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UNSTRUCTURED PLAY AND CHILDREN'S DEVELOPMENT
Unstructured play in childhood
The effect of lack of unstructured play on children's development
Unstructured play as a form of therapy for children was readily accepted when it was first introduced in both homes and schools. In fact, sand-play in its early form was used to allow children interact, enhance their creativity and develop their social skills (Frost & Norquist, 2007). Research shows that a fundamental aspect of human development is attained in the early childhood stages. As such, any measures to facilitate future development of an individual needs to be cultivated in the early stages of their lives (Miller & Almon, 2009). Over time, unstructured play -- once a highly regarded child development measure -- has lost its meaning and place (Miller & Almon, 2009). Increasing cases of poor child development evidenced by volumes of mental illness antisocial behaviors and physical challenges children face in their growth are resulting (Mowan, 2010). This article makes a presentation showing the effects of lack of unstructured child play on children's subsequent development. The paper also discusses the ideal measures and policy necessary to ensure unstructured child play is not obscured.
Why is this Issue Important?
Play among children might be considered as an avenue for the children to let off some steam (Scott. D. & Munson. W., 1994). However, a keen observation of the play among children indicates a child is learning how to interact with the world around them (Mowan, 2010). In cases where there unstructured plays are in a group, the child learns effective ways of interacting with others contributing to the development of ideal social skills. Unstructured child play exposes the child to a free care environment that presents practical examples to real life situations (Cleland & Venn, 2010). From this child play, a child will easily relate to the communication and lessons in their childhood study environments (Cleland & Venn, 2010). For purposes of attaining the desired end of a successful and complete human development, it is essential to optimize each opportunity that creates and supports an environment fostering unstructured child play.
Tamis-LeMonda, Shannon, Cabrera, and Lamb (2004)argues that however lame it may seem to a grown up, the repeat of some activities during unstructured child play presents a self-learning situation. It also allows the child to feel satisfied for the choices they make (Cleland & Venn, 2010). According to Cleland and Venn (2010), child play contributes to a child's ability to develop their brain, discover interests and open them up to more learning experiences. Unstructured play allows the child to face different challenges and overcome them in their little ways. In essence, during unstructured child play, a child is afforded an opportunity to face their fears and overcome them. This serves to help the child in developing measures of resolving a difficulty they face in their childhood as well as in the future (Tamis-LeMonda et al., 2004).
In the recent times, there are numerous cases for children being treated for physiological ailments. These cases are on the rise owing to poor childhood development (Campbell & Hesketh, 2007). Additional to this ailment, are the increasing needs to pediatric wards in hospitals owing to child ailments resulting from allergic reactions and exposure to environments that a child's body finds it difficult to conform (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2010). This has been attributed to inadequate exposure to challenges in early childhood that a child's body could respond to and quickly become accustomed. Childhood unstructured play presents an opportunity for the child to develop mechanisms both physical and biological that can facilitate their adaptation and conform to certain social and environmental condition (Barros, Silver, & Stein, 2009).
The gradual shift from encouraging unstructured child play serves to deny a growing child an avenue to enjoy themselves including denying them a chance to have control. Literature shows that with unstructured child play, a child has control over the choice they make (Barros et al., 2009). Child play of this nature allows children develop the art of making choices and having control of the desired outcome (Barros et al., 2009).
What Does the Research Tell Us?
Over the years there has been a shift in pre-school and early learner's school ideology that places more emphasis on the structured learning activities (Scott. D. & Munson. W., 1994). These shifts sidelines free, unstructured play among children by requiring that if a child must play then let the play be done following a learning session. In the recent times, policy makers, parents and pre-school teachers advocate replacing a child's play time with structured learning themes (Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness & Council on School Health, 2006). The shift from the notion for unstructured child play is overshadowed by the worldly view that views child play as unnecessary. This places child play at the bottom of the child's needs list with the ideology that unstructured play is for slackers (Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness & Council on School Health, 2006).
The view that unstructured child play is a waste of time and limits the child's speedy development continues to grow as parent's ability to support their child in such activities diminishes (Mowan, 2010). Additionally, parents have come under immense pressure to support their family's economically needs by engaging in time-consuming employment engagement. On average, a parent spends more than half their day away from their child. In the event they are around their child on weekends and holidays; they have little time to spare for their child (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2010). This impact negatively on their child's development by, denying them an opportunity to take their children to community parks or even on their front or back yard grounds for play (Miller & Almon, 2009). The child's development through exposure to environmental features is curtailed as well as their ability to learn interaction skills with other children. Lack of exposure to unstructured child play compromises the child's ability to develop social skill as well cognitive and physical capabilities ideal in their development (Cleland & Venn, 2010).
Further to the diminishing volume of time spent with the child outdoor, there is increasing concern over the availability of secure grounds for children to play (Tamis-LeMonda et al., 2004). Recent cases of child abductions and criminal activities taking place within the community play areas have scared off parents from utilizing their grounds. Additionally, grounds within homesteads and schools has been on the decline owing to the development of commercial-based housing and the increasing need for space to erect economically viable structures (Scott. D. & Munson. W., 1994).
These developments compromise on the child's potential to embrace outside play activities. Parents out of concern for the children's need for play, substitute the outside play with board games and electronic video games. Research shows that, the lack of outside play among children is the leading cause for rising cases of childhood obesity and poor teenage physical abilities (Cleland & Venn, 2010). The child's social capabilities are poorly developed limiting their future potential functionality in the society. A child's exposure to challenges relating to physical, and environmental condition, cognition and socialization within the house and school environment is limited (Campbell & Hesketh, 2007). This implies that the child is likely to have difficulty in coming up with measures to attend to the situations of need in the future.
What are the Implications of the Research?
The reviewed research shows there is a looming challenge for attaining a healthy generation of individuals who can contribute competently to the society and economy at large. It is observable that childhood development aspects are compromised in the early stages of their development. The resulting breed of persons will fall short of the required standards required for the continued growth of the community (Barros et al., 2009). Research by (Cleland & Venn, 2010; Miller & Almon, 2009) shows there is a need to undertake corrective measures to resolve the deficiencies in promoting unstructured play for childhood development purposes. In essence, parents, school administrators, government policy makers and child care givers need to be equipped with the appreciation for unstructured child play in early child devolvement stages.
Considerations for Policy
For a healthy childhood development, each child deserves the opportunity to engage in unstructured play right from their early stages of without their development (Mowan, 2010). Play in childhood development opens avenues for creativity while the child interacts with surrounding environment. For optimal development of the child, it is recommended that unstructured play be entertained (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2010). Literature on child development highlights the fact that a child's physical, social, emotional, mental and cognitive developments are highly facilitated through childhood games (Frost & Norquist, 2007).
Strategies to attend to the need for more unstructured play in child development need to be formulated. The strategies need to address the existing deficiencies in balancing the need for educational needs for the child and their development through the learning process (Cleland & Venn, 2010). Measures to promote healthy development of…[continue]
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