Play, Learning and Creativity

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSES2021014

Semester and Year Offered: 1st Semester (Monsoon)

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Anandini Dar

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Aim and objectives of the course:

Play, creativity and its relationship with children’s learning are central to early childhood education and development. Research indicates the significance of play and creativity in development across physical, motor, language, cognitive and socio- emotional domains (Bodrova, & Leong, 2003, 2005; Hughes, 2010). Among young children specially, ‘role play’ and ‘fantasy’ forms the backdrop of much of their play. Encouraging creative activities can help to transfer these into play mediums (Scarlette, 2004). Further, the dynamic, interactive and creative process of play and one that is developmentally appropriate, stimulates the whole brain (Armstrong, 2006).

While the Position Paper by the National Focus Group on ‘Arts, Music, Dance and Theatre (NCERT, 2005) proposes an integration of creative activities into the curriculum, classrooms in India often are dominated by rote learning and rigid examination system (NCERT, 2005, 2006), and this trend is observed even in early childhood programs (IECEI, 2014). The recent National Early Childhood Care and Education Policy (MWCD, 2013) also advocates for the need to cater to needs of a child in all developmental domains and promote play based education for young children. Specifically, it points out, the Government shall ensure provision of safe, child friendly and developmentally appropriate play and learning materials and appropriate play spaces by appropriate instruments and instructions. The Government will promote use of traditional songs, stories, lullabies, folk tales, local toys and games as play and learning materials in ECCE settings. (p. 15)

Thus, this course would be beneficial for the students in the MA Education (ECCE) and also MA Education program in order to be able to implement or supervise play based developmentally appropriate activities for a holistic development of the child. It will complement the other courses offered during the first semester of the program by emphasizing the critical role of play and creativity for the development of the child.

Course outcomes

At the end of the course, the students should be able to:

  1. Identify key theorists and concepts in understanding the role of play in the children’s development
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of key theoretical positions in historical development of the idea of children’s play
  3. Develop skills to make play materials for children
  4. Analyse children’s everyday play situation to explore its relationship with various activities children participate in like creative art, music, movement and dramatic play/creative drama.
  5. Apply theoretical ideas in children’s play to design pedagogy in early years classrooms


Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Unit 1: Historical, Theoretical and Cultural Perspectives on Play and Creativity (4 Weeks)

This course will begin by examining the historical, theoretical and cultural perspectives on play and creativity. The cognitive-developmental, psychoanalytical and socio-historical approaches will be examined with respect to a child’s intellectual, language, social and emotional development. The inclusion of play and creativity during the early years of a child’s life and the role of adult in the child’s play is seen in relation to the development of the “whole child.” Play as a child’s right will also be examined.

  1. Historical, theoretical and cultural perspectives on play
  2. Young children’s creative thinking and development
  3. Cultural differences in play and creativity
  4. Play and creativity in early childhood programs
  5. Play—a Child’s Right


Unit 2: Play and the Development of Play (3 weeks)

This unit will highlight the development of play by describing play at different ages and relating it to physical, social, cognitive and emotional development. Play is discussed in the framework of developmental theories from infancy to later childhood years. Differences between play and exploration will be highlighted with an emphasis on identifying developmentally appropriate play materials (especially toys) and qualitative changes in play throughout the years. Improvisation in play and the role of play in early childhood programs will also be examined.

  1. Sensorimotor play; Play with objects; Symbolic Play; Onlooker play
  2. Parallel play; Associative play; Cooperative play; Play with adults and peers; social play
  3. Unoccupied play; independent play
  4. Pretend play; Dramatic play


Unit 3: Functions of Play (4 weeks)

This section will focus on the benefits of play for children’s physical, cognitive and social-emotional development. With respect to cognitive development, the unit will focus on how play materials can enhance children’s emergent literacy skills and problem solving abilities. The social-emotional component will provide an overview of the benefits of play through play-therapy and through parent-child attachment and social integration. The unit will also focus on factors related to variations in play across different settings. These variations are related to gender, physical impairments, cognitive differences and social-emotional issues. This section will further address how adults working with young children can effectively respond to them.

  1. Benefits of play for development of language, cognitive and physical development
  2. 2 Benefits of play for social-emotional and play-therapy
  3. Gender differences in play
  4. Play of children with special needs


Unit 4: The Creative Process and Products of Children (3 weeks)

This unit will focus on the exploration of principles, methods, and materials for the development of the creative process in young children. Strategies related to incorporating music, movement, visual arts, and dramatic play will be examined, especially through process-orientated experiences to support divergent thinking. The role of new technologies and the changing nature of the creative process will also be examined.

  1. Nurturing creativity among all children
  2. Theories and models of creativity
  3. Creativity in early childhood programs


Assessment Details with weights:

S. No.



Individual or group

Mode and Weightage


Memories of childhood play

1. ​Develop a list of play activities/ toys that you have played as a child.​ Also, ​list play activities your parents and grandparents/ people of your grandparent’s age have played.

​2. Pick up any 3 play activities, one each from your parents, grandparents and own childhood days. For these three play activities:

  1. Describe the play activity/toys
  2. Describe the rules of the play/games
  3. ​Provide photographs, sketch or model of the play activity/toy

​3. ​Using theories and historical​ development of play​ discussed in Unit 1 write a reflective review of the play activities that you have listed. (Suggestion: You may write an autobiographical note about how you played as a child, the time spent on playing daily, your play groups and the materials you used for playing and two other biographical accounts)

Developing a historical, cultural and theoretical understanding of children’s play.


Approximately 1500 words (4-6 pages)


Date of submission: mid-September


Written 20%


Observe a small group of 2-3 children at play for at least 30 minutes in any setting. Document your observations regarding the various activities children are engaged in. Address the following elements in your interpretation:

a. Describe the observed qualities of play; learning that took place. Pay attention to the elements of cognitive, language, literacy, social/emotional, physical and/or creative development.

b. Provide specific details regarding cognitive, physical and social-emotional aspects with respect to the theoretical frameworks.

Write a short paper (3-4 pages) using APA format


(mid -October)



25 %


Toy making workshop and presentation

Early October

Group and individual

25 % total (15% for group

10% for individual presentation)


A research review on any of the topics related to play and creativity (6-8 pages)


Develop a unit (based upon any of the topics related to play and creativity) and support it with the research.


This assignment will be submitted in stages. After you have decided a topic and done the preliminary research on the topic, there will be an in-class presentation which will help you get feedback. The final assignment will be submitted after that.



30% total

(10% for presentation

20% for written)


Reading list:

Essential Readings

Unit 1:

  • Almon, Joan. 2003. The vital role of play in early childhood education. In All work and no play: How educational reforms are harming our schools, ed. Sharna Olfman, 17–41
  • International Play Association. (2010). Promoting the children’s right to play. Available at
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. 2006. The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds.
  • Cannella, G. S. & R. Viruru. (1997). Privileging child-centred, play-based instruction. In G.S.
  • Cannella (Ed.) Deconstructing early childhood education: Social justice and revolution. pp. 117-136.
  • Jambunathan, S., & Caulfield, M. (2008). Developmentally appropriate practices in Asian Indian early childhood classrooms. Early Child Development and Care, 178(3), 251-258.
  • Singer, D. S., Singer, J. L., D’Agostino, H., & DeLong, R. (2009). Children’s pastimes and play in sixteen nations. Is Free-Play Declining? American Journal of Play. 283-312. Retrieved from


Unit 2: (total pages: approximately 120; includes textbook reading, journal articles, and reports)

  • Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. J. (2003). The importance of being playful. Educational Leadership, 60(7), 50-53.
  • Hughes, F. P. (Ed.). (2010). Children, play, and development. Sage.
  • The first two years of life (Chapter 3, pp. 61-90)
  • The preschool years: From 2-5 (Chapter 4, pp. 91-128)
  • Play in later childhood and adolescence (Chapter 5, 129-154)
  • Khanna, S. (1981). Dynamic folk toys. Indian toys based on the simple application of principles of science and technology. Available at:
  • Ortlieb, E. T. (2010). The pursuit of play within the curriculum. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 37(3).
  • Prentice, R. (2000). Creativity: A reaffirmation of its place in early childhood education. Curriculum Journal, 11(2), 145-158.
  • Doyle, C. (2003). Creativity, early childhood. In Encyclopedia of Primary Prevention and Health Promotion (pp. 335-342). Springer US.


Unit 3: (total pages: approximately 100; includes textbook reading and articles from practitioner journals)

  • Geneshi, C., & Dyson, A. H. (2009). Children, language and literacy: Diverse learners in diverse times. New York, NY: Teachers College Press; and Washington, DC: National Association for Education of Young Children.
  • Play, story and the imagination (Chapter 4), pp. 58-80.
  • Hughes, F. P. (Ed.). (2010). Children, play, and development. Sage. Play and intellectual development (Chapter 8, pp. 213-234)
  • The social benefits of play (Chapter 9, pp. 235-260)
  • The uses of play in therapy (Chapter 10, pp. 261-286)
  • McManis, L.D.& Gunnewig, S.B. (2012). Finding the education in educational technology
  • with early learners. Young Children, 67(3), 14-24
  • Wingate, K. O., Rutledge, V. C., & Johnston, L. (2014). Choosing the right word walls for your classroom. Young Children, 69(1). 52-57.
  • Winter, S. M., Bell, M. J., & Dempsey, J. D. (1994). Special Challenges in Education:
  • Creating Play Environments for Children with Special Needs. Childhood Education, 71(1), 28-32.
  • Ostrov, J. M., & Keating, C. F. (2004). Gender differences in preschool aggression during free play and structured interactions: An observational study. Social Development, 13(2), 255-277.
  • Hughes, F. P. (Ed.). (2010). Children, play, and development. Sage.
  • Gender differences in play (Chapter 6, pp. 157-184)
  • Play in special populations (Chapter 7, pp. 183-210)
  • Macintyre, C. (2002). Play for Children with Special Needs: Including Children Aged 3-8.
  • David Fulton Publishers. Ostrov, J. M., & Keating, C. F. (2004). Gender differences in preschool aggression during free play and structured interactions: An observational study. Social Development, 13(2), 255-277.


Unit 4: (total pages: approximately 90; includes textbook reading and articles from journals—including practitioner journals)

  • Bentley, D. F. (2013). Transparent curtains and Teensy-Weensy Dots: Reflecting on emergent curriculum and the Project Approach. Young Children. 68(2), 78-85.
  • Geist, E. (2014). Using tablet computers with toddlers and preschoolers. Young Children, 69(1). 58-63
  • Gupta, A. (2009). Vygotskian perspectives on using dramatic play to enhance children's development and balance creativity with structure in the early childhood classroom. Early Child Development and Care, 179(8), 1041-1054.
  • Isbell, R. T., & Raines, S. C. (2012). Creativity and the arts with young children. Cengage Learning. Creativity (Chapter 1), pp. 1-40.
  • Shifflet, R., Toledo, C., & Mattoon, C. (2012). Touch tablet surprises: A preschool teacher's story. Young Children, 67(3), 36-41.
  • Schwarz, T. & Luckenbill, J. (2012). Let’s get messy! Exploring sensory and art activities with infants and toddlers. Young Children, 67(4), 26-34.
  • Torrance, E. P. (1965). Scientific views of creativity and factors affecting its growth. Daedalus, 663-681. Available at:
  • Van der Linde, C. H. (1999). The relationship between play and music in early childhood: educational insights. Education, 119(4), 610-615.