In this essay, I will be discussing what the term 'play' is and will explain why play is important within early childhood practice. I will be drawing on observations from my setting, which were done over a six month period. Furthermore, I will go on to discuss the role of practitioner, along with how they support the play of young children, taking into account issues of gender, class, race, family form and inclusive practice.
The term 'play' is defined in many ways. It is a very broad and complex subject as there are different ideas behind the word 'play' from many theoretical perspectives. Moyles (1989) argues defining play is complex as there are many aspects within play which make it harder for play to be defined as a whole. Play is seen to be part of a child’s life. However, I define play as when a child is engaged, independently, with peers or adults around. It is an open ended process which requires cognitive skills as well as movements of the body. Through play, children learn and develop as they are learning at their own pace and enjoy whilst doing so. Play has many benefits because firstly through play children are able to make sense of the world and secondly, play enables children to choose freely and take control of their learning. Furthermore, Bruce (1996:8) argues play is a “part of a network of learning and development”. She states the “network of learning” diagram defines play through representation, games, and first-hand experience. This suggests that play is a learning process through different categories. This is evident from my placement as children who play games engage in making relationships. Children learn to take turns when they are playing a game and they wait for their turn. This shows that by playing games, skills such as learning to share and communicate are developed through the encouragement of practitioners.
As Siraj-Blatchford et al (2007) state, the research from EPPE and REPEY showed that play should have a balance of adult led and child led activities. Practitioners use body language to show their interest to the children, as well as eye contact which will make the children’s play more effective when they are in control of their own play. Bruce (2004:134) draws on the work from Groos on play having physical and social effect of the child’s development as they rehearse adult events through play. In my nursery, this can be seen in the role-play and construction area.
Else (2009) draws on the work of Piaget, who saw play in three stages that are aged based. Babies and toddlers engage in sensory motor play, whilst during the early childhood children engaged in imaginative play and by reception, there are rules to games. Similarly Sayeed and Guerin (2000) state the nursery and early years settings provide opportunities for children to play. Taking into account issues of equality and inclusive practice, wide range of resources are available for children’s individual needs. This is recognised in society therefore it is argued children are engaged in play from birth.
I will now go on to outline how play is an important part of early childhood practice. Play is promoted as a vehicle for learning under the statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (DfE, 2014). It is a curriculum that is followed by practitioners in England. The early learning goals of the EYFS promote play through “communication and language, physical development, personal, social and emotional development”. When children play, they develop their personal, social and emotional skills. The EYFS outlines the main areas that cover these developments as “self-confidence and self-awareness, managing feelings and behaviour as well as making relationships “. For example, self-confident