Children’s Relationships and Play Development

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Introduction Early childhood play is integral to the development of children’s cognitive, emotional and social skills. It is so important to optimal child development that it has been ‘recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.’ (Ginsburg, 2007, p. 182) . From a constructivist perspective, play is an important part of the process of constructing knowledge, as Glover (1999, p. 7) states, ‘play provides a mechanism allowing children to move from what they already know and can master to more advanced knowledge.’ In recent years, the push for a more academic focus in early childhood settings has undermined the emotional and social development value of play in promoting the educational development of children (Ashiabi, 2007, p. 199). Furthermore, there is an extensive amount of literature and studies on child behaviour during play, with many different types of play discussed. This essay will discuss the main types of play and the theories behind them, differentiate between cognitive and imaginary play, and discuss issues that teachers need to be aware of that relate to excessive forms of non-social play in students. Types of Play In the early 1900s a study of social development was conducted by Mildred Parten(1932). The conclusions of this study revealed that there are four main types of play that children frequently engage in. The first type of play is known as ‘non-social activity or solitary play’. Berk (2009, p. 605) describes this form of play as ‘unoccupied, onlooker behaviour.’ A lot of psychologists in the literature feel that there is concern for those children who engage in this type of play. However, it is noted that ‘solitary play is a normal and probably functionally beneficial activity rather than an indicant of poor social adjustment.’ (Moore, Everston, & Brophy, 1974, p. 834) Some types of beneficial
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