Theories of Play, Development and Learning

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Theories of Play, Development and Learning
Child development was previously largely ignored, and there was little attention to the progress which occurs during childhood and adolescence in terms of cognitive abilities, physical growth and language usage. However, researchers have found interest to study typical development in children as well as what influences development. Many theories have emerged which have helped full understanding of the social, emotional and physical growth which occurs in a child from early childhood to early adulthood (Hughes, 2004, p. 20). Jean Piaget proposed one of such theories and looked human development in a biological angle and explained it in four development stages. The stages are sensorimotor development stage, preoperational development stage, concrete operational development stage and formal operational development stage. However, Vygotsky proposed another theory of cognitive development which looked development in social interaction point of view. Although these theories differ in some aspects, they both consider playing as a key element in child development. This paper will discuss Piaget and Vygotsky theories of development and attempt to relate play to the theories. In addition, the paper will cover the applications of these theories in real life situation by giving real life examples, as used by teachers to their students. Piaget looked at the cognitive development concept from a biological point of view. To him, the key principles in the child’s growth and intellect are adaptation and organization. This theory indicates all organisms should have the ability to adapt to the environment, which is a necessity for survival. According to this theory, learning involves constructivist process thus knowledge is not acquired from the environment and imitation of other people’s actions. Rather, knowledge is acquired through a slow but a continuous process of learning. Piaget noted that children need three basic kinds of knowledge in order to develop; they need physical, social and logical-mathematical, and psychological knowledge (Hughes, 2009, p.29). This theory also notes that physical knowledge is essential for survival and growth of the body. Physical knowledge is obtained by performing activities which allow children to observe and make conclusions of physical characteristics of objects. On the other hand, social knowledge is obtained from experience when a child interacts with other children. Children are, therefore, able to apply what they gain from social situations. Logical-mathematical knowledge allows children to discover the relationship between objects, ideas and people. Lastly, psychological knowledge is essential for the growth of intellectual structure of a child’s mind. According to this theory, adaptation encompasses two stages, assimilation and accommodation process. Assimilation involves taking in new things or ideas, from the outside world and trying to fit it in the existing structure. Children take information and use it at their pleasure without necessarily adapting their thinking to it. The accommodation process involves the existing structure adjusting to new acquired materials. The physical body reacts by internal process, such as digestion, and responds by growing and changing in size. On the other hand, minds reacts by accommodating new intellectual materials and responds by growing intellectually (Oakley, 2004, p. 27). In the development of a child, play is a crucial element to consider. This is essentially because, as children play they encounter (assimilate) new material. If the new ideas are not fitting to their current knowledge, a sense of confusion will result (disequilibrium). Thereafter, the child may master new idea by adjusting current ideas (accommodation) to the new information and, therefore, learn something new. To Piaget, there are four critical stages which a child must pass through during cognitive development (Watson, 2004, p. 38)....
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