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Value of Play in Promoting Learning and Development in the Early Years

By tunguyen1011 Aug 28, 2013 1033 Words
Value of play in promoting learning and development in the early years Play is an essential part of every child's life and is vital for the enjoyment of childhood as well as social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. Though play children learn about themselves and the world that surrounds them. They also learn to express themselves and form relationships with others. Play in early childhood education is not considered as a kind of fun activity where children spend their energy on some sorts of physical activities. Play is much more meaningful than that. There is a guideline for early childhood education in Australia called Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) which has been recognized and implied by many educators. The EYLF emphasizes the importance of children’s learning, especially for young children from birth to five years old by introducing the term “play-based leaning” and drawing a range of learning outcomes for young children to achieve through their first five years. Basically, “play-based learning is a context for learning through which children organize and make sense of the social worlds, as they engage actively with people, objects and representations” (DEEWR, 2009, p.6). That means play in early childhood context must be well organized as well as contain specific purposes inside of each playing activity in order to assist young children to achieve the following five Learning Outcomes: * Children have a strong sense of identity

* Children are connected with and contribute to their world * Children have strong sense of wellbeing
* Children are confident and involved learners
* Children are effective communicators
By understanding the important role of play combine with the acknowledgement of children’s development would help educators as well as parents have boarder views of what is appropriate way to provide playing environment for young children and how adults support their playing which is also their learning. Since play can benefit a child in several ways: physical as well as mental and social development, we can have a closer look on each aspect’s development by understanding a range of following theories. A formal view of scientists on young babies is that infants are considered vulnerable and dependent on their caregivers in term of physical and emotional needs. However, the development of new technologies help educators and researchers to observe, record and analyze infants’ behavior more detail and accuracy, thus, there is evidence that has changed the view of “vulnerable, incompetent child into one of the infant and young child as a learning machine” (Doherty 2009, in Brock et al., 2009, page 95). That means there is so much potential for young children to learn actively and effectively during their physical growth as well as cognitive development. The first theorist that has a strong influence on any early childhood education’s learning nowadays is Jean Piaget. Piaget had described “how children process information from their first-hand experiences underpins most constructivist perspectives on children as learners” (Anning and Edwards, 1999). Piaget used the word schema as a key concept to explain how young children make sense of their world although there is still a lack of accuracy. Schemas are concerned with the whole child, embracing the physical, mental and emotional aspects of development (Piaget, 1968). For young children from birth to 2 years old, they are in their first cognitive development stage called sensorimotor stage. In the first month of this stage, young babies have reflexive schemas as their automatic responses to stimuli such as sucking or grasping. As they grow up, they have some improvement in using their other parts of body such as hand or head. They can direct hand to mouth accuracy or lift up their head with chest against floor. When infants develop secondary circular reactions where movements are created for something’s happening. At this stage, objects quickly become essential for young children to start exploring the world around them. An idea “treasure baskets” is the idea for children to experience multi-sensory play through exploring a collection of different kinds of objects as well as different textures and materials. This sort of play gives children chance to test and explore things by themselves; by doing so they are also thinking, memorizing and learning new skills. During play, children also increase their social competence and emotional maturity. It enables children to practice both verbal and nonverbal communication skills through role playing. By providing a way to express and cope with feelings, play supports emotional development. Pretend play helps children express feelings in the following four ways (Piaget, 1962): * Simplifying events by creating imaginary character or setting that match with their emotional state. * Experiencing compensation feeling by adding forbidden acts to pretend play. * Controlling emotional expression by repeatedly re-enacting unpleasant or frightening experiences. * Avoiding adverse consequences by pretending that another unreal character that commits inappropriate acts and suffers the consequences. In addition to expressing feelings, children also learn to cope with their feelings as they act out being angry, sad, or worried in a situation they control (Erikson, 1963). Pretend play allows them to think out loud about experiences charged with both pleasant and unpleasant feelings. Through play children bring with them a diverse background of experiences and “developing identities and perceptions about their own and others’ social and cultural experiences” (Early Years Curriculum Guide, 2006, p.44). These cognitive processes, through the medium of play, assist in the development of fine and gross motors skills, sensory awareness, and self-awareness. Children’s play takes many forms. It can be spontaneous, imaginative, open-ended, manipulative, fantasy-based, dramatic, physical, socio-dramatic, exploratory, and pretend. There is no limitation for children to explore all kinds of those plays. Play is an essential and critical part of all children's development. Play starts in the child's infancy and ideally, continues throughout his or her life. Play is how children learn to socialize, to think, to solve problems, to mature and most importantly, to have fun. Play connects children with their imagination, their environment, their parents and family and the world. Children should be supported not only by educators in school settings but also by their parents in term of providing opportunity as well as appropriate and effective play activities.

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