The Role of Play in Child Development

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What is play? Play is “a recreational activity; especially the spontaneous activity of children.” (Webster, 2010) Play is such a basic function and daily routine in a child’s life. Although the roles of play and the types of play change though age, it all incorporates in the growth and development of a child. When you think of play you don’t really think about or realize how important it really is in a child’s life. It consists of five elements, and these elements are the make-up and the meaning of play. The first element is that it is pleasurable and enjoyable. This means it must be fun! In order for it to be considered play, there must be a fun and enjoyable element to it. Play also has no extrinsic goal which means it is engaged for the sake of it, and not announced. This is what is so spontaneous about it, it isn’t planned or structured. You (and the child) are free to do what they want! Also, play is spontaneous and involuntary and made to not seem like work. Similar to the previous element of play, this one also means that is has a fun non structured feature to it. Play must also not be assigned. It is freely chosen by the player and they use their ideas and imagination to interact and start playing. The fourth element of play is that is involves active engagement. The player is active and wants to participate in the activity. If they act like they don’t care or they do not want to participate, this is not considered play. The last and fifth element of play is the make-believe aspect. This, to me, is the most fun! There is no literal component attached and their minds can develop freely. (Hirsh-Pasek) Play is so important in a child’s life for many reasons. For one, it promotes development. It promotes development because it assists with problem solving. This involves trying new things and having to figure them out. An example of this could be placing shaped blocks into the right hole. This is a fun game, yet endorses strategizing and processing. Children also develop during play because expand and use creativity (imagination). An example of this is Legos and crafts; games that have no rules and children can use their imagination to make anything they want! Play is also important because it builds attention spans. When you incorporate learning with games, the learning process is much more pleasing. It puts a “want” factor into learning and the materials learned are grasped much more easily (and its fun)! Lastly, play is important because it encourages social development. This includes peer relations and peer play. (Hirsh-Pasek) Along with the many purposes of play, there are also some basic types and functions of play. The first type of play is sensorimotor play. This is engaged during the infant stage and this is when they begin to explore and use visual play. During the second quarter of the child’s first year, they also begin using their motor skills. This involves touching, tasting, learning, and using senses to explore toys. For example, any kind of toy that makes noise or bounces. At twelve months of age children enjoy making things work and exploring cause and effect which is another big part of sensorimotor play. The second type of play is pretense or symbolic play. This is when a child uses something in their environment (whether that is a toy or object) and uses it to symbolize something. For example, putting blocks into a cup to represent ice cubes. (Santrock) The next type of play is social play. This is the interaction with peers. This increases during preschool years. The fourth type of play is constructive play. This is the combination of sensorimotor and symbolic play. This is when a problem or solution is created. This also increases in use during preschool years, while sensorimotor play decreases in use during this time. The last type of play is games. These are activities engaged for pleasure. It puts the rule component into playing and also establishes guidelines. (Santrock) This also helps with...
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