In this essay I am going to discuss the characteristics of play starting from the difficulty of the definition to how it is now commonly described. I will also look at how many theorist believe play develops. Many theorist believe they know what the play types are and at what stage these play type may manifest. I am also going to look at how these theorist manage to talk abot the development of play with at mentioning the development of self and fits in with play. And finally how gender identity affects play and how it is developed. There have been many attempts to define play. Fagan (1974) made a distinction between two different types of definition a functional and the structural approach. The functionalist approach suggests that play has no external goals so if the end goal is to eat seek comfort etc then this behaviour is not play. How ever if there was no goal at all then children would on play the play because the enjoy it, so the functionalist approach has led to a definition of play where there is no obvious benefit. Many theorists would argue that children get benefits from play but it is still unclear what they are. The structural approach tries to describe behaviour that only occurs during play, or behaviours performed playfully these are play behaviours. The main example would be play signals such as the open mouth play face' for monkey and in humans this is laughter which looks a lot like the open mouth play face' of monkeys. These signals are seen to be most useful when in rough and tumble play as it signals that there is no aggressive intention in the play. Not all play has such clearly defined signals, some times play is made up of behaviours common to other situations such as running just running may not be play but a change in the way of running like taking bigger steps or stops and starts but the main characteristic is repetition. These two approaches are not opposite to each other as in many places they over lap. There is another approach that incorporates the other two approaches this is play criterion approach. In this approach there are five criteria to measure play by, these are how the flexibility of the play is structured, the variation of from and context and how it changes and evolves. A positive effect is if the play is enjoyable, is there an element of pretend play and intrinsic motivation just to do it because you want to there are no external rule or social demands. This approach does not try for a short definition of play behaviour, but acknowledges that there is a continuation from non play to play behaviour however there is a commonly used definition of play it involves enjoyment, flexibility and pretence.
Researchers have identified a number of different types of play. The first of these is the physical play which covers rough and tumble and chase play, there is fantasy and sociodramatic play, this is pretend play and basic role-play and language play this covers early attempts at poems . Piaget (1951) was one of the first to suggest a developmental sequence to play; first comes practical play this moves through to symbolic play (fantasy/pretend) to games with rules. Piaget also suggested that there was an over lap between all of the stages. Smilansky (1968) came up with a four fold theory similar to Piaget's theory. There is functional play which as just the same as practical play, then comes constructive play this is making something i.e., Lego building or vehicle, then dramatic play would come next this is just the same as Piaget's symbolic stage. Then last stage would be game with rules. Anyone that has seen school children at break time have seen physical activity play this is often done without other object. Pellegrini and Smith (1998) suggested that there are three developmental phases to physical activity play the first phase is rhythmical stereotypes' bodily movement that are common with babies such as leg kicking and arm waving, then at preschool age this moves on to...
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