Examining the Nature and Role of Play in Early Childhood Essay Example
Examining the Nature and Role of Play in Early Childhood Essay Example

Examining the Nature and Role of Play in Early Childhood Essay Example

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  • Pages: 7 (1881 words)
  • Published: September 4, 2017
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The Significance of Play in Early Childhood: A Unifying Perspective

According to Groos (1916, p.72), childhood is not just a period of life when we play because we are children, but rather, we are given childhood so that we can play. In recent decades, early interventionists, social workers, and sociocultural researchers such as Goncu (1999) have studied child play. Major developmental theorists like Piaget (1962), Vygotsky (1976), Bruner (1972), and Erikson (1977) have also placed significant emphasis on the nature and importance of play during early childhood development. As a result, contemporary developmental psychologists have recognized the fundamental role of play in nurturing a child's mental health and implemented various techniques of drama therapy to enhance their development.

Although there is ongoing debate regarding the exact definition and purpose of play, as identified by Bundy (2001), children's play behavior can be ch


aracterized as enjoyable, personally directed, and self-motivated activities that take place within a safe and spontaneous context (Hughes, 2001). Children engage in play that involves repetition and exploration of behavioral possibilities (Butterworth & Harris, 1998, p.140) while experiencing a sense of control over their surroundings.Child drama can be performed individually or in groups, and is typically motivated by external factors even when children are enthusiastically engaged in regulated activities. Its purposes can include exploring inanimate objects or human relationships and social roles. Child drama encompasses a variety of activities and aims, such as representing reality through symbolic play and linking different experiences for meaning-making. Definitions of child drama abound due to its diverse facets, with classical and modern theories of drama offering different understandings of its purpose and existence. This paper will examine the role an

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nature of drama in early childhood, with a focus on contemporary theories of development.The function of drama in kid development has been explained by various theories that were mainly developed after the 1920s, including the Psychoanalytic theory and Cognitive theories (Saracho and Spodek, 1995). The Psychoanalytic theory of drama was developed by Freud and his colleagues in 1938 through therapies that examined pent-up memories of patients. According to Freud, kid drama is a way of replacing negative feelings and emotions in a psychotherapeutic manner with positive emotions. Hence, children who do not play enough are likely to remain traumatized and possess destructively negative feelings throughout their lives. Play serves not only as a catalyst for negative feelings but also as a facilitator for understanding unpleasant experiences, and a tool for kids to express their feelings and emotions (Wehman and Abramson, 1976). Psychotherapists such as Takhvar (1988) or Erikson (1963) have modified and altered Freud's theory by relating ego processes, fear, anxiety, and wish fulfillment to play activities in kids. Additionally, Erikson (1950) identified conflict resolution and the dramatization of past, present, and future as the main features of play. He transformed Freud's psychosexual development stages into psychosocially relevant stages.According to Peller (1952), children's fantasy play imitates adult functions, which provides a sense of control in difficult real-life situations. Murphy (1962) added that play therapy's "acting out" elements facilitate the processing of positive or negative experiences. Play therapy has been primarily used with emotionally disturbed children to decrease destructive emotions. The observation of guided play can provide therapists with insight into a child's emotional difficulties and can aid in the restoration of a child's control and

sense of self. Cognitive theories, such as those developed by Piaget (1962) and Vygotsky (1978), explore the connection between cognitive development and play behavior in children. Axline (1974) regarded drama therapy as an extension of these psychoanalytic concepts.To comprehend Piaget's perspective on children's play, it is essential to become familiar with his cognitive development theory, which highlights assimilation and adjustment as two crucial and prevalent elements. Assimilation involves the process of children absorbing and integrating external information into pre-existing mental structures in order to maintain cognitive balance. Children achieve this equilibrium by continuously accommodating their mental structures to improve their response to new information from the world. This is why children enjoy playing, as they need not adapt their cognitive strategies to the world when playing. Instead, the world must adjust to the existence they have created based on their simple rules. Hence, playing emphasizes assimilation over adjustment, whereas copying emphasizes adjustment over assimilation. Piaget (1962) has identified three stages of play- sensorimotor, symbolic, and games with rules- that children experience sequentially, with each stage containing different types of play. According to Piaget (1964), children tend to engage more in physical activities (such as running or jumping) during the sensorimotor stage of play.Playing in the sensorimotor phase often involves objects, but this is mostly practical and not very symbolic. It usually occurs only in the first phase of drama development. The second phase, which involves symbolic or make-believe play, begins at around two years old. Symbolic play involves one object representing another and is a new type of behavior that is important for transitioning from early childhood to a new phase. Symbolic play also includes

children exploring different social roles, like pretending to be a teacher or parent. Unlike physical skills, symbolic play requires imagination. Baldwin (1905) explained that imagination is the ability to mentally create images. Rehabilitation imagination involves imagining a man on a horse from previous experience, while compound imagination involves imagining a centaur from separate memories of a man and a horse. Children typically enter the "games with rules" phase when they are around seven years old. This final phase of child play complements Piaget's concrete operational stage of development.According to Piaget (1968), during this phase, children tend to participate in societal interactions while playing games like cheat and cards. They also start writing fiction stories instead of engaging in dramatic play. Although physical or symbolic games are played throughout life, people prefer games with tangible rules that encourage socialization and resemble reality. Lloyd and Howe (2003) discuss whether solitary play is advanced or immature, which is a current theoretical debate in the study of play. However, Piaget's (1968) belief that the frequency of solitary play decreases significantly with age is no longer supported. Moore et al. (1974) found that solitary play persists and becomes more mature with age, while Rubin et al. (1983) discovered that children under 5 years old were not adept at complex solitary games as 5-year-olds were. Furthermore, kids transitioning to kindergarten preferred solitary-constructive play, while kindergarteners engaged in markedly more functional solitary play.The assumption made by Piaget (1968) that a person's social adulthood can be determined solely by their level of societal interaction, without taking into account relevant cognitive aspects, has been critiqued by Lloyd and Howe (2003). Piaget believed that changes

in cognitive development are responsible for changes in the forms of play, but he did not consider the role of play in leading to more mature cognitive development stages. Elkonin (2005) criticized Piaget for omitting details about child-adult interactions in his experiments. Piaget's perspective differs greatly from that of Vygotsky (1976), who strongly believed that play helps to facilitate and accelerate children's cognitive development. Vygotsky focused on normal problems in children's development, whereas Freud concentrated on extreme cases of traumatized children. Vygotsky's ideas aligned with those of other well-known theorists, such as Bruner (1972) and Russ (1995), who perceived sociodramatic play, discovered by 2-year-olds, as essential for emotional, cognitive, and social development.According to Vygotsky (1976), sociodramatic drama allows children to imitate adults and experience situations and activities for which they may not yet be mature enough to encounter in real life. This type of play pushes children beyond their average age and everyday behavior, allowing them to function above themselves. Additionally, sociodramatic play helps children define objects in a social context, internalize social norms, and adapt their behavior accordingly. The distinguishing factors of this self-regulatory play are an existing imaginary situation and rules (Elias and Berk, 2001). Children develop the cognitive ability to separate physical action from external stimuli and control objects in play situations while determining the meaning and identity of the stimuli themselves. Children can transform spontaneous behavior into self-regulation by independently choosing and creating their own reality beyond the existing world (Vygotsky, 1978).According to Elias and Berk (2002), as children grow older, their imagination becomes stronger and they require objects in play to resemble the real world as closely as possible, allowing

them to regulate their behavior in both real and fantasy situations. Following rules during play aligns with a child's desire to conform to societal expectations and internalized norms and values. Vygotsky (1978) concluded that adherence to rules during play is a key driver of the satisfaction that children derive from playing. In summary, sociodramatic play enables children to exercise "maximum self-control" (Vygotski, 1978, p.99) by requiring them to resist immediate impulses while emphasizing coordination of behavior with others and adherence to social rules (Elias and Berk, 2002, p.218). Numerous studies have attempted to verify Vygotsky's sociodramatic play theory. For example, Elias and Berk's (2001) study on complex sociodramatic play (CSD), solitary dramatic play, and dramatic play in preschoolers demonstrated that CSD benefits children who need to improve their self-regulatory abilities.Vygotsky claimed that self-control is strongly linked to sociodramatic play, where children resist immediate impulses to conform to societal norms within the pretend context. Kraft and Berk (1998) found support for this theory by showing that children try to control their behavior based on their own mental images, which is positively correlated with the use of self-guiding private speech. Therefore, Vygotsky's ideas about play in early childhood have garnered more support than Piaget's. However, there are many influential figures in developmental psychology, and some theories about child play could not be included here due to space limitations. References cited include Axline (1947), Bruner (1972), Bundy (2001), Butterworth and Harris (1998), and Elias and Berk (2002).The role of sociodramatic drama in regulating behavior in young children has been explored in academic literature. Elkonin (2005) discusses theories of drama, while Erikson (1985) examines the connection between play and

reality. Freud's (1961) work on the pleasure principle is also relevant. Groos (1916, 1985) argues that play is instinctual, and Hall (1920) explores youth development. Hughes (2001) considers evolutionary playwork and reflective practice, while Lloyd and Howe (2003) study solitary play and divergent thinking skills in preschool children. Mellou (1994) provides a contemporary review of play theories. Finally, Moore et al. (1974) reconsider the function of solitary play.The following is a list of various sources discussing the topic of developmental psychology and play. These include Peller's (1952) work on models of children's drama in Mental Hygiene, Piaget's (1962) book Play Dreams and Imitation in Childhood, Rubin et al.'s (1983) chapter on play in Mussan's Handbook of Child Psychology, Russ's (1995) review of play psychotherapy research in Ollendick and Prinz's Progress in Clinical Psychology, Saracho and Spodek's (1995) article on children's play and early childhood education in the Journal of Education, Stagnitty's (2004) article on understanding play in the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, Takhvar's (1988) literature review on play and theories of play in Early Child Development and Care, and Vygotsky's (1966) and (1976) works on play and its role in child development.K. Sylva's work on explosive detection systems and Vygotsky's Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Mental Procedures both discuss the role of play in development. Wehman and Abramson's article, Three Theoretical Approaches to Play, also explores different perspectives on the topic. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy published this article in volume 30, issue 9, pages 551-559.

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