner and an educator in their own right. 

For more information about ways to encourage Creativity and Creative Play, visit our website at 


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