Young children's play and creativity
This module focuses on understanding play and creativity in early childhood from different and diverse personal and professional perspectives. It considers how other children and adults impact on the play decisions and creative choices children make. You will learn about how children express their ideas and interests through play and consider how children participate and are included in play and creative experiences. You will explore how children express their preferences through their play choices and the significance of creative spaces in following their interests.
What you will study
The module is organised into three blocks of study. The first block concentrates on young children’s play and creative experiences, the second explores the role of the adult and their influence on children’s play and creativity and the third block considers what play and creativity might look like in the future through debate and research.
Block 1 - Exploring play and creativity: the child’s perspective
There are some key themes that underpin the whole of the module. The first is that play is universal. This means that any child has the capacity and ability to play and be creative. Play and creativity can happen in a variety of situations with different children of different ages or a child can be involved in solitary play on their own. They can play alongside other children doing different activities known as parallel play or they can involve adults in their play. This first block of study introduces the idea that it is significant for play and creativity to be a social experience and that those experiences are shared with others in situations that are familiar to everyone involved. The block asks:
- What is it like to play and be creative?
- What do children take away from those experiences?
These questions help in the second key theme of understanding the value of play and creativity for children. As you might expect in this module, play and creative experiences are considered essential for all children and so it is also important to question how you value play and creativity and how you demonstrate this to the children you support.
The third key theme is understanding the significance of children’s play and creativity for their learning and development and how children make sense of their world through play and by being creative. You will have the opportunity to reflect on your own understanding of play and creativity and in this first block you will also encounter lots of different views about what play and creativity is, why it is important and what it means for children.
Block 2 - Play for all: Responding creatively
In the second block you will explore how you facilitate and respond to children’s play and creative experiences. The role of the adult both in a professional capacity such as an Early Years teacher or practitioner and a personal capacity as a parent or carer has a significant influence on children’s experiences. Some children also have many and varied influential adults in their lives such as grandparents, extended family and close friends. Often adults organise play situations and creative opportunities, making choices and decisions about the resources available and time allocated to experiencing different environments such as the outdoors. This block asks:
- Why is it important to consider the influence of the adult role?
- What is the significance of an adult in supporting children’s play and creative preferences?
Inclusion is a key theme to the whole module and throughout this block you will consider how play and creative experiences encourage children’s participation. Children play in different ways and are captivated by different objects, environments and play situations. Some children enjoy physical outdoor play whilst others will show their preference for quiet spaces or use their environment in creative ways. Developing the skills to interpret children’s creative expressions through a range of contexts is introduced and explored through a number of different perspectives.
Examining your own values and beliefs about play are also developed through this block, encouraging you to think about how playful and creative you are in providing rich opportunities for children’s engagement. Your thinking and interaction with children through play and creative opportunities influence their experiences and responses to new and different ideas, supporting their knowledge and understanding of their immediate and wider environment.
Block 3 - Critical reflections: Young children’s play, creativity and futures
In this final block you are encouraged to think beyond your immediate circumstances and experience with children and consider:
- What will play and creativity look like in the future?
You will revisit some of the key themes of the module including play as a universal concept and how children’s right to play and be creative shape how you support their experiences. This block will explore the fast-paced nature of childhood including the influence of technology and growing up in a digital world. You will consider what children’s futures may look like and whether play and creativity will be valued in the same way.
You will also revisit some of the different perspectives of play and creativity and reflect on what you understand to be fundamental in supporting the process of children’s learning and development. You will also consider aspects of research around children’s play and creativity which will support your knowledge and understanding of topical issues that affect children’s play and creative experiences. There are no straightforward answers to the question ‘what is play and creativity?’ but this block provides you with some examples of how researching play and creativity with children can help you to critically reflect on your own values and beliefs and help you to form your own opinions about how you may effectively facilitate play and creative experiences now and in the future.
There are no formal academic or experiential requirements to study this module.
However, it’s essential you have an interest in young children’s play and creativity. It would also be beneficial for you to arrange access to an early childhood setting1 if you’re not already working or volunteering in such a setting. We recommend you visit a setting1 on weekly/fortnightly throughout the module and particularly during Blocks 2 and 3.
If you’re not sure you’re ready, talk to an adviser.
1Access to settings will require you to meet the ‘fit person’ criteria, in your country, to work with children. You and your setting are responsible for ensuring you meet these requirements, not the OU.
The module is organised into three study blocks and you will receive a printed book for each block.
You will have access to a module website, which includes:
- a week-by-week study planner
- course-specific module materials
- audio and video content
- assignment details and submission section
- online tutorial access
- audio and video content
- activities to support your studies
- links to online forums for you to interact with fellow students and your tutor.
You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).
Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.
To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).
Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.
Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.
It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.