Importance of Play for Children Aged Between 4 and 6

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The importance of play for children between 4 and 6

Written by Tessa Batchelor
Submitted to New Zealand College of Early Childhood Education 2011

This Booklet outlines the importance of the play curriculum and learning for children aged between 4 and 6 years. Creative, imaginative and physical play will be focused on as well as the adults’ role in the promotion of play and the importance of a positive environment for play and learning. Included in this will be examples of play opportunities that link to Te Whāriki and explain intended learning outcomes. The information within this booklet is intended to be a resource for early childhood professionals.

How Creative Play Can Promote Learning:

Creative play can promote learning in several ways. Three ways this booklet will focus on are cognitive development, fine motor skills and social development.

Cognitive skills between the ages of four and six can be developed through creative play. It is stated in Beaver, Brewster, Jones, Keene, Neaum and Tallack (2001), that creative play involves children developing individual ideas in ways that are not immediately apparent. It is valuable for children to engage in problem solving, resulting in the ability to take responsibility for their own learning (Smith, 1998). Concentration can be developed by children engaging in creative play due to extended periods of focus on their chosen task. By the age of six children have gained the ability to concentrate on a task without having their attention diverted from ten minutes to longer periods of time. During a creative play activity children will often portray one object as another, which cultivates the use of their imagination (Beaver, et al, 2001).

Beaver, Brewster, Jones, Keene, Neaum and Tallack (2001) details how creative play can promote learning in children by encouraging the use of fine motor skills. Fine motor skills include small finger movements, manipulative skills and hand eye co ordination (Santrock, 2007). Between the ages of four and six fine motor skills are becoming well coordinated (Beaver, et al, 2001). “Hand, arm, and fingers all move together under better command of the eye” (Santrock, 2007, p. 187). An example of how creative play can help develop fine motor skills would be when a child is using a pencil to create a picture; they are using a fine hold involving the thumb and fingers. This builds on their hand eye co ordination (Beaver, et al, 2001).

Creative play also encourages social development. This involves associative play which includes other children joining in play together (Smith, 1998). Santrock (2007) explains that associative play gives children the opportunity to play together in a social setting and in a creative manner, with little to no organisation. “…Children make intermittent interactions and/or are involved in the same activity although their play remains personal” (Beaver, Brewster, Jones, Keene, Neaum and Tallack, 2001, p. 368). Being involved in a creative activity promotes children sharing and taking turns. Participating in an activity within a social setting presents the opportunity to make and maintain friendships (Beaver, et al, 2001).

Creative Play Opportunity for Four to Six Year Olds:

One creative play opportunity for four to six year olds is a play dough activity involving varied materials. To set up this activity, distribute equal amounts of play dough evenly across a table. This activity needs to be situated in a resource area with access to various materials, including glass stones, bottle lids, ice block sticks, small wooden sticks, shells, material pieces, straws, feathers, and glitter. Incorporate a wide range of scissors and other implements such as cake containers, paper plates, paper muffin cases, play dough pizza cutters, rolling pins, differently shaped biscuit cutters and plastic cutting utensils. The children choose what materials they wish to include in the play opportunity...
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