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Unit information: Play and Creativity in 2016/17

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Unit name Play and Creativity
Unit code SPOL22021
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Debbie Watson
Open unit status Open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


All children play and this engaging unit explores the importance of play and creativity to all children's learning, development and leisure experiences from babies to teenagers. Sociocultural, poststructural and psychological theories will be considered. You will also get the chance to conduct observations of children in real life settings as well as taking part in a creative workshop.

The contexts in which play and creativity occur for children will also be considered in respect of educational and wider play provisions. Attention will be paid to innovative theorists and curricula approaches and to contemporary theories of play, and the ways in which children engage with popular cultures, new media technologies, public space, and the importance of children’s cultural worlds. . The impact of government policy and contemporary curricula on children's play and creativity will be considered. Underpinning the unit will be a consideration of how we observe and assess children and engage in creative enterprises with children; as well as how we can respond to diversity, equity, quality and ethical practice in providing for children in these areas.

By the end of this unit students should be familiar with:

  • Different theoretical understandings of play, its purposes and the forms it can take;
  • Appreciate that play and creativity are lifelong pursuits;
  • The role of creativity and play in children’s learning and leisure pursuits, including the impact of new technologies and gaming;
  • The challenges of independent free play/ children’s mobilities and health impacts;
  • How children use space in urban environments;
  • |The impact of home cultures on play preferences and activities for children;
  • Theories of learning and knowledge (ways of knowing) in the contexts of play & creativity;
  • Ways of responding to diversity and working with children in respectful and ethical ways;
  • The individuals and theoretical perspectives that have, and continue to, contribute to our understandings of the importance of play and creativity to children’s learning, wellbeing and development;
  • A range of innovative educational and play provisions that focus on the importance of play and creativity in the UK and internationally;
  • Methods and tools that practitioners can develop to observe, assess, enter into dialogue and document children’s play, creativity and learning.
  • Models of play and creativity that are drawn from education and playwork.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit students should be able to:

  • Articulate the importance of play and creativity from a range of theoretical perspectives;
  • Engage in group discussions;
  • Carry out observations of children and report this back to the group;
  • Analyse their data in the light of theoretical insights;
  • Engage in multimodal ways of learning

Teaching details

Lectures, seminars and creative workshops

Independent child observations.

Assessment Details

Formative assessment:

Independent child observations in an educational/ care/ play setting of the student’s choice. Results to be presented in group presentations and supported by 1,500 word theoretical summary.

Summative assessment:

3hr examination.

Reading and References

  • Beazley, S. & Williams, V. (eds) (2013) Childhood and Disability: key papers from Disability & Society. Routledge (Taylor & Francis).
  • Bragg, S. & Kehily, M.J. (2013) Children and Young People’s Cultural Worlds (2nd ed.) Policy Press.
  • Broadhead, P., Howard, J. & Wood, E. (Eds.) (2010) Play and Learning in the Early Years, London, Sage.
  • Brooker, L. & Edwards, S. (2010) Engaging Play, Maidenhead, Open University Press.
  • Fawcett, M. & Watson, D. L (2016) Learning through Child Observation (3rd edition). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Rogers, S. (Ed.) (2011) Rethinking play and pedagogy in early childhood education, Routledge