What is play?
What is play?
The word play is usually used to describe the activities of children from babyhood until the early teenage years. There is no neat definition that will cover all the meanings given by parents, early years and playwork practitioners and other adult commentators - let alone how children talk about play when their opinions are invited. Yet there are some common themes: • Play includes a range of self-chosen activities, undertaken for their own interest, enjoyment and the satisfaction that results for children; • Very young children, even babies, show playful behaviour when they explore sound and simple actions and experiment with objects of interest; • Play ...view middle of the document...
The pattern of children's play reflects the society in which they live, including social changes over the decades. In the UK now, commercial interests promote a huge array of toys for children, including many play resources linked to ICT (Information and Communication Technology). This change has led some commentators to claim that children nowadays 'demand' expensive toys and many are promoted as 'essential for your child's learning'. Yet objective observation of this younger generation shows clearly that they are very happy to explore simple play materials including large cardboard boxes and home-made sound makers, craft activities and lively physical games. Society may have changed, but children at root have the same absorbing interest in play.
Why is play so important for children?
From babyhood children use play to promote their own learning; they do not have to be persuaded into playing. A playful orientation seems to be part of childhood for the young of all mammals, of which human beings are a part. Children's continued play supports all aspects of their development: • Children are able to explore intellectually and physically. They can follow their current interests, experiment and find out 'what will happen if…'. They can make choices and consider possibilities; • They often extend their skills of communication within play, through •
talking and listening with child play companions as well as with adults who are involved in their play in a flexible way; Play allows children to give free rein to their imagination. In pretend games, alone or with play companions, they can be whosoever they want and create an imaginary setting and scenario with a minimum of props; Pretend play may take on the form of almost total fantasy with superheroes and heroines. Some forms of pretend play are more domestic and allow children to try out adult roles in childcare, cooking or taking on a job role such as firefighter or nurse that they could not do in reality; Given the space and resources, children promote their physical development through play that draws upon their fine and gross motor skills. They build their own muscle strength and can develop habits and interests that build a firm basis for healthy activity. Children only become 'couch potatoes' when adults have restricted their activity, limited their access to outdoor play and allowed children to spend excessive time on 'screen play' with a television or computer; Children sometimes use play in a spontaneous way to work through events and feelings that absorb them. They may choose to retell and sometimes rework experiences through their pretend play, story creation and artwork.
Children can learn a considerable amount through their play but they do not only learn through play. Children welcome the chance to be involved in daily routines and to be an appreciated helper to adults. In family life as well as play settings such as after school clubs or nurseries, children like...