There are numerous theories of play and countless theorists, from Freud and Spencer to Piaget and Vygotsky, who have studied play in relation to what it is and what it does for the child. This essay will outline the definition and value of play and the importance of how it can foster the child’s learning in regards to these theorists who studied the effects in great detail. It will discuss the how the environments constructed by educators can impact play and the theories of learning relating to the quote “play and learning are inextricably woven together ...” Ebbeck and Waniganayake, 2010, p. 5).
Who defines what play is? Reed and Brown suggest that play is something that is felt (2000, as cited in Jarvis et al, 2009), whereas Piaget (1962), Bruner (1974), and Vygotsky (1978) saw play as “a means for learning” (ibid). Play is what we do in our spare time and it is generally fun; the element of fun is what keeps us engaged. This essay will discuss the forms of play and its relevance and will mainly focus on 3-6 year old children but may refer to ‘us’ or ‘we’ as people (infants, children and adults) on occasion.
When learning a new instrument, comments such as, ‘I’m just playing around with the strings’ may arise. The key word ‘playing’ is the self-motivation that occurs when people enjoy what they are learning. Through playing with the strings of a guitar the child will be getting used to the sounds and feel of the instrument in order for them to begin to string a tune. Einstein believed that “play [was, and still is] the highest form of research” (as cited in Else, 2009, p.6). Else articulates play as “a process…flexible, inquisitive and creative” (2009, p.7). We get an urge to discover something new and become curious. It is the curiosity that drives us; without this curiosity we would not discover – What’s behind the wall? What happens if…? How long would it take for me to…? Many cultures believe play is immature and just a means to fill in time, here in New Zealand play is generally seen as a way of understanding our environment. Through interaction with the objects around us, children and adults alike understand how things work and what is to be done to manipulate the object/s.
Through play our learning and development extends. We discover new ways to achieve a goal such as, fitting differently shaped cubes into their correct holes. By twisting and turning the cubes children begin to understand that the shapes correspond to the holes on the ball.
Play is inevitable when it comes to children. Given the right environment and objects (of any sort), children will find a way to play. Jarvis, et al state that educators must offer inspiring, playful environments which include hands-on activities and interesting resources. This will empower children to educate themselves (2009). Along the same line, Wood and Attfield consider that an environment inclusive of varied resources will provide room for growth in their learning and will support...