Early years curriculum: Creativity in the construction area

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<P> Inspire children's imaginative play with a construction area that is well-stocked with everyday resources such as cardboard boxes, tubes and fabric, writes Jane Drake </P>

Early years curriculum: Creativity in the construction area

Just imagine

Inspire children's imaginative play with a construction area that is well-stocked with everyday resources such as cardboard boxes, tubes and fabric, writes Jane Drake

We are all individuals, each of us with a unique view of the world. Creativity is about communicating those views and sharing, and representing, our ideas. Through creativity children begin to make sense of their world, to connect with others and to develop an inner strength that will help them to deal with life's many challenges.

To enable children to develop their creativity we must allow them to explore and to play without imposing on them our own ideas and anticipated outcomes. We must foster in them a creative approach to learning across the curriculum. Creativity is not just about painting and music, it is about thinking imaginatively, being resourceful and seeing potential for imaginative play in everyday objects.

It is with the 'imagination' strand of creative development that the following suggestions for planning the construction area are concerned. In most settings this area will be part of the permanent provision and will probably offer indoor equipment such as a set of wooden blocks and a range of construction kits, perhaps including interlocking bricks, cogs and wheels, connectors, screws and bolts. There may also be tyres, crates and larger blocks in the outdoor area.

The addition of a few simple, and often free or low-cost, items can help to take children further into their imaginary worlds.

Learning opportunities

With appropriate resources and sensitive adult intervention in this area, children can:

  • be curious about, and interested in, objects and ideas
  • initiate their own play activities
  • explore and develop imaginative ideas
  • explore feelings and experiences through imaginative and role play
  • use objects to represent something else
  • be active and use their senses.

Resources and activities

The activities suggested are only possibilities. The children's play may follow a completely different course and their own ideas should be valued and supported by adults. In settings where space is limited, some of the resources listed may be more appropriate in the outdoor construction area.

  • Cardboard boxes and tubes (various sizes and shapes), masking tape, scissors. Cardboard boxes are always popular and are very versatile, making them ideal for 'open-ended' learning. Children will need time to explore the boxes, probably climbing inside them and undoing some to find out how they are made. They may then decide to use the boxes and tubes to build, perhaps, a castle with a flagpole and a drawbridge. A 'king' is then appointed. Shouldn't the king have a throne? More boxes are needed and a story evolves!

  • A box of fabric pieces and scarves, which can be used as roofs for buildings, as tents, fields, magic carpets or even rivers. For example, children use a length of blue material to represent a crocodile-infested river. They then decide that they need to construct a wooden bridge to enable them to safely cross the 'water'.

  • A selection of sound-effect tapes and a tape recorder. Crashing waves may inspire children to build a boat to take them to see the 'wild things' from Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are (Red Fox, 5.99) or jungle sounds could prompt them to construct a shelter so that they could watch the wild animals in safety.

  • Small-world people, cars, jungle creatures and farm animals will encourage imaginative play and story making through the building of environments such as garages, houses, farmyards.

  • Toolbox and tools, hard hats. Children will 'become' the builders as they use their tools to 'join' and 'fix' the materials they are using to construct walls and roofs. Children may also make their own tools using components from construction kits. If a telephone is introduced into the area, adults and children can ring up with other 'jobs' for the builder.

  • Disused steering wheels from real vehicles to use in building buses and cars that will take them to faraway places - there are no limits, but modifications to the vehicle design may have to be made if trips across the sea are to be attempted!

  • Keys. A few old keys clipped on to a ring and kept on a hook on the wall open up a wealth of opportunities for imaginative play. They can unlock the door to a castle the children have built or start the engine of their aeroplane.

  • Large sheets or rolls of paper, pens. Children can use these to represent, for example, roadways or a park. They can make treasure maps so that others can find their way around the island they have built or road signs to support their 'car play'.

Organisation

  • Children need plenty of space to move around and to build without too many physical limitations. Make sure that there is enough room for children to work collaboratively.

  • Keep a well-organised and labelled stock of items so that staff are able to respond spontaneously to children's ideas. The more 'open-ended' items are particularly useful for supporting and stimulating imaginative play.

  • Plan time for adults to observe in the construction area and, as a team, discuss how children's creativity can be supported and developed in the construction area.

  • Involve parents in collecting items and organise a 'collection point' - such a request will also provide an opportunity for staff to talk with parents about their children's developing creativity.

Adult role

  • Model a creative approach to the children's learning.
  • Provide exciting stimuli that arouse children's curiosity and inspire imaginative play.
  • Ask questions which challenge children's thinking.
  • Use rich language and encourage children to explore new words.
  • Listen to children. Respect and value their imaginative contributions and celebrate individuality.
  • Recognise and value the discoveries and connections that children make.
  • Allow children time to develop ideas.
  • Support children's ideas by providing resources that will enable them to take their play forward.
  • Help children to feel secure enough to be creative and take risks.
  • Document children's play experiences (for example, with video, slides or photographs). Use the documentation with children as part of the learning process and share it with parents and practitioners.
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