"Play that is initiated and directed by children and that bubbles up from within the child rather than being imposed by adults is disappearing from our landscape of childhood. There are many reasons for this, such as long hours spent in front of a TV, fear of "stranger danger" when outside." (Exchange Every Day, 2009)
Research, past and present, clearly points to the importance of play for the healthy and full development of the young child. Piaget theorized that a child's mental models, or cognitive structures, are based on the child's activities: engagement makes meaning. Many children today are not benefiting from a balance of intellect and imagination. Play is declining in our schools and preschools to meet the social demands to have curriculum or academic instruction. "Play, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood is perhaps the most incisive and through analysis of linkages between play and intellectual development. Play follows development rather than causing it." (Frost, Wortham, & Reifel, 2008) My belief that free, unstructured play is healthy and, in fact essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones.
Our country's mindset does not align with Piaget's theory nor Vygotsky's. We are modeling how to create a life that is as safe and without risk. We want life to be organized and in charge all the time. We are teaching children that life should be balanced and measurable. That is tidy and play is not. Play is messy. When I was reflecting about adult play I didn't know what to call it, adults don't play we work. Play is vast in many for children: fun, risky, discovery, social, new together, sensitive and so much more.
The zone of proximal development was insightful for Vygotski. "With respect to the role of play in development of young children, Vygotsky was concerned with two fundamental issues; first, the origin and genesis of play and how it develops and, second, whether play is the predominant activity of young children.” (Frost, Wortham, & Reifel, 2008) The ZPD is the distance between a student’s ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and the student’s ability solving the problem independently. What the child does with some assistance today, is what the child will do independently tomorrow. Piaget's and Vygotsky's theories are best known for their insights into the development of thought processes. Piaget places thinking at the center of child development, Vygotsky's work was concerned with the development for thinking. While Piaget emphasizes the role of the child's interactions with physical objects in developing mature forms of...