Early childhood educators (ECE) understand the importance of play as one of the best ways for children to learn and how critical it is for their development.

But, what about the rest of us? Do we have the abilities and knowledge to encourage play and creativity in children considering its importance in their growth?

Humber College offers a three-week course that’s designed for people who aren’t ECEs but who want to develop the skills to create environments and experiences that nurture unstructured play and imaginative abilities in children. The Children, Play and Creativity course is offered as part of Humber’s Global Summer School.

It’s three hours a day, five days a week and is open to any student interested in taking the course, not just those in Humber’s ECE program.

“If you know a child, if you have a child or want to have a child, you're going to need to learn about play and you might as well have fun doing it,” said Carri-Ann Scott, an instructor at Humber who teaches the course.

Children, Play and Creativity is geared towards those without a background in ECE but who are interested in a child’s development. It’s designed to help those looking to cultivate the skills to create learning environments that are play and creativity-friendly, including parents, caregivers or those who work with children.

Through the course, students will learn how to use play as a way to foster creativity, the importance of creativity in learning environments and how to incorporate play-based approaches to teaching and learning strategies.

Students will learn how to identify different theories, characteristics, types, functions, and stages of play. They will also learn how to apply inclusive and responsive teaching strategies to enhance both spontaneous and planned experiences and nurture the creative process not only in children but adults as well.

Scott said the course will help show students that the activities and play they were doing as children were imparting valuable life skills at a young age. For example, a child stacking building blocks is developing fine motor skills as well as reasoning and problem-solving skills.

“They're doing this naturally without an adult intervening and telling them what to do,” said Scott.

With many children having busy schedules packed with extracurriculars and sports, they’re missing out on free play, said Scott. Without that free play, some of those important skills don’t get a chance to develop as much as they could, Scott added.

Scott said the course is hands-on and that students will have a chance to explore and experiment with materials made available through Humber’s Carol Reid Early Childhood Education Resource Centre.

“(Students) are seeing how play and learning go together,” said Scott. “We value learning and, as a society, we need to value play a little more.”