The Importance of Play

Play is a fundamental element in every child’s life and is universal throughout the world. At all ages play is undertaken for sheer pleasure and enjoyment and stimulates a cheerful attitude to life and learning. Play is seen as innate as even new born babies have an understanding of play, and it is seen that even the littlest motion like playing with fingers can be linked with development. Play not only helps a child to obtain physical and mental well being, it has also been known to overcome fears, to help play a positive role in social groups, and to enhance academic learning. According to Canning (2007) play experiences support children to be active participants in developing and strengthening their character but also by finding their voice within in society.

During early years of infancy play is essential in developing skills children need to progress into adulthood. Children go through several stages of development from 0 to 12 years and onwards, and each stage involves play activities that will eventually lead a child to develop logical thinking, an abstract mind, object permanence and conservation. Play activities can encourage physical, social and intellectual skills as well as allowing children to portray any underlying emotions. Researchers have found that different types of play can stimulate different area of the body and cognitions. Physical and

active play allows children to develop on gross motor muscles, whereas constructive and symbolic play encourages cognitive development and concept formation.

Other researchers agree with the necessity of play in a child’s life. Tina Bruce (1991) emphasizes that play is a ‘Preparation for life’. When discussing the importance of play it is imperative to note that there are many different ways that children engage in play. Free flow play or child initiated play is when a child uses their own exploratory skills and imagination to role play a certain situation. Free flow play gives the child an opportunity to express their own feelings and ideas whilst applying understanding and techniques they have already developed. In comparison to this another type of play is adult led or adult initiated play, this is when an adult will guide and encourage the children to engage in a particular activity. Tina Bruce explains that most play activities within early year’s educational settings are actually dominated by adults, however many settings in the UK are now required to show that they provide a mixture of adult-led, adult-initiated and child-initiated play. This is because they are following an EYFS framework. Here at Monroe’s Nursery all of our teachers plan a balance of activities, some which will be led by an adult and some in which the children are left to explore objects and materials independently. We believe that this balance is essential to ensure that each child is developing all the seven specified areas of learning that are proposed by the EYFS. However we firmly believe that play should be seen as a creative process and not a

structured routine. Beardsley and Harnett (1998) have the same opinion, they believe that ‘play can provide opportunities for a child to play at their own level of complexity’ by being in control of their own play activities but also by being challenged by themselves or by adults. To conclude each child plays and learns in different ways due to individual differences. It is prevalent that play is a key ‘process which will subsume a range of

behaviours, motivations, opportunities, practices, skills and understandings’ (Moyles, 1994). It could be said that play hasn’t got one single definition or purpose, and is dependent on what the child is trying to achieve or expand on. It has been made clear that free flow play seems to deeply affect a child’s development, however all types of play increase development, and some children may need more structured play to challenge themselves and their intellectual skills. This concept is taken into account at Monroe’s Nursery, all of our teachers will observe and assess each child and plan activities that suit each and every child’s independent preferences. One of our main principals at Monroe’s is to ensure that each and every child will travel on a fulfilling and enriching journey whilst they are with us, therefore we ensure that all of our staff fully understand the sheer importance of play, the many different types of play and how it effects all children in their early years.