It has been said that a child’s work is his play and an important part of childhood. So what turns children’s activities into play rather than work? Well play is fun and educational and children don’t usually have problems playing. Working is hard and boring so there is a difference between them. So why my first sentence? Children when they play do so with all their heart and enthusiasm with great energy and commitment. That is they play hard.
But not all children play in some cultures and different countries for example play might not be encouraged. Other reasons may be because the child is sick or has been abused and therefore may have been held back in this manner as play takes great energy and commitment they may not have. The Charter of Children’s Rights 1989 states that every child in the world has a right to play (from the book Childcare & Education by Tina Bruce and Carolyn Meggitt). Sick children may be able to play in some degrees due to the fact many hospitals have a separate playroom and specialists who may be able to help.
Historically not all children could play either for example children from poor families in the 18 – 19th centuries would be expected to work long hours to help support the family and therefore by the time the children got home at night they would be to tired to play. But there has been some evidence from history that tells us some children had time to play. For example from the book “A history of everyday things in England” by Marjorie and CHB Quennell the chapter on 12th century “The games of children have been in all ages miniature copies of those of their elders. Dolls have held their place from time immemorial in the affections of little girls and boys found the same joy then as they do now in soldiers, spinning-tops, toy horses, whips and wooden models of many and various kinds.”
There have been many toys that are similar to what our children have now found back in history. Dolls go right back throughout times and are among the oldest form of toys. They have been found in a child’s tomb from 300 BCE in Egypt and other figurines from around 2000 BCE have been found. Dolls went into mass production in the 1800’s. Horse toys have also been popular since ancient times. Ancient Roman children played with a horse on a stick. References to rocking horses have also been found from medieval times.
So does play change as we get older? Well as our development and growth continues so does our need for more challenging activities and different games for us to play. Babies would play with things like rattles, baby gyms where they can start to swat things and musical toys to stimulate them. Toddlers need toys like bricks, moving toys and toys that can help develop fine and gross motor skills.
Pre-school children can pedal a bike, use a variety of building toys and they start to play with other children more. School age children use slides, swings and other playground equipment, they can start to do ball games and their sense of balance is developed well enough for them to play more complicated games. Teenagers use computers more and may take up sports as their play. Adults may enjoy playing sports, computers, running and dancing as their version of play. Old age people may enjoy playing cards or go dancing and may play bowls.
Different theorists have a different view on the subject of play: –
Susan Isaacs (1933) says, “play is a child’s life and the means by which he comes to understand the world he lives in” to her play is seen as a learning activity.
Anna Freud (1920’s) sees play as therapy
Bruner (1983) says that even at a tender age children are learning that play has social rules.
They one theorist that I’m not to sure about was Piaget (1951) because he doesn’t think that children really learn when they play.
Another “theorist” was Richard Lowell Edgeworth (1744-1817) and he said that children should be able to chose their own toys and learn from his own experiences. Neither should his type of play be guided and that they need freedom. A similar view came from Isaac Watts when he stressed the importance of the child’s powers of improvement through play.
Benefits of play are that the child is learning, it develops imagination and creativity and it gives them practice in social skills, which helps them grow and develop as a whole person. It also helps to build self-esteem and helps them understand more about their world.