The Joy of Doing – Early Years Alliance

Rebecca Elsom, Early Years Development Officer, Early Years Alliance
8th August 2023

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The Joy of Doing at Childcare & Education Expo North 2023

The aim of our ‘Joy of Doing’ feature area at the Childcare & Education Expo North in Bolton was to share the important message that children learn so much when they can explore resources in an open-ended way and through the process of ‘doing’ what they personally set out to do. Our focus was on ‘process over product’ – when children can decide how to play, experiment and test out their own ideas, rather than adults having a set end product in mind, which can often add unnecessary pressure for children, worrying if they are doing it ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. We wanted to provide attendees with some easy ideas that they could take away and use in their own practice, but also put them in the minds of children when they were taking part in our activities – how did they feel when they were being creative and imaginative? How might children feel when given the same opportunity?  

By allowing children to be creative, we support them to express themselves and think of their own ideas. Children’s creativity can often be limited when they take part in activities, often arts and crafts, that have predetermined end products in mind. Those activities where every child creates the exact same card to take home or are asked to do a handprint that is then made into something else by an adult – they have very few opportunities for children to use their own imagination and almost no learning take places, except maybe how to follow an instruction of what to paint or where to stick something!

By providing children with the opportunity to manipulate resources and use materials in whatever way they want, they may not have an end goal about what they are ‘making’, but they are able to focus on what they are doing in the moment. There is no pressure on them to create a beautiful piece of artwork to take home to put on the fridge – often something that families are more keen on having than children are about creating! They may just end up with a big smudge of muddy brown paint on their paper after mixing all the colours together, but they will have learnt so much along the way that it just wouldn’t matter! 

Within our area in Bolton, we showcased activities that promote the learning that can take place through the process of ‘doing’. We used activities such as collaging, mark making, transient art and loose parts play to demonstrate that when children are provided with unrestricted activities and resources, learning will just happen naturally! 

Almost everyone found it impossible to pass by our feature area without coming to feel the texture of the soap foam we had on offer to demonstrate how mark-making can happen without a pen or pencil in sight and that the flexibility of such material can lead to all sorts of possibilities. We had young children smearing their arms in it to make large marks, the foam was carefully rolled into balls, and it was even questioned what would happen if we did a high five with some foam on our hands – and of course, we had to find out! 

Our collage activity provided attendees with a range of loose materials and craft items to let their creative juices flow. A small group of attendees used the collage materials to create their very own ‘pictures’ to take home – and of course, they were all different! This sparked a conversation about how all children are different, and that if we as adults use materials in various ways then naturally so would children! A young child accessed the area and asked us “What can I make?” – it just summed up the area entirely when we could reply with “Whatever you would like…” They went on to practise their snipping skills by cutting into paper repeatedly and actually sticking tissue paper onto a lollipop stick – something that even we hadn’t thought of, expecting the paper we had provided to be where things got stuck! 

The transient art activity was a hit with everyone that accessed it, with one attendee telling us “it helped them ground themselves”. It was a new idea to some attendees, and we shared with them that transient art is a temporary creation made from loose parts where no item is fixed, resulting in endless possibilities for things to be moved around to create something new each and every time. Transient art supports thinking skills, creativity, problem-solving, concentration skills, fine motor skills, awareness of patterns, shapes, colours, and lots more! The main focus is on the skills that are learned during the process rather than what the end product is.

Lots of photos were taken of the treasure basket and loose parts play area for inspiration. One person told us that they are trying to integrate loose parts play within their setting and that they would use photos of our area and posters as inspiration with colleagues that didn’t yet see the benefit of such play. Conversations throughout the whole weekend ranged from attendees telling us how they integrate similar concepts into their practice already, to those that were new to the ideas completely but could see the benefit and were hoping to do things differently from now on. We even had the pleasure of a group of attendees sharing some recipes with us for sensory activities, so we learnt something new too! 

Register for your place to attend Childcare & Education Expo Midlands at Coventry Building Society on 22nd & 23rd September 2023 and drop by the creative area or attend Early Years Alliance workshop ‘Discovering Loose Parts Play’. Register here.

Why attend Childcare & Education Expo?

Join over 2,500 like-minded individuals from the early years & primary sector who are dedicated to improving their practice and their education settings.

Attend educational seminars and panel discussions to credit your CPD

Meet the experts to have your questions answered

Receive fantastic onsite offers and discounts

Experience expert-led informative hands-on workshops

Network with peers and industry players

Pick up hundreds of new products, resources, ideas and services

And most of all, enjoy a great day out with your colleagues

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