Theories Of Childhood Development Involving Play Essay

Length: 6 pages Sources: 10 Subject: Film Type: Essay Paper: #57334284 Related Topics: Emotional Development, Decision Theory, Theory Of Caring, Epistemological
Excerpt from Essay :

¶ … Traditional Theories of Play

"Children's play in early childhood education is totally free and innocent."

'Play' is an activity that is universal with universal rights for all children; it is seen as a state of innocence, grace, wonder and creativity for the children. The topic of play in early education has been given focus by many people including government institutions and presents the definitions and theories concerning the crucial functions of play in the lives, development, and learning of children. The paper will orient the reader by introducing the purpose of the research, which is to elaborate play complexities by looking at the temporal, spatial, cultural, and theoretical aspects. Furthermore, it gives the underlying reasons for play in the contemporary society since the field is changing rapidly and complex. Review of literature will be done to show how culture has shaped children's kinds of play that they experience, where they play and with whom they are playing within the society. The lifestyles of children have changed. Today, the education system concerning children's plays point to a lack of play both at home and school.


By playing, children are given the opportunity to explore and experience the world around them, experiment with new ideas, experiences and roles hence, learn to understand and construct their social position in the current world well. The field of early childhood education appears to be quite fragmented, with the competing theoretical frameworks that have been linked to the profound differences in epistemological and scientific perspectives. Besides, dominant paradigms are associated largely with a recent history of education, economic, and social changes in a minority of Western societies. Rights-based approaches have emerged to protest on the policy development by drawing attention to the global injustices in early childhood and the millions of young children who have been denied their fundamental entitlements to health, survival, and well-being (Woodhead, 2006).


Classical theories were formed before the 1920s, and they emerged from philosophical thinking on nature of childhood and their perceived values of playful activities. They managed to highlight the biological and innate aspects of play using both evolutionary and physiological explanations. Hence, they attempted to explain the reason for the existence and meaning of the play. Groos Karl's pre-exercise theory of 1901 recognizes many children's behaviors in adult games, customs, and competitions. In his research, he managed to create systems grouping different types of play such as dramatic play, rough-and-tumble play, and those games with rules. According to him, 'play' is a tool that encourages children to emulate certain behaviors similar to adult roles and in turn assume them in future. For instance, children can enact parental roles when in a dramatic play. The theory suggests that play prepares children in a natural way for adult life endeavors. The reason is that their experiences during play are similar to those they are bound to encounter as they grow (Rogers & Evans, 2007).

Today, contemporary theories are being used by early childhood educator since they emphasize the psychological value and the significance of a child's cognitive, social, and emotional development. As such, importance is given to the higher levels of thinking, and symbolic thought and support is given to these theories by empirical research. Piaget (1952) and Vygotsky's (1967) cognitive development theory is about the construction of thought processes and intelligence. They argue that humans can acquire knowledge, to make decisions, and to reason. According to Piaget, though dual processes of accommodation and assimilation, children acquire knowledge. Assimilation is where children learn new material from the outside world and fit it into their existing knowledge. Accommodation, on the other hand, looks at how children can adjust their knowledge to fit the new information presented. For instance, children adjust newly incorporated knowledge, compare it, and notice that a...


The dual processes occur together, and this creates a state of equilibrium (balance) for the environment and state of mind of children. As such, the children will have a stable understanding of the world around because play enhances assimilation. It is evident that the children of today assimilate their new intellectual materials or ideas to the realities seen and heard instead of accommodating them (Chapter 10, n.d.).

Piaget's classical developmental theory was formulated and offered educational psychology, and his assertions were that at several different growth points, children acquired new cognitive operations systems. Hence, the systems radically altered their capable learning forms and he concluded that it is from this that cognitive structures need to be assessed and then present the materials learners will need and ensure that it is fashioned in ways that the structures can assimilate. Additionally, it is in one's power to foster children's development that exists in cognitive structures to ensure they become more powerful than in other societal structures. Piaget's theory considered children as highly active organisms and constructs their internal structures through reflex processes. Hence, no force should be exerted on the learners in taking passive roles towards knowledge acquisition. Instructors are advised to encourage learners to explore their limits of their structures and reflect on them because it helps improve the children's intellectual power and conceptual (procedural) knowledge. His theory constituted a power driving force behind curricular reform in areas of preschool education and science (Nilsson & Ferholt, 2014).

Cultural and historical influences

Society has a role to play when it comes to communicating cultural values to young children and the cultural influences come from sources such as the family, neighborhoods, the media, and childcare centers. By so doing, children develop a sense of pride in themselves and a sense of understanding of people in various cultures. Children should learn that there are differences in people, and they are not bad. As such, play gives the children an opportunity to learn about the different cultural norms and values that exist in a given society. It is indicated that traditional games, those with rules, form integral parts of a culture as they provide a means of communicating social norms and hence, assist children to assimilate group members (Maschinot, 2008).

Additionally, children allow for differentiation among their group members. Culture is also tied to the games played by children and the playthings they use, and this provides children with practice skills needed in their adulthood. As such, play serves as an important enculturation role. For instance, many games and use of toys in activities of play are interconnected with religious beliefs. Most children view cheating in games positively but those caught cheating may face reprimands. The exposure of children playing to Euro-American culture has changed many plays of Eastern children and modification seen to take effect in an activity that fits their gaming practices. Different cultures have varying play behaviors that contribute to roles and skills needed by children in their adult life (Rettig, 2009).

Social and historical changes impact

In today's society, children learn about independence and self-control, so they can express themselves in socially acceptable ways. The acquisition of language is paramount, and this has helped them learn to talk about their environments and experiences. The children of today are developing physically at an alarming rate, and this is attributed to the nature of their learning in both preschool and kindergarten (Solley, 2007). Therefore, educators need to create an environment for children to interact, make choices, and explore. Varied environments give children more learning opportunities and thus, environments created in today play areas and rich and interesting. As such, the social and historical impacts on perception and practice of play have contributed to the growth and development of children. The contemporary society has exposed children to games that are beyond their capacity, but they have managed to surpass all challenges and block presented. Hence, they are more reinforced with information and skills for use in their adult life, which has made them competitive (Patel & Seyram, 2014).

In Australia today, early childhood education has had a different landscape of play because it has introduced frameworks that incorporate the children's characteristics of belonging, being and becoming (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009. The landscape has given the children an opportunity to bring their diverse experiences, expectations, perspectives, and skills to their learning. Play has been seen to:

Allow children to express their personality and uniqueness;

has enhanced their dispositions such as creativity and curiosity;

Stimulate their sense of well-being;

Enables children to make connections between prior experiences and new learning; and Has assisted children to develop relationships

Australia has different goals, practices, and purposes in childcare, preschools, and kindergartens. However, these differences have been reinforced with policy, funding and administrative divisions and care-education divide is growing (Kernan, 2007). The labyrinth of childcare and services for preschool in Australia is faced with complex early childhood landscape and difficulty arises in negotiating the maze. For parents, affordability and accessibility are the main problems and therefore, play has been changed to suit the environment.


Play of children in early childhood education has changed over the years,…

Sources Used in Documents:


Chapter 10. (n.d.). Play and the Learning Environment. Retrieved from

Commonwealth of Australia. (2009). Belonging, Being & Becoming the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Australian Government Department of Education. Employment and Workplace.

Kernan, M. (2007). Play As a Context for Early Learning and Development. Australia: NCCA.

Maschinot, B. (2008). The Changing Face of the United States: The Influence of Culture on Child Development. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.

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