Creative Play in Schools
The importance of play in childhood cannot be overestimated. Children who engage in regular play gain benefits in language, problem solving, emotional literacy and cognitive function (Miller and Almon, 2009).
In schools, we can use methods of creative play to support children and young people who may struggle with these areas. When applied in schools, creative play could help reduce anxiety in children, and allows school staff and other appropriate adults to explore emotions with the child.
Most play based interventions used in schools and with children focus on an approach called Personal Construct Psychology (PCP). PCP was developed by George Kelly (1955), who argued we perceive the world through our own constructs, and each person interprets the world through these constructs. Kelly argues that each person is a scientist, meaning people are always testing hypotheses to create these constructs. From PCP, we also have the idea of constructive alternativism, which is a belief that you can change someone’s world by changing how you construe it.
How does PCP relate to Creative Play?
Play and other creative activities in a school setting allow us to see how the child constructs certain things. We can not only learn how they feel about different aspects of their life through play, but we can also apply the idea of constructive alternativism to change these constructs and therefore their beliefs of school, friendship and the world.
Some examples of creative play therapeutic interventions include:
- LEGO Build to Express ©
Using a Lego Build to Express © kit, children can build and explore their emotions and feelings around certain events, activities and places. An appropriate adult can then ask the children to use the Lego © to problem solve and see the situation in different ways.
Theraplay® is a child and family therapy for building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others and joyful engagement. This focuses on a direct restorative emotional experience. This is very focused on using the relationship between the child and caregiver to develop resonance (Siegel, 2006) and imitation and mirror neuron function (Iacoboni, 2009) which will then improve the child’s relationships with others.
- Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) Therapy
Typically used for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. This uses methods of behaviourism, to reward desirable behaviour and correct other behaviours. It uses a variety of toys or activities that motivate the child to continue.
- Painting and drawing interventions
Using methods such as painting or drawing can help the child to explore and discuss their feelings as an alternative to talking therapies. This will work well with children who struggle with recognising and understanding emotions, and gives us the chance to understand their constructs around certain things.
References and further reading
Iacoboni, M. (2009). Imitation, Empathy, and Mirror Neurons. Annual review of psychology, 60:6530679. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163604
Miller, E. & Almon, J. (2009). Crisis in the kindergarten: why children need to play in school. Alliance for childhood.