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If there is no room for exploration and creativity then there is little value to the experience. I did a talk with some students at Pembrokeshire college on this a couple of years ago- they went on to try out some junk modelling which they loved! Here is my original blog on the subject!
~Amelia Stone

messy play gallery

Creative Playing at Pembrokeshire College

I was recently asked to be a guest speaker for the Health and Social Care and Childcare students at Pembrokeshire College Together the students and I talked about how we can be more inclusive of children and their play, and how we can encourage and promote creativity.

We discussed different scenarios and experiences of childhood and how our actions impact on the quality of these experiences. How we can accidently interfere with and interrupt children’s play, and how, with observation of the play process, we can support it and facilitate it.

We also assessed the ‘play value’ of a range of different craft activities. In this activity we looked at beautifully put together, ‘keep sake’ pictures, hand print paintings and calendars, made by children. All of which would have had a significant amount of adult intervention, supervision and direction.

We compared these, to paintings, junk models and structures, also made by children, with little or no direction from an adult. These products, that to the untrained eye may appear messy, pointless or unrecognisable, to the creative child, are firework paintings, a car garage with a bridge and a wonderful squidgy page of handprints.

Together we looked at how much the children would have engaged in each activity, and which craft activity was better for the child.

The students recognised that it is the process of the activity that promotes the learning and development of the child.

This process enables children to master skills, to be imaginative, creative, and to follow their own direction. The students also recognised that there is little to gain from an activity designed and implemented by a well-meaning adult, where the child is no more than a passive participant.

The students responded well to the session, and were so inspired to go away and ‘play’ that they got stuck into some junk modelling, or ‘creative playing’ during their next art class!!

As a parent of 2 boys, I am always happy to receive these lovely ‘keep sake’ hand prints, for who wouldn’t want to keep a record of tiny little hands.

If when making these pictures, a child is then encouraged to get stuck in, get messy and make a mess, then there is definitely value to them.

However, as a general rule, if every child comes out the door of playschool or school with the same item, you can bet that the children had little or no input to the creative process of the activity, and therefore have had little opportunity for self-expression, creativity and learning.

As a childcare practitioner, and playleader, I have, time and time again seen young, trainees (actually I have also seen time served leaders!) plan and implement these seemingly attractive and engaging activities, with little understanding of the bigger picture of a child’s development.

In many settings, this is the norm, it is what they do, and what parents expect. It fills the display board with attractive art and everyone is happy!

So although it is a drop in the ocean, I hope that the students will think twice before they lay out a table of ready cut, theme based, ready to stick pieces of ‘art’ and instead fill the table with scissors, glue, paper, junk, pipe cleaners and paper!

I hope that rather than directing the session to the children, they will facilitate the creative process by supporting the children in making unrecognisable creations and lots of mess. This will result in a content child who has a sense of self efficiency and increased self-esteem.

Amelia 🙂

messy play gallery