The Value of Play in Early Childhood
The Value of Play in Early Childhood
The values to be derived from play are as varied as the values to be derived from life. The physical, intellectual, social and religious natures all are indebted to play.
Time given to play is not wasted, for its values can not be overestimated. The child who does not play is the one whose time is wasted.
The physical benefits of play alone justify the place which should be given to this spontaneous activity during childhood. It is one of the greatest contributing factors in the development of perfect health. When everything else has been done to promote health, activity is necessary to stimulate and guide growth and development.
Play brings greater activity than work because it is easier, more pleasurable and less fatiguing. These characteristics are due to the fact that play reactions involve chiefly the oldest and oftenest used centers and demand little or no sustained attention. The progressive nature of play in meeting the demands of nature in stimulation and development of growth, gives it particular physical value. One of the main reasons for the contribution which play makes to general health is the fact that it is pleasureful.
Everyone knows the buoyant and stimulating influence which pleasurable activities have upon the nervous system and the response which health makes to happiness.
General physical reserve to meet emergencies requiring strength,speed, skill or endurance is an asset which is built up through play, because of the variable nature of play providing constant and suitable exercise of all important physical and mental activities.
The recreational or “rest after fatigue” values of play have been mentioned in connection with the theory of Guts Muth. This value alone gives play its rightful place in the life of old and young. To teach our youth to find relaxation and diversion in wholesome physical play will save them from possible indulgences in drugs, narcotics, alcohol or worse forms of vice.
The Intellectual Values of Play
It has been observed that there is a relation between the intelligence of animals and the length of their infancy. The lower animal forms are born in fall possession of their powers without practice or training While man, the highest expression of animal intelligence, is given the longest period of infancy.
The first tendency of the infant is to activity. Upon activity depends the growth of the body and the “mind goes hand in hand with the body.”
(This fact is based upon a publication of the United States Bureau of Education in 1914 which reported that children retarded in physical development were retarded mentally, while strong healthy children were forward in school work. )
The infant’s first playful manipulative activities, which are reflexive in nature, give rise to consciousness when he finds his movements pleasurable. With repetition of random movements he finally develops the power to direct his activities.
Later he finds that from a chosen act he receives the same sensations as when previously performed, and memory is reached.
Association connections are made between sense perceptions aroused through play. With memory and experiences come images and imaginative play which is creative mental activity.
Through play physical acts become automatic and involuntary so that the mind is released for higher more complex activity. At first the child’s attention must be given entirely to such bodily control as walking, but with practice he relieves his nervous system of such sustained attention and frees his mind for other activity.
Play affords mental relaxation. Through long continued effort brain tissues become fatigued the same as do muscular tissues. Play involves activities of the reflex and sensor-motor level which are a “change” from the strain of the processes of the higher brain level.
The school boy, exhausted from study, goes to the playground and returns breathless from physical exertion, but refreshed to the mental tasks before him. The adult who knows how to play and does is the one who withstands the strain of worry and mental effort.
Play gives first-hand information of environment. The child becomes acquainted with the physical world about him through his manipulative play. By imitation he gets an insight into the responsibilities of life. Social play furnishes the opportunity to gain an insight into and understand human nature.
The contribution which play makes to the development of judgment and decision can not be overestimated. Training in competitive games includes training in quickness of thought, interpretation and action.
To the higher mental process of abstract thought play gives a wealth of experience both actual and imagined upon which these complex mental activities can be based. Play can be utilized in teaching such abstract subject. As arithmetic and with vastly better results because of the spontaneity which playful activity arouses.
The Social Values of Play
Through play, if freedom within limits is the policy, the small child learns the little lessons in living by experiencing and interpreting rather than by the say-so of some one in authority; and by so learning
them these lessons become actual controlling elements in his life.
The little tot if protected against serious injury when venturing up the luring stairs, will learn what it means to fall and to practice the precautions necessary to avoid falling wherever heights are concerned, without the element of fear which might enter if the lesson were learned through disastrous experience.
Children should be allowed this freedom with reference to their experiences with one another. The little ones playing in the sandbox learn fundamental lessons in mutual rights. They learn to control themselves in these relationships because they are not controlled externally.
There are times to be sure when restraint of the bully is necessary, but control should at all other times be that of mutual consent rather than force or fear.Obedience in the home is necessary, but obedience based upon fear has no moral value.
Self-control which can be realized only through freedom, must be the basis of obedience.Character is based upon instincts and emotions which find expression in muscular activity. Play which provides such expression is, therefore, a strong factor in the development of character. In play is found
harmless expression for the instinctive tendencies and accompanying emotions which are no longer necessary to or in harmony with the existing social order.
Children and adults alike can purge themselves of these lower impulses through playful activity and so relieve their nervous systems of restraint of forces which might otherwise break out in destruction. With the passing of the period of nascency these instincts tend to sink into obscurity if they have been afforded wholesome and constructive expression, leaving behind them attitudes and habits of conduct which make up an individual character.
Thus instincts and their accompanying emotions can be controlled, directed and substituted. In this fact lies the possibility of character training. McDougall has given four levels in the development of character in which the child without sense of right or wrong, by virtue of restraint of playmates, parents, rules of the game, and so on, reaches the level where his actions are determined by his own spiritual approval.
His spiritual approval is based upon those habits, attitudes and ideals which have become a part of him not only through instruction but by doing. Play is not only expression but impression. “There is scarcely a virtue that is not born and reared to sturdy strength through suitable and timely play.”
The foundations of moral character are in the development of regularity of the physical processes of life during the early years. If the performance of these activities at specified times are made a part of the child’s play they grow into routine, associated with pleasant memories, rather than as disagreeable tasks imposed from above.
The persons whose privilege it is to play with the child during the first three years of his life, before he desires the companionship of children his own age, have every opportunity to shape his later life, by calling forth in him responses which develop into attitudes and habits,
simply by presenting for his imitation copies which adhere to the highest standards of life. Thus the child at the age of three can be courteous, calm, patient and cooperative or disrespectful, irritable, faultfinding and selfish in his relationships with his companions, depending upon the attitudes of his earliest playmates. When the child begins playing with those his own age, much of that which is undesirable will be imitated for periods of time, but fortunately they are dropped and the old habits persist.
Rightly directed play keeps the child engaged in wholesome activity. Idleness and undirected play often give opportunity to the most aggressive child to dictate and make puppets of the other children. Pre-
school children should always play with children their own age unless their activities with older children can be closely supervised, for the small child is naturally submissive to those larger and older than him-self, and the older child is not usually concerned with the values which the smaller child is to receive, but with his own selfish interests.
The Value of Play in Early Childhood Article Source ; The Psychology of preschool child Submitted by Iris Coldwell Frampton