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Play In Childhood Essay

2111 words - 8 pages

Play is one of the most defining features of childhood in Western society. It is something that all children have in common and what makes a child's world different from adults. In answering the question, this essay will first examine the different opinions held by theorists as to why children play. I will then look at role play, which is one of the many types of play that children engage in. Finally I will look at children's play as a social process using examples from other cultures and then briefly consider the reasons that children themselves believe they play.It is wrong to assume that children have always played. Historian, Aries (1962 in Book 1 Understanding Childhood Chapter 2) claimed that childhood was a social construction and that the view of childhood as a separate state did not occur until around the 16th and 17th century - before this, children were economically useful and not valued for the simple joy that children can bring. This was further illustrated by Mayhew (1861 in Book 1 Understanding Childhood Chapter 1), who's observations from his meeting with the watercress girl led him to state that she had been deprived of her childhood. This was largely due to the fact that the girl's work responsibilities did not allow time for play and she had no knowledge of parks or anything associated with play. From this it could be deduced that Mayhew felt children should play. Mayhew's example also showed that play is a social construction, as although it was clear that the 'watercress girl' did not play, the fact that Mayhew suggests this is abnormal may simply be constructed from his own opinions that childhood should be a time of play.One of the first attempts to explain the importance of play came from the publication of Emile by Jean Jacques Rousseau in (1762 in Book 3 Understanding Childhood Chapter 1). In this, Rousseau emphasized that childhood should be a time of play and children should have the freedom to do this. For Rousseau, play is consistent with a happy healthy childhood, which is often linked with the romantic discourse. This is in contrast with the Puritan discourse which believes that allowing children to play is a risk to the civilization processes, as this can only be achieved through strict discipline. It also believes parents should be responsible for channeling children's play into creative forms of work which will help children to learn morally and intellectually. It is obvious therefore that these theories differ in their approaches to play. For the Romantic perspective - play is a way that children can express themselves, but for the Puritan approach, play is the way through which children learn.Other opinions, such as those from developmentalist's like as Piaget (1896 - 1980 in Book 3 Understanding Childhood Chapter 1) saw play as an opportunity where children learn, practice and consolidate new skills and furthermore play provides them with a time where failing during a task was not going to have disastrous...

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