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Blog: Giving freedom, time and space in self chosen play can surprise you

Image (multiple): 
Friday, 21 October, 2016

I enjoy processing and reflecting on what I see in children's play.

The other day I was fascinated watching a young child in self-chosen play who enjoys using tools and equipment, particularly scissors. All the creative resources were at child level and open and accessible, so the scissors were taken and used to snip and cut at the hard, dry play dough that had been left out overnight.

Soon there was a pile of clourful snipped, dried up playdough on the floor.

The pile became bigger and bigger and soon the child moved on to the floor and sat amidst the multi-coloured cuttings for a significant period of time.


I reflected on this snapshot of learning

  • The child had freedom, time and space to think and do and to follow their ideas
  • There was dry play dough in the area and that I had not thrown it away
  • The play dough had been mixed up into a rainbow of colours
  • There was open access to many other creative resources at child level
  • The child could self-choose tools and equipment
  • The child was immersed and absorbed throughout the play

In this learning moment, the young child was leading their own learning, initiating and following through ideas and being completely absorbed in following creative ideas.

This child surprised me in how play can be so absorbing when time, space and freedom support a well resourced environment. 

I wonder what would have happened if that dried up play dough had been thrown away?

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Cathy Gunning loves working to enhance and support children's wellbeing and early play in quality enriching learning environments. She works part time for Early Education as well as being a nursery teacher and mum. She has previously been a primary teacher, early years coordinator, day nursery manager, early years advisory teacher and nursery school headteacher. As a reflective practitioner and leader, she enjoys continually learning about effective pedagogy in early education.