1 Defining Play
2 History of Play
3 Types of Play
5 Embracing Inclusion and Diversity through Play
5 When is an Activity a Play Activity?
Play is essential to healthy development. During engagement in social play interactions with their friends and families, children’s language, social skills, and problem solving abilities are developed.
Children’s play has been documented throughout history by writers in literature and by artists in pictures. Play is evident across cultures and in games still played by children.
Hughes (2003) offers three criteria that may help to define play:
• freedom of choice
• personal enjoyment
• focus is on the activity itself rather than its outcomes.
These three criteria are foundational to the play process and in connecting children’s development with their learning. Building on these foundations of play are the characteristics of play.
Characteristics of play:
• individual or group Play is the most natural of childhood activities and one of the most frequently observed. (Hughes, 2003, p. 21)
History of Play
More than 150 years ago, Froebel’s kindergartens incorporated play materials to support his view that play is a natural activity reflecting the cultural context of the child’s life (Wolfe, 2002). Later, the MacMillan sisters in England introduced open-ended play as an essential part of preschool programs. The arrival of kindergarten programs in North America stimulated questions about the nature of play and the contributions of play to children’s learning. Contemporary theories view play as a process that supports young children in making sense of their environment and in expanding their understanding of their world within a cultural frame.
Functions of Play
Research has demonstrated that play enables children to:
• make sense of their world