Why creative play is essential for preschoolers today

By Michael Hilkemeijer

 

Creative play in early childhood education is about discovering and making new connections. It literally fits right into the mold of learning through play and as you might already know, play is one of the key ways that young children learn and develop.

 

By encouraging creative activities through the use of digital technologies in addition to the traditional approaches, you can help preschoolers, for example, achieve the following skills:

  • Develop imagination and creativity;
  • Build confidence;
  • Understand and express emotions;
  • Learn about the technological world and its place in it;
  • Communicate thoughts, experiences or ideas using ICT;
  • Practice and improve social skills through collaboration;
  • Practice and improve fine and gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination;
  • Build vocabulary and memory;
  • Practice decision making, problem-solving and critical thinking.

 

Encouraging Creative Play with Digital Technology in Early Childhood Education

So how can you encourage creative play with digital technology in early childhood education?

 

  1. It is important that you nurture and extend children’s creativity through your relationships and interactions with young children.
  2. Provide ICT in ways that will support your early childhood pedagogy and your understanding of the nature of young children’s developing creativity.
  3. Provide children with a range of open-ended and meaningful ICT experiences with plenty of opportunities to explore and interact with others.
  4. Model using ICT creatively to cultivate an environment where creativity can shine.

 

Other ways include:

  • Joining in the fun is also useful if the child needs additional help or encouragement;
  • Offer an alternative viewpoint;
  • Show genuine interest;
  • Clarifying ideas such as “So you think if we emptied the paint pot into the image it will escape through the gap?”
  • Use positive questioning such as “What would happen if we did …?” or “That’s an interesting idea”
  • Ask open questions such as “I wonder what would happen if…?”;
  • Model thinking

 

 

Modelling using ICT Creatively

Let us examine some ways in which you model the use of ICT creatively. Technology offers new and powerful ways to document the learning process.

 

You may have at your disposal the following ICT tools and resources:

 

  • A full range of cameras including webcams and wireless webcams to capture digital still and moving images;
  • Interactive whiteboards to quickly display children’s experiences through digital images and audio recordings;
  • Audio recorders of all kinds;
  • Computer software such as PowerPoint to share the journey of children digitally;
  • Data projectors;
  • Software programs to make books for children about their experiences;
  • Talking cards and photo albums to quickly capture children’s comments on their learning and to share with friends and family.

 

As a practitioner, if you are to use these tools creatively then you need to become familiar with them and allow yourself time to explore their possibilities and to become confident in their use.

 

It is not a question of how much technology you use, but of using the technology you choose skillfully and imaginatively. Nor is it about acquiring ICT skills, but developing understanding and judgement about how to use those skills appropriately.

For example, you might have a digital camera that you might want to try developing the way you take photographs.

 

  • So you could take photographs of the processes of children building the construction.
  • What if you zoom in to take a close up action shot of the children’s hands as they carefully build things and balance the blocks.
  • Photograph their expressions of concentration on their faces as they collaborate.
  • Capture the whole process of construction.
  • Then create a whole slideshow of the photographs.

If you are familiar with PowerPoint then this could be developed further.

 

There are so many creative ways that you can easily apply today.

 

Creative play in early childhood education

 

Creativity comes from the child but you need to give the children:

  • Time to be creative to express themselves and to develop their creative skills;
  • Freedom to be creative when they want to be;
  • Support in developing their creativity and skills;
  • Choices of a range of creative media;
  • Inspiration as a starting point to them going.

(Price, 2009, p. 43)