The importance of play in child development cannot be overstated. In Australia, the play has been identified as a crucial methodology for learning for children. In light of the stated, there have been numerous researches done to determine the impact of the play. Through the said researches, it has been realized that play is very complex. One of the things that make play complex is the fact that it is affected by various elements. Regardless of this, children’s play in early childhood education is free and innocent. The premise can be stated as true because the outcomes of play are not consciously intended. The essay will prove that whereas children’s play in early childhood is free and innocent, it is influenced by several factors that not only define and shape it, but that also makes it complex.
The Temporal Factors
Ideally, as people get older, they tend to show less physical play. A four-year-old will be very active and will prefer running around in the backyard. A 14-year-old will prefer playing on the basketball court, or the soccer pitch. A 30-year-old will prefer racing and scuba diving and so on. To the children, interestingly, the play remains free and innocent. The examples that have been given show a progressive development of play through different years, which in turn can be converted into time.
Jean Piaget agrees with the idea that time changes the concept of play (Mishra, 2014) and this adds on to the complexities of play. Through Piaget’s Cognitive Development of Children’s theory, one can argue that play, from the time of birth, is cognitive. The suggested stage is referred to as the sensorimotor stage, which occurs from birth up to 2 years (Mishra, 2014). At this stage, the child’s play revolves around exploring the environment around him/her. The second stage of play as the child grows is the preoperational stage, which runs from 2 years to 7 years, where children start playing games that revolve around the social structure (Mishra, 2014).
Just by analyzing the two stages as suggested by Piaget, one can easily explain how time makes play complex. In the first stage, a baby is only interested in discovering things about the environment in an attempt to feed his/her ego. Therefore, games that involve sucking, touching, and pulling, all commonly referred to as practice play, are common. On the other hand, in the second stage, the preoperational stage, the child’s mind is a better developed and the child, who at that age has less ego, starts to notice social structures. At this stage, the child thinks about his/her role in the said structure, and girls can play tea parties while boys play using cartoon action figures and so forth.
The Spatial Factors
Important to note, time is not the only factor that influences play. The environment also adds on to the factors that make play complex albeit having no impact on the innocence of the activity. Ramires (2016) explains that the different environments a person is exposed to since birth will affect the type and complexity of play a person participates in and enjoys. Since a discussion on environment and play can be too broad, only the indoor and outdoor settings will be discussed in this section.
Lvova and Kotliar (Korepanova) (2015) reveal that children who play indoors and those who play outdoors have very different perspectives about life and play. Children who play indoors tend to be more structured, strategic, and analytical, unlike those who play outside who tend to be more social, open-minded, are better risk-takers and problem solvers. To explain further, whereas the child playing indoors has the luxury of time, the one playing outside does not. Therefore, the child playing inside will take more time coming up with strategies while the child playing outside will take more time doing the physical activity.
Social aspects have to be considered in the sense that lack of social factors in play will affect outcomes. Important to note, debates on whether playing alone versus playing with others affect the cognitive development of children have been ongoing for decades. On the same note, historical factors, such as how the parents of the children played, also affect the outcome. It is arguable that children whose parents played outdoors have a higher chance of also playing outdoors compared to those whose parents played indoors. Regardless, however, the processes still contribute and uphold the thesis.
The Cultural Factors
Culture has also played a huge role in the development of play and personalities. Ramires (2016) explains that children’s play tends to imitate activities they observe from adults and caregivers. On the same note, the imitation is free and innocent. In many cases, such activities have a cultural background attached to them. For example, children in remote and conservative cultures that used to hunt animals will have plays that revolve around hunting. However, a child in a contemporary setting where the parents are working in an office setting will tend to create games that revolve around an office setting and so forth.
Crucial to note, the culture within a particular community can also differ, and in turn affect play. For example, early communities had hunters and gatherers as the primary economic roles. However, a child would lean on one side, and prefer to play either as a hunter or a gatherer. In the same breath, today, children’s parents work in different fields. For example, it is possible to find a doctor and a teacher married with children. Interestingly, children will also lean to one profession regarding creativity in play. Further, the complexity brought on by such dynamics proves the thesis true. Ramires (2016) adds that cultural complexities also affect the nature, intensity, and complexity of play. Thus, cultures that are too complex will equally have complex games, and so forth.
The Theoretical Factors
Numerous theories try to explain the play. The presence of numerous theories just goes to show the complexity of the play. Two of the most common theories of play are Karl Groos’ Pro-Exercise theory and Jean Piaget’s Stages of Development. Groos’ theory is mostly referred to as a traditional theory of play while Piaget’s is a contemporary theory of play.
Cattanach (2008) explains that Groos’ Pro-Exercise theory states in simple terms that play goes hand in hand with survival. According to Groos, children’s intensity and roughness during play are crucial in their survival as they become older. Piaget’s theory, on the other hand, does not necessarily look at the physical survival but the cognitive survival of the child. In comparing the two stated theories, one factor comes out as common. The two theories both state that play allows the development of behavior. Zych, Ortega-Ruiz, and Sibaja (2016) explain that behavior in children is affected by several factors including socialization, culture, historical background, and from the two stated theories, it can be argued that play also adds up to the given list.
Despite the similarity, the two theories are very different. The first difference as stated is that the two scholars looked at play from different perspectives. Groos relied heavily on physical attributes of play. On the other hand, Piaget relied on cognitive attributes. It can be argued that the line of thought or the main area of focus differed between the two scholars due to their different times. Groos’s theory was developed in 1898 while Piaget’s theory was developed in 1962.
Impact on Australian Early Childhood Education
All the discussed factors affect Australian early childhood education in various ways. First, one can better understand how play-based learning came into conception, and some of the things the learning methodology seeks to achieve. Early Childhood Australian (2010) states that Australian play-based learning is one of its kind and aims at helping children make sense of the world around them by engaging in play. Looking back at the theories that were discussed earlier on in the presentation, it can be argued that the premise arises from Piaget’s theory of Cognitive Development of Children.
Indeed, Australian early childhood education has been affected by the play-based learning methodology in line with the teacher’s or tutor’s pedagogy. Since many current tutors did not go through the play-based learning methodology as children, they have been required to also learn the methodology to use it successfully in their classrooms. According to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), educators in Australia can make their classrooms “play-friendly” in various ways. First, since both indoor and outdoor play is important, the tutors should use spaces inside the classroom to create a warm and play-friendly environment. All play should also be monitored to ensure that it is progressive in the manner desired by the tutors and the curriculum. The temporal program, or time, should also be used in the curriculum to engage in play. Important to note, whereas play is important, tutors also have to balance with normal learning methodologies to get the best results.
Play encourages both physical and cognitive development of human beings. Important to point out, due to the desired impact of play on development, both physical and cognitive, the activity tends to be very complex. Affected by culture, socialization, history, and social aspects, play is one of the most complex development attributes of education. Several theories have been used over the years to explain the complexity of play. Two of the most common of these theories are Karl Groos’ Pro-Exercise theory and Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development of Children theory. One of the similarities that can be denoted from the two theories is that play shapes behavior. On the other hand, the difference between the two is the area of focus. Whereas Groos focuses on the physical abilities that play creates, Piaget focuses mainly on the cognitive aspects that are strengthened through play.
Cattanach, A. (2008). Play with abused children (2nd ed.). London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Early Childhood Australia (2010). Why play based learning? Early Child Magazine, 16(3), 1-4.
Lvova A., D., & Kotliar (Korepanova) I., A. (2015). The joint play senior preschool children with atypical and regulatory development in the inclusive group of kindergarten. Psychological Science & Education, 7(2), 110-121.
Mishra, R. (2014). Piagetian studies of cognitive development in India. Psychological Studies, 59(3), 207-222.
Ramires, V. R. (2016). The intersubjective nature of play development and its role in child psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1-3.
Zych, I., Ortega-Ruiz, R., & Sibaja, S. (2016). Children´s play and affective development: Affect, school adjustment and learning in preschoolers. Infancia Y Aprendizaje, 39(2), 380-400.