Not many people know this, but play is a phenomenon that serves to benefit a child’s biological and natural functions. The child will learn about the ever-changing world through the various forms of playing he or she is exposed to. Often, the viewpoint of play between parents and teachers is quite different and truly amazing. While parents would ask, “Did my child only play the whole day?” The teacher will comment, “Play is a child’s way of work!” This parity in perspective is the reason why we need to learn why the teacher should be present and the importance of her role in supporting early childhood education.
Why ‘play’ in the early childhood classes?
Much research has been done concerning cognitive, emotional, social and language benefits attached to play. Great institutional bodies associated with the growth of young children like ACEI and NAEYC recognize the need of play as an important part of a child’s development. The Piaget and Vygotsky theories have placed play as essential during learning times. Brain research as well supports play as a pillar in developing brain strength. In addition, while language is used as a support mechanism in play, it is easily used as a vehicle in fostering cognitive, self-regulation and social competences.
The intrinsic characteristic of play
When the child is playing, he or she is actively engaged in handling various materials. The effect is an intrinsic motivation to engage in personal development, as well as gaining some form of freedom from the external rules surrounding him/her.
Essentially, play allows the child to be attentive at the task at hand and thus display a positive effect even later in life. You will observe more symbolism come to life when a child is playing. For example, the child will use a block and pretend that it is a telephone or a car; or she can use pegs on a pegboard to represent a birthday cake. Such symbolisms eventually build on the social, cognitive, and emotional development in children.
What should be captured in designing the environment for play?
Teachers must come in at this point to create an opportunity for the child to have an unstructured, spontaneous and child-initiated experience during play. Children should be provided with a large enough space for two or more to engage without interruption. Careful attention should be placed on space, so that the dramatic sections as well as block-building sections have enough of it, as these are the two frequently visited areas during playtime.
Materials as well should be carefully selected. One main characteristic of play materials is the need to have them as open-ended toys which empower a child’s creativity by giving them an opportunity to think, plan and complete a process. Materials also need consistency in organization. Even their storage areas come into play, so that the child is taught to place back materials when he/she is done with them.
Where does a teacher come in during play?
The benefits of playtime are maximized when the teacher comes in to facilitate play; otherwise, learning is very limited. The teacher’s support is necessary in developing appropriate practices during play. Her intervention takes many forms including assistance in solving problems, redirecting undesired behavior, enticing play themes in children, and posing questions that probe a child’s thinking. The teacher as well must develop the children’s play skills, especially to those children who may have a problem entering the play scenario.
The curriculum of play is initially built from what the child is already familiar with to what he/she may not be aware of. The child will easily develop holistically when he/she moves from the known to the unknown, otherwise, the child will be plunged into an even more confusing state.