This literature review is to discuss the essential ingredients needed in children’s play which involves people, space, time, and resources/materials. All these stakeholders’ or ingredients plays a crucial role in molding children’s social, cognitive and language learning competence throughout their development into adults (Fromberg, 2002)
Several people are involved in shaping children’s learning through their play. The main parties involved are teachers, parents, curriculum developers and their playmates. Children spend most of their time in school; hence teachers are the most influential people in their learning. They contribute to children’s learning through inclusion of play into the school curriculum by conducting activities such as physical exercise (P.E), games and directing play activities among children (Isenberg, & Wuisenberry, n.d).
However, Wardle (n.d) lamented that most of the school administrators as well as parents, view play as time wastage. The stereotypical belief that children’s play is meaningless throughout the world is strongly disregarded by child development specialists and early childhood educators. In fact, most of the educators confuse some learning activities with play, a perception that Wardle disagreed with. Generally, the educators and curriculum programmers are not playing their role in promoting children learning through playing opportunities (Oliver & Klugman, 2003).
As observed by Fromberg (2002), other children participating in play, i.e. their friends and colleagues also act as an ingredient in learning, particularly in the social dimension. Through their playmates’ children learn how to appreciate other people’s ideas and reconstruct their thinking to incorporate other’s thoughts. This can be seen when they implement what their colleagues do. Wardle (n.d) supports the issue of free play halfway. According to him, children should be monitored by a grown-up and should not be allowed absolute freedom in order to avoid violence among them.
Though it is relevant for children to develop self-initiative in learning, teachers and other mediators such as parents should provide the best resources, materials and opportunities for play to be more effective in terms of educating. The activities provided should be interesting and challenging and should also increase in complexity as the child develops his understanding and skills.His assertions were seconded by Isenberg, & Wuisenberry (n.d).by stating that no adult instruction can substitute children’s free play.
The play environment is a key ingredient in shaping children learning through play. For instance, a child will develop a self-centered kind of learning development, socially and cognitively, if much of his/her play centers on computer games and TV watching, which dominates most homes currently (Wardle, n.d). Wardle disapproves of such play environments as they undermine good learning and development in children. The school environment is also criticized by Wardle for not providing enough play programs for children.
The play environment as noted by Isenberg & Wuisenberry (n.d) should be enticing and inviting for children to play in. For instance, more space should be provided for outdoor play and the environment should be properly planned for and well equipped to encourage group play and promote incidental learning experiences. A stimulating and well-planned play environment, acts as an ingredient for shaping children’s feeling of power during the play and in life generally. This is because, children get ample room to interact with each other and with their environment as they perform various activities including playing adult roles. The sense of personal power in children develops out of the various contexts in which they experience their plays. Dynamic cultural and political play contexts develop a very powerful feeling among children (Fromberg, 2002).
The time scheduled for children to play greatly impacts their learning progress. Wardle (n.d) disagrees with majority of play opponents, who argue that play always calls for the teacher’s direct instruction and that it diverts or takes away a lot of valuable time from other academic activities. He disapproved of this idea and asserted that play is in fact the most powerful and efficient learning experience for children. Isenberg & Wuisenberry (n.d) noted that play should be continual, and not restricted at particular children’s ages, if learning is to be efficient. Appropriate play activities and materials should be provided at different times.
Isenberg & Wuisenberry (n.d) argues that enough and appropriate materials for children play at different ages is a crucial ingredient for learning through play. Children need opportunities, materials and equipment for play, which vary with age.
Young Preschoolers borrow and lend playthings, chat about familiar activities and play with their Colleagues, with no explicit goals or rules. On the other hand, older preschoolers love building and creating objects, take roles and use models that substitute for real objects. They perform activities and modify details to match their desires. Often, their activities are goal and rule-oriented but with little or no interest in winning. Through play, preschoolers gain and improve motor skills, acquire fundamental academic skills such as counting, reading and writing as well as develop mastery of content.
At the primary level, children are involved in casual and formal games with their peers such as puzzles computer games and skipping. Such games boost their coordination and physical progress, improve their social skills and build characters such as competition and teamwork (Isenberg & Wuisenberry, n.d).
Primary school children need a lot of recreational opportunities such as breaks, and group games. To facilitate this, educators should incorporate materials that have a stronger link for the development of psycho-motor skills.
Isenberg & Wuisenberry (n.d) agrees that children’s books and magazines should be emphasized much in indoor play activities. The play equipment such as toys should be different for different age groups. Playgrounds, homemade and commercial equipment are necessary ingredients for children learning.
In view of the discussion on the conceptual framework about the essential ingredients needed, it showed that it is a contemporary issue discussed by many early childhood educators. People involved in the children’s play activities are generally the core ingredients, as they dictate children’s playing spaces (environment), the resources and materials available for play to take place and time requirements for children’s play. They should therefore avoid stereotypes that dismiss play as an insignificant activity. All in all, play is a vital learning process and for it to be effective, all the above ingredients should interplay.
- Fromberg, D.P. (2002). Play and meaning in Early Childhood Education. Boston: Allyn and Bacal.
- Isenberg, J.P & Wuisenberry, N (n.d). Play: Essential for All Children. A Position Paper of Childhood Education International.
- Oliver,S. & Klugman, E. (2003). When play presents problems. Resources for managing Common play challenges. Child care information exchange. pp. 35-45.
- Wardle, F. (n.d). Play as Curriculum.