Through play, children explore and learn about their world as well as developing imagination, creativity, social skills, and problem solving skills. In this essay, I will examine the value of play in strengthening children’s learning development considering their physical, socio-emotional, spiritual and cognitive development. I will also discuss the value of play that is acknowledged by Vygotsky and Piaget considering play as part of learning. Moreover I will examine the teachers’’ role and teaching strategies in relation to theoretical perspectives of play.
Play provides open paths to literacy and numeracy. Researches highlighted that play is the foundation of counting, reading and writing through manipulating, pretending, and exploring freely without setting objectives. It is acknowledged by Gonzalez & Widmeyer (2012) researches where children’s free explorations offer opportunities to strengthen their numeracy skills through counting buckets of sand for their pretend cake and literacy skills through scanning picture books. It is further supported by Klien, Wirth & Linas (2004) where free play foster and extend children’s language skills. These language skills are tied to emotions which are expressed and explored through pretend play to express feelings. Te Whāriki (MoE, 1996) also highlights environments where children’s emotional needs are constructively fostered.
Play is an open vehicle for children to express feelings and emotions physically, socially and culturally. Manipulating the dough, squashing the clay back and forth, playing the role of mums and dads in the family corner, allow children to utter all sorts of feelings. Klien, Wirth & Linas (2004) stresses the importance of children negotiating and discussing the joy of free play through smiling, laughing, angry, and frustrating. These emotions encourage children to become effective problem solvers with competent choices to deal with their own conflicts in their own unique ways.
Unstructured play provides challenging opportunities for children to show their creativity and imagination. Klien, Wirth & Linas (2004) acknowledge positive effects of play where children engage actively and explore freely from applied rules. When girls play the role of mums, nurses or teachers, they are applying their home and community experiences in their play which supports their imaginative ideas. The excitement originates from play leads to feelings of competence and self efficacy that is highlighted by Gonzalez & Widmeyer (2012). It is further strengthened by Oliver & Klugman (2002) where constructive play encourages social and physical skills in a developmental age appropriate environment. Cooking and baking in the sand area, being a superhero, pretend play provides chances for children to relate their cultural surrounding to real life experiences. It is further supported by Dockett & Fleer (2002) where children’s pretend and unstructured play provide different perspectives when children apply their prior knowledge, imagination, home experiences and cultural backgrounds to their play and participation. Arthur, Beecher, Death, Dockett & Farmer (2007) researches emphasise the significance of play and participation where children learn social expectations of events. Te Whariki (Ministry of Education [MoE], 1996) also stresses environments where children experience free play without settings goals are pleasurable and enjoyable.
Through play, children have an opportunity to expand their world and make discoveries they might never make. As the child builds a tower in the construction area, s/he makes their own choices, sharing, turn taking, and work their own problems independently. Oliver & Klugman (2002) highlights the effective discoveries where children learn to respect each other’s point of view from their free explorations. Moreover children are encouraged to develop social skills through respecting peer’s feelings, negotiating with other children regarding the...
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