I have been invited to respond to Cozens’s case for embodied practice to make more explicit the implications for learning in art and design of an example taken from early years teaching. My argument is directed to notions of play, embodiment and representation. Before turning directly to these concerns, however, I wish to signal praise for Cozens’s account. I believe that she persuasively combines reference to aspects of educational theory with her own project, in focusing on the ways in which children develop ‘semiotic systems of symbols and signs to communicate meaning’ across ‘representational modes’. While I am sympathetic to this case, I propose here an alternative and complementary account of the educational value of play and embodied practice with particular reference to the practice of painting in secondary schools.