Childcare and Education

The battle lines have been drawn in the sandboxes.   As a new curriculum for under-5s is to be ready by September, early years experts are getting passionate over the definition of play
      (Helen Ward, Times Educational Supplement, 15th Feb 2008.)

The current debate over the role, definition and importance of play in the early years is part of a long running debate about the value of play.   This assignment will consider definitions and types of play, some of the theorists who have described why play is important and evaluate the role of the adult in supporting and offering opportunities for play.   Specifically, it will look at a role play based around pirates and reflect on how this role play area was developed, extended and supported.   It will also consider if the children using the role play area were able to access learning opportunities and extend their own learning through play.

Debate concerning the importance and definition of play began in the eighteenth century, when the forum for the discussion of the nature and purpose of play was opened by Schiller (Taylor and Woods, 1998, p164).   Schiller proposed the “surplus energy theory of play” which suggested that play existed to use up “superfluous energy …in the aimless activity of play” (in Taylor and Woods, 1998, p164).   Since then further theories have addressed the effect that play has on emotional, social and intellectual development.   Anne Greig (1998) has written that play is a way of learning to understand emotional issues arising in everyday life:

      Play is presented as being important in the emotional life of individuals – it helps to overcome problems of reality and satisfies basic emotional needs
      (in Taylor and Woods, p164, 1998)

The importance of play in developing intellectual or cognitive abilities was addressed by Piaget (1968), who considered it to be the way in which a child practised using objects or new skills before including them into his understanding of...