Children and Development: the Importance of Play Essay

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When we take care of children, we are also helping the human species find the truth and understand the world. (Gopnik et al. 1999: 211) This chapter begins by looking at what elements need to be in place to ensure that children develop to their full potential and have opportunities to explore and extend all their capacities and capabilities. It will further explore the generalized impact on children’s development of social breakdown because of war and conflict – looking in detail at the developmental processes of early childhood, and noting what happens when that progress is interrupted. The major theories of play will be outlined, with the emphasis here on play not only as a necessary feature of childhood and essential component of development, but also as a means to regain ‘lost childhoods’. The context for development The starting point is an examination and exploration of the ideal conditions for development. This rests on the simple question: What do children need in order to develop? What springs to mind if you pause for a moment to reflect on this? Clearly there are some basic components: love, security, food, shelter, a family and community, opportunities for play, self-expression and interaction, healthcare and other welfare support, and education in its broadest sense. These are just some of the elements that can contribute towards a positive early childhood. Research into child development does indeed reveal that the achievement of full potential rests on the basic human requirements of food, shelter, protection, care and affection being met by children’s caregivers. At the same time, opportunities to explore the physical environment, interaction with others and induction into the rituals and norms of their communities, through the structure of language, relationships, song, art and story, are also essential for all children.

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