Learning and Play Essay

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Pages: 10

Final Research Project: Learning Through Guided Play
Heather R. Johnston
Excelsior College
Learning is a process that begins at birth and will continue for the span of our life time. This paper is a proposal to study how that learning process can be persuaded and influenced by guided play.
Final Research Paper: Learning through guided play.

Do toddlers/ children learn through play? Wood & Attifield offer this insight to learning and play.
Vygotsky argued that no single framework of explanatory principles could provide an adequate explanation of the complex developmental changes that occur throughout childhood. Vygotsky defined development as evolutionary and revolutionary shifts with qualitative and quantitative changes in thinking, knowledge and skills. He argued that learning leads development – unlike Piaget, who argued that development leads learning.
This topic has recently become of interest as more discoveries of infants cognitive abilities are realized. Studies have shown (Smith, 2005) that for children, playing with objects, pretend play, and socio-dramatic play, there may be benefits of playing that also strengthen the child’s ability to follow and understand instruction. Simple instruction is more focused on that particular goal, but the process of play is much more enjoyable for young children even though it is less efficient for meeting a goal.
Play is defined by Smith as an activity that is done for its own sake and can be characterized “by means rather than ends (i.e. the process of play) is more important than any end point or goal” (Smith, 2005). Other characteristics of play include flexibility, positive affect on mood and morale, and pretense (Smith, 2005).
Play can help foster a child to be more inquisitive and entice a creative approach to problem-solving and learning (Smith, 2005). There are several different kinds of play, which includes pretend play, free play, dramatic play, and guided play all which help foster learning of language, social relationships, and cognitive skills. As preschoolers are offered educational toys, their ability to learn about certain geometric shapes and other basic concepts are strengthened in guided and unguided play. “Findings suggest that scaffolding techniques that heighten engagement, direct exploration, and facilitate "sense-making," such as guided play, undergird shape learning” (Fisher, Hirsh-Pasek, Newcombe, Golinkoff, 2013).
Sutherland & Friedman state that pretend play offers the important benefit of teaching children by acquiring generic knowledge about everyday life. “Our findings suggest that pretend play is not just fun and games for children. Rather, children benefit from pretend play in a straightforward way; they sometimes use it as a source of information about reality” (Sutherland & Friedman, 2013). Piaget argued in his studies that every time a child is prematurely taught a new skill that he or she could have independently learned on their own, that process is preventing the child from inventing and consequently prevents their complete understanding of it (Wood, & Attifield, 2005). His theory suggests that children should be allowed to have free play and discover on their own, as to not inhibit learning.
In guided play the adult is a facilitator, stimulating, challenging and enriching the children’s experiences and providing the environment and resources to play. Children need to take ownership of the tasks for it to become play (Moyles, 2012). According to Moyles adult-guided play enables the adult to assess children’s learning that may be described as ‘playful’ rather than play. “Many people believe that adult-initiated or adult-guided play should occupy only a small amount of children’s time, if any, whereas others believe that children will not progress without some adult direction” (Moyles, p.15, 2015).
Guided play in the home is encouraged and family members can serve as active, effective members of learning. Play has in