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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: August 2019

Chapter 3 - Playing with language: Imaginative play, language development and technology


This chapter has been co-authored with Lisa Kervin, University of Wollongong. It considers the importance of building on children's innate creativity and imagination. This aspect will be discussed alongside the role of imaginative play in language and literacy development. The relationship between traditional play and digital play as a new way of playing with language is also explored.

Anticipated outcomes for the chapter

After working through this chapter you should be able to:

  • • discuss the importance of creativity and imagination in the lives of all young children
  • • understand the critical role that imaginative play can and should play in language and literacy development
  • • consider the relationship between traditional forms of imaginative play and digital play
  • • begin to understand the role of digital play in fostering creativity and language development
  • • reflect on popular culture's effect on imaginative play and language learning.

    Two eight-year-old boys with a collection of sticks are in the playground. They are on their hands and knees, sorting the sticks and arranging them on the concrete. On closer inspection, it is apparent that the sticks are being used to compose a message: ‘aliens are coming tomorrow’. After conversing with the children it is revealed that ‘aliens’ is a game the children have invented. It isn't a game that is played daily; the stick message on the playground serves as an advertisement to other children that the game will be played the following day. The children share that they don't really know what will happen in the game, it will depend on who comes to play, how much time they have and the part of the playground where they are able to play.

    This scenario reveals how complex creativity and collaborative young children's play can be. It also underlines that they should be given playful spaces and places to make their own decisions about imaginative play. It is important to be aware of children's rhythms of play and respect their control of this rhythm, and how the design of physical spaces and the manipulation of artefacts within this can affect the development of play.

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