Creative Play - Anne Rodgers


Creative play can be defined as many things. Mainly, it is a way of encouraging children to experiment and explore the world around them. As children learn through their senses, creative play can also help them to achieve and develop physical, emotional, social and intellectual skills which will help them to increase self-esteem and confidence. To achieve this; children need to have space, plenty of materials, unhurried time to experiment, opportunities to revisit experiences and to be introduced to new ways of working and ideas. Creativity can be explored through: play dough, salt doughcollagepaintinghome corner, sand and water playdisplayssongs and rhymesmusic and movement, story time and bookspoetrydrama, outdoor play and cooking.

Creative play includes art such as painting either by printing, on an easel using paintbrushes, hand or foot painting, drawing and designing. It can be making a collage of various materials such as paper, card, pasta shapes, wool, or real objects like leaves. Creative play can be music and movement, interpreting sounds and rhythms through dance and percussion. It can even be cooking activities where the children have to design biscuits and ice them to their own taste and design. Creativity also includes being curious, questioning differences and similarities, investigating, exploring and experimenting. In a creative environment children can begin to see patterns emerging, to pretend and to imagine.  They can construct and combine ideas, concepts and materials, to use these as representation and in response to the creative process. Creativity is almost conditional on an element of spontaneity and, for something creative to take place, it must generate a surprising ingredient which helps to transform the way that the child operates and thinks. Creative play is a process, not an end product. It involves various stages of learning including finding out about many different materials and becoming familiar with their properties.  Children will learn and develop techniques, discover colours, shapes, sizes, textures and patterns. Children might also gain confidence as competence grows. That is, the more often they practice with media and materials and experiment, the better they will become at expressing themselves and creating. Creativity and imagination are often linked together but creativity is about thinking along unorthodox lines and using non-traditional approaches to solve problems, creating something unique or original in the process. Imagination is to integrate experiences and perceptions and to pretend. Creativity therefore involves the use of imagination.

Creative development encompasses ideas such as art, dramatic play and creative expression, all of which have traditionally been a core part of early years provision. It allows children the freedom to find ways of expressing their ideas and communicating their feelings. By being able to use paints, role play and imaginative play areas they can express feelings and act out scenarios that are significant in their lives at that time. Getting absorbed in creating a painting can be very therapeutic to a child and may help in that child being able to communicate how they are feeling and how they’d like us to help.

Benefits to the child when engaging in creative play are numerous. It might help them with their emotional and social development – developing self-esteem through expression, participation, independence and communication. Through being creative, young children can release powerful feelings.  It’s therefore important to monitor children during creative play as negative feelings, such as anxiety, can inhibit a child’s creativity and imagination and young children need to have a sense of emotional well-being in order to tap into their creative resources.

Most settings will have a designated area for arts and crafts and children should be allowed freedom to choose which items to use in their art work as much as possible. It is the process of creating that matters most rather than the end product. 


Anne Rodgers – Early Years Consultant – I have worked in early years for 36 years and have owned my own chain of nurseries, taught EYPS and CACHE students, written books and articles on early years topics and currently offer help and support to settings including putting on training courses for staff CPD