While there is no one definition of play, there are a number of agreed characteristics that describe play. These include:
Research and evidence all point to the role of play in children’s development and learning across cultures (Shipley, 2008). Many believe that it is impossible to disentangle children’s play, learning and development. It is believed that play shapes the structural design of the brain. We know that secure attachments and stimulation are significant aspects of brain development; play provides active exploration that assists in building and strengthening brain pathways. Play creates a brain that has increased ‘flexibility and improved potential for learning later in life’ (Lester & Russell, 2008, p. 9).
Young children’s play allows them to explore, identify, negotiate, take risks and create meaning. Children who engage in quality play experiences are more likely to have well-developed memory skills, language development, and are able to regulate their behavior, leading to enhanced school adjustment and academic learning. (Bodrova & Leong, 2005).
Play does not happen in a vacuum; it is usually undertaken within a physical and social space (Lester & Russell, 2008). One of the greatest benefits of playing is to assist with the development of social competence. Children can build relationships, learn to resolve conflicts, negotiate and regulate their behaviors. In play, children usually have increased feelings of success and optimism as they act as their own agents and make their own choices. Playing is a known stress release; it is often linked to child wellbeing.
Planning the environment is important in providing quality play experiences. The environment can be intentionally planned in four main ways:
Article compiled by:
Head Teacher of Kiota School Kindergarten
Bodrova, E. & Leong, D. J. (2005). Uniquely preschool: What research tells us about the ways young children learn. Educational Leadership, 63(1), 44-47.
Shipley, D. (2008). Empowering children. Play based curriculum for lifelong learning. (Fourth edition). USA: Nelson Education.
Siraj-Blatchford, I. (2008). Understanding the relationship between curriculum, pedagogy and progression in learning in early childhood. Hong Kong Journal of Early Childhood, 7 (2), 6-13.
Steglin, D. A. (2005). Making the case for play policy: Research-based reasons to support play-based environments. Young Children, 60(2), 76-86.