In the 21st century, along with fine arts, media art has become an important genre for young children. Undoubtedly, early visual arts give children a powerful language with which to express themselves aesthetically, cognitively and creatively through the use of symbolic representations. However, digital play remains a controversial issue in early childhood education, causing many schools to delay implementing digital arts. Recently, a number of international scholars have studied how digital technologies relate to children's learning experiences at school, arguing that open-ended digital devices (eg, tablet computers, cameras and video recorders) may allow children to produce more creative content, such as drawings, photos and films. This study explored the role of video art in early visual arts education by using digital devices in a summer workshop in Hong Kong on video making, applying the digital play framework to the data collected. The findings revealed that the children who participated were able to explore the professional device through epistemic play. Meanwhile, they were able to use film language to share their toy-playing stories and make their own 1-minute video through ludic play. In this study, the children engaged in concurrent exploratory activities, using a digital video recorder and toys to create innovative and imaginative play. The findings of this study increase practitioners' and leaders' awareness of the role of digital play in early childhood education. Practitioner Notes What is already known about this topic? Digital arts initiatives in early childhood education have been discussed around the world; however, the implementation of digital arts learning projects has been a challenging undertaking in schools. The digital play framework has been introduced in the previous literature. This framework helps teachers observe, plan for and integrate the use of still-camera technologies in play-based learning. What this paper adds This study aims to offer practical advice on the integration of video art in children's digital play activities. It adopts a theoretical lens related to video making to examine techniques and engagement among children in the Asia-Pacific region. It supplements the existing digital play framework with additional indicators associated with learning to use video cameras through play. Implications for practice and policy This study sheds new light on the application of open-ended digital devices in children's play and learning. The results highlight the value of children's play in digital arts and the possibility of integrating digital arts into the early childhood curriculum in schools.