Importance of Play in Early Childhood Essay Example
Importance of Play in Early Childhood Essay Example

Importance of Play in Early Childhood Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1525 words)
  • Published: July 12, 2018
  • Type: Analysis
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Play is an important part of children’s life that keeps them healthy both physically and mentally. It is a way through which children explore their imagination, build various skills required for their development in different areas. In this essay, importance of play in children’s learning and development is discussed in relation to Piaget’s cognitive theory, Vygotsky socio-cultural theory and Te Whaariki. Moreover, the teacher’s role and strategies used in encouraging the play-based curriculum in early childhood education are also discussed.

Play is the foundation stone of children’s healthy and productive lives (Oliver & Klugman, 2002) and is also a significant means of child’s learning and development (Zigler, Singer & Bishop- Joseph, 2004). Play influences the child’s mind to such an extent that the powerful experiences during early childhood can be eas


ily memorised even after a long period of time (Dockett & Fleer, 2002). Children become familiar with their cultures, gain knowledge of the world around them, help them make their own discoveries and understand the rules and the consequences (Klein, Wirth & Linas, 2004).

Te Whaariki also values play as a meaningful learning and recognised spontaneous play as an important aspect which promotes the holistic development of the child (MoE, 1996). Children engage in play neither to teach nor to learn but just only with the aim of playing (Dockett & Fleer, 2002). Physical development is one of the important factors of the child’s life that is promoted through play. It develops gross and fine motor skills, helps them maintain their health and increases their confidence (Emslie & Mesle, 2009).

Outdoor play activities enhance child’s physical well- being by gettin

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them involved in some physical exercises which keep them healthy and free from obesity (Oliver & Klugman, 2002). Te Whaariki also focusses on providing the healthy environment to children where they learn to develop control over their bodies through co-ordination and balancing skills (Exploration Goal 2). According to Piaget, children up to 2 years use their whole body and five senses (functional play) in order to explore the world around them (Dockett & Fleer, 2002).

Eliason and Jenkins (1999) recommend peaceful fun activities taking into consideration the developmental needs of children. Language and communication skills are developed through pretend and constructive plays when children interact with others while negotiating their assigned roles. They are encouraged to use the language to express their feelings and emotions (Klein et al, 2004). Play also enriches their vocabulary when they talk to one another and enhances their creativity by expanding their imagination of their roles (Oliver & Klugman, 2002).

During social plays they become familiar with a variety of literacy and numeracy experiences which develop their interests and abilities in different areas such as mathematics, linguistic, science etc. and help them become active learners (Zigler et al, 2004 & Contribution Goal 2). Toddlers communicate non-verbally through imitating, laughing, running and falling down (functional play). Piaget further says that children at this stage are self-centered and they are unable to consider others’ view point (Dockett & Fleer, 2002).

According to Te Whaariki, children learn to express their feelings and imaginative ideas both verbally and non-verbally through music, dance, drama etc. (Communication Goal 1 & 2). Play is also a good source of teaching children about the social

world around them, through socio-dramatic plays where they make their own stories using their own knowledge of the society and culture (Fromberg, 1997). Society has a great impact on the nature and type of children’s play. According to Vygotsky, children establish themes, rules and roles of the play based on social and cultural situations (Dockett & Fleer, 2002).

Children develop various social skills when they engage in play with others, such as turn-taking, co-operation skills etc. They also develop the skills to solve their conflicts peacefully. They learn to establish positive relationships with their peers by understanding and respecting others’ feelings (Oliver & Klugman, 2002 & Contribution Goal 3). Also Vygotsky believed that children learn to be co-operative and grow as a responsible and good adult in the society through large group plays (Smidt, 2011).

They also develop the problem-solving skills that are required to be a good community member and come to know about the acceptable behaviour (Klein et al, 2004). Play is considered as an important tool for emotional development as children recognise themselves more clearly and they are encouraged to fully realize their potential (Oliver & Klugman, 2002). Piaget explains that during pre-operational stage children develop their ability to distinguish between the real and mental world by using an object as a symbol for something else rather than the object itself and

Vygotsky also agreed to this concept (Dockett & Fleer, 2002). Play enables them to share their play with their peers and listen to others point of views which develop their empathy (Smidt, 2011). Play positively affects the emotional well- being of the child when they show their

enjoyment through laughter, smiles. They get motivated to play when they are the active participants in the play and achieve mastery in known fields being acknowledged by the adults. It gives them internal excitement which nurtures their desire to learn.

Moreover, play enables them to find out their own likes and dislikes. Children focus on the process rather than the end product of the play. This helps them to separate work from play (Klein et al, 2004). According to Te Whaariki, children learn to make their own choices and identify the emotional responses of their own and those of others (MoE, 1996). Furthermore, cognitive thinking is also developed through play when adults ask exploratory questions related to the child-initiated play encouraging the children to think flexibly and to extend their play.

This enhances their ability to think, listen and respond to others and ask questions (Fromberg, 1997 & Exploration Goal 3). According to Piaget, cognitive development is the result of assimilation (e. g. a child imagines some blocks as an airship without knowing its working) and accommodation (imitation). Piaget also believed that children become more responsible to the needs and interests of their peers which enables them to get more involved in the play and increases their interaction (Dockett & Fleer, 2002).

Vygotsky believed that the children become more imaginative and creative when they follow social rules (Smidt, 2011). Vygotsky also believed that children become more self- regulated and self- disciplined during the play (Dockett & Fleer, 2002). According to Vygotsky, through play children acquire new knowledge and learn new things and shows higher potential of learning (Smidt, 2011). On the other

hand, Piaget believed in the improvement of already acquired skills by children through play (Dockett & Fleer, 2002). Teachers play an important role in children’s all round development.

First of all teachers can act as good facilitator. They should allocate proper materials and equipment for the children and provide them enough time and space to explore their abilities (Fromberg, 1997). Facilitation is a useful technique to support the children in their play and make their learning flexible and easier (MacNaughton & Williams, 2009). Te Waurika also describes that children should be encouraged to make their own choices and decisions by providing enough resources and materials. Teachers should value their ideas (MoE, 1996).

Teachers can also demonstrate to children about the working of equipments in order to provide them some alternatives and let them find their own solutions to the problems. In order to teach them appropriate behaviour teachers can act as a model for the children (MacNaughton & Williams, 2009). Furthermore, reading can be the useful technique to be used by the teachers to make the children understand about the world around them. Teachers can also implement scaffolding in their play by arranging social environment to help the children scaffold their thinking (MacNaughton & Williams, 2009 and MoE, 1996).

It is believed by Vygotsky children learn best, explore their abilities and knowledge when they get engaged in social aspects of environment. From Piaget’s point of view, social interaction is very important for children to learn social skills, so teachers should act as co-learner in children’s play and encourage children to elaborate their interests by getting engaged in the play (Dockett & Fleer,

2002 and Klein et al, 2004). Moreover, teachers can ask open-ended and exploratory questions to extend the children’s play.

It also helps children to explore their abilities and skills and enhance their problem-solving skills. The children should be given enough time to respond to the questions and should be listened carefully (Dunkin & Hanna, 2001 and MoE, 1996). Teachers should observe the children and get down to the children’s level in order to foster their learning through play sustained for a long time by maintaining their interest (Dunkin & Hanna, 2001). Teacher’s comments during the children’s play enhance language and make their play more clear.

Teachers should always reinforce their play to allow them to think further in the play and provide some suggestions and alternatives (Klein et al, 2004) Overall, play has a significant role in enhancing holistic development of the children. It is clarified by the theoretical views of Vygotsky and Piaget that play is always based on social themes and it helps children learn social skills and explore their physical and mental abilities. Furthermore, teacher has a great role in offering children a play based curriculum through suitable environment and by getting involved in play with

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