Child Learning Through Play Essay

1862 words - 7 pages

Children have a natural inclination to play, alongside a natural instinct to learn and to be curious and inventive, which are characteristics of the human race in general. This quote taken from Janet Moyles is a good starting point for this essay. It is well known that children love to play. If a child were to be left to his/her own devices they would happily play and create new worlds anywhere they were left. It has been well documented and researched that children learn excellently through play. However they are not always given the opportunity to do so, instead being told to, ‘finish your work and then you can go play’. Obviously this is not always the case, but the fact that it is a common practice shows that we do not all fully appreciate the importance of play to children’s learning. This essay will attempt to show how children learn through play, making reference to current theory and practice. I will also give examples from my own first-hand experience of how children learn and develop as people through play.

Julie Fisher (1996) suggests that young children learn by ‘being active’, ‘organising their own learning experiences’, ‘using language’ and ‘interacting with others’. I would agree with this statement up to a point. However, she does not mention if the activities should be structured. While I agree that children will learn from being active through a process of trial and improvement, I believe that with older children it would be a lot more beneficial to give the child a structure build upon. For example, before I began this PCGE course, I used to train my local under eleven Gaelic Football team. Say for instance they had never played before and they turned up to training at 7:00 but the training was not until 7:30. All the training equipment was already on the pitch and they all went down to investigate. I have no doubt that by 7:30 when I arrived that the children would be after developing some type of game from the sports equipment that was already there. Now I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, but if I had been there from the beginning the children would have got a much more structured and themed training session. It all comes down to what your aim for a child is. My goal was to train the children to be the best they could be at that particular sport. The same could be said for children growing up. Usually the teacher has some sort of goal that they want the children to achieve before the end of the day. In this case how does the teacher direct the child towards the learning objective without limiting the natural learning potential of the child? Vygotsky argues that a useful way to help a student who is having difficulties is to direct their attention to the key features of the task and prompt them in ways that will facilitate their understanding. Bruner has used the metaphor of scaffolding to refer to Vygotsky’s view of this kind of teacher support (Smith and Cowie, 1991).

For very young children this...

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