Imaginative Play and the Overhead Projector

Alistair Bryce-CleggChild Initiated Learning, Continuous Provision, Creativity, Environment, Role Play13 Comments

In the days before every classroom had a computer, never mind an iPad per child, schools were full of weird and wonderful contraptions to help to make your life more simple.

When none of us had even heard of a photocopier we relied on the services of the Banda Generator. A spirit based printing machine that required you to write out your worksheets in special ink, load up a large drum with your master copy and then turn a handle like your life depended on it. 


Sheet after sheet of purple stained paper would then land in a pile – still wet and reeking of alcohol. Many a morning was spent in ‘the Banda queue’ observing some quite unnerving ‘jiggling’ of the backside of the person in front whilst getting slightly high on the fumes! Ah, happy days…

If you ever wanted to project any sort of image for your whole class to see then you got out the big guns…the Overhead Projector. This contraption also required you to write (not type) anything you wanted to project onto asitate with a special pen. 

Haven’t we come a long way?

As the world became a more interactive place and Smart Boards began to appear on everyones walls the poor OHP got resigned to the back of the stock cupboard – or worse – thrown out!

Today I want to dispatch you to the back of those dusty stock cupboards to search out those OHP’s and give them a new lease of life as they can be BRILLIANT for engaging children in Early Years (and beyond).


Continuous Provision in the Early Years  – the original!

This week I have been finishing of the final draft of my second book about Continuous Provision. At the moment it has been given the inspirational title of ‘Continuous Provision Two’. That makes it sound to me like it should have an extra strap line like ‘Continuous Provision Two – The Revenge!’ But the publisher seems to like it!

Anyway, in said book I am focusing particularly on skill identification, differentiation and development in areas of Continuous Provision. As part of extending skills in Small World and Role Play provision I re-discovered my love of the OHP.


Anything that you put onto the flatbed of the OHP is then projected onto the nearest wall or ceiling. This means that children can create large scale ‘scenes’ to enhance their play. 

Whatever scenes they create are easily changed as different groups of children move through the play space. Once they get the hang of what to do they find out just how easy it is.


The castle in made from paper and the characters are Small World figures lying on the flat bed of the OHP

These photos were taken in a Small World space where, following children’s interests, practitioners had identified preferences for ‘dinosaurs’ and ‘fairytales’ as well as open ended provision to extend children’s imagination.


In this setting the back wall of the Small World area is really just a wide pillar and it has a display board in the middle of it. So, to give me a nice big projection space I threaded a bamboo cane through a shower curtain and hung it from the ceiling.

Shower curtain Collage

Now, as we all know, hanging anything from the ceiling can be tricky! If you have a ceiling in your setting that is made up of a grid of ceiling tiles separated by metal runners (the classic suspended ceiling) then what I am about to tell you might very well change your life!

Are you tired of standing on tables trying to poke bits of string under those tiles? Have you been told in no uncertain terms that you are NOT to put staples into the ceiling? Does your blu tack just not hold? If so then you need these.


They are called magnetic hooks and the stick to the metal runners on your ceiling. Each hook will hold up to 5kg – they are genius! 

But the joy of the OHP doesn’t stop with Small World and Role Play. Here I was extending Water Play provision by using the water area to facilitate other aspects of learning besides just the ‘pure’ or ‘unique’ skills linked to water. The projector is working as a back light in, what is to all intents and purposes, a fancy shadow box. 


The children place objects on the shelves and then look from the front to see how those objects appear when back lit. You can use solid objects or transparent ones with water or aqua beads like I have here.

To create the screen at the front I just used the same old shower curtain and pegged it on tight.

Once again, hours of fun!

You can use your OHP for pattern, shape, consruction…the list is endless…

So, if you are looking for a new dimension to your Small World, Role Play, Water or any other area of your provision, then dig out that OHP and get busy!

Have a great week.


13 Comments on “Imaginative Play and the Overhead Projector”

  1. Hi

    I have seen in practice, where children could add to the projected image and it would alter the digital drawing pad. Do you know how I can set this up please?

  2. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but
    I ffind his matter to be actually something thazt I think I woud nevr understand.
    It seems too complicated and very broad for me.
    I am looking forward foor your next post, I’ll try to get the hang
    of it!

  3. Hi there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a
    few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not
    sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two
    different internet browsers and both show the same results.

  4. Yay – love this! I have been fiddling round with a similar idea using a digital projector and photos nicked off Google images – deserts, castles, forests. Makes brilliant backdrops for shadow puppets.

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