Children And Play In The First

2481 words - 10 pages

Child?s Play: The First Two Years of Life In the first two years of life play is both a reflection of and an influence on all areas of infant development: intellectual, social, emotional and physical. Play is a central, all?encompassing characteristic of infant development, allowing children to learn about the world and themselves. Even during the first half-year of life infant?s really do play, even though the interpretation of what is play and what is exploration must first be established. The focus of this paper is to discuss three forms of play that occur during the first two years of life. The work of Jean Piaget and other psychologists in supporting and developing these ideas is critical. The first of these is sensorimotor play which begins with the infant?s accidental discovery of an activity that is inherently satisfying, and consists of the continuos repetition of that activity for the sheer joy of doing so (Hughes, 1991). The second is play with objects involves the intentional handling of an object that leads to satisfaction from the handling. Finally symbolic play is the use of mental representation, in which one object represents another (Hughes, 1991).Exploration or Play? The differences between play and exploration can be difficult to assess. When infants are exploring their surroundings, they are usually cautious and serious. While examining an item during exploration an infant would smell, taste and perhaps rub the item against his/her cheek in a ritualistic manner. In play however, an infant would jump from one object to another without care, and play activities are completely devoid of the rigidity previously described.Finally, when children explore their entire attention is drawn on the object begin explored. Their heart rates are steady, and they are unwilling to be interrupted. Yet, during play the children?s heart rate is variable and they are interrupted easily (Hughes, 1991). It should be easier to tell the difference between play and exploration using these behavioral differences as a guideline.Sensorimotor Play The first year of life consists of what Jean Piaget called sensorimotor play or practice play (Piaget, 1962), the repetition of already assimilated sensory or motor activities for the sheer pleasure of doing so. Piaget suggests that such play reflects the child?s gradual intellectual progress through a series of substages during the first eighteen-month period of development.The first of these stages is primary circular reaction: When a baby accidentally discovers an interesting sensory or motor experience related to its own body, and then continues to repeat it. This type of behavior is typically seen between one to four months. This is evident through a description of Piaget?s own eight week old son Laurent ?scratches and tries to grasp, lets go, scratches and grasps again, etc... Laurent scratches the sheet which is folded over the blankets, then grasps and holds it for a moment, then lets it go, scratches it...

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