The Importance of Play

As a part of childhood development, play is very important. It enables children to explore their environment and their experiences. In general terms, play simply makes children enjoy their life. Children, who have been mistreated or neglected and have not had the opportunity to play and enjoy childhood face some difficulties sometimes in their lives. Many people associate child play with exceptional games, flashcards or toys. Research in point of fact suggests that by just allowing a child to play within their own environment, you help the child acquire proper development. Just letting giving them a chance to go out and play is effective even without any special games. Adults are advised by experts to guide the children during play but ensure that it is the child who lead the play.

For optimal child development, play is very vital.  United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has recognized play as a fundamental right of every kid. For children living in adverse poverty, their play right has been hampered by problems like child labor, exploitation practices, war and neighborhood violence. These kinds of children have access limited resources reducing their chances of happiness. Nevertheless, even the lucky children who are fortunate enough to have plentiful available resources and those living in comparative peace may not be getting the full payback of play. This is because they are being raised in a progressively more hurried and pressured style denying them their right of play. These children lack the protective benefits they would reap from child motivated play. It is a fundamental right of every child to get a chance to develop to their exceptional potential. For these reason children advocates must ponder all factors that obstruct optimal development and push for conditions that permit each child to fully gather the rewards allied with play (Ginsburg ,2006, p.21).

There is no any set of convictions that could justify the many factors that affect children’s play. These guidelines will focus on how children in England with sufficient resources may be restricted from enjoying the complete developmental benefits associated with play. A family’s ever speedy lifestyle and augmented focus on the principles of academic preparation is viewed as a major barrier to children play in the UK. To enhance the opportunity of play the changes specific to the need of each child’s must be advocated together with social and environmental context.  Experts asserts that play is indispensable to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional welfare of children .Young men and women who are not considered  as kids should get some free time to relax. Even though the general principle defends child play, it should not be seen as being against other important forces that are crucial for the life of a child. Academic enhancement chances are important for children’s capability to advance in school. Proper balance should be adopted to ensure the child to develop academically, socially, and emotionally (Parlakian & Lerner, 2009).

Literature review of play in England

Childhood development experts describe play as the work of childhood. Play is important to a child just as a job is important to an adult. It aids brain development as well as keeping it healthy. For a child, play shapes the future character in that it helps children to learn new skills, how to share with others and express their feelings. It teaches them how to be responsible and how to make decisions. Through play a child can learn about the new world and the new experiences. As important as it is to the child, some of elementary schools have removed recess. Some are considering removing it. Some kindergartners operate in full day programs and therefore have no break for recess. Early learning facilities nowadays are often highly structured that children lack an opportunity for adequate play (HMG, 2009).

Play workers in England define characteristics real play as socially synergistic, freely supervised physical activity. All children should be allowed to have plenty of unscheduled and self-regulating play away from Television and video games. Experts in child development advice that these plays should be child initiated rather than adult directed. They highlight that play is a proved method of producing healthy and physically fit young bodies. Studies indicate that children with lots of time for free play score higher in school. Lack of real physical play causes childhood obesity. In England, many obese children were found to lack enough play and were found to have other problems like higher levels of frustration, aggression and stress. They were also found to have less creativity and imagination ability. Studies also indicate that children who attend pre-schools with limited time for play have problems with social skills, have higher rates arrests and imprisonment in future (Play England, 2010, p.2).

Play England (2010), an England leading state play organization, in response to the children, schools and families states that it would like to see much firmer messages given through children’s centres about the significance of free play and access to outdoor play opportunities for children. The report expresses the desire for Sure Start Children Centres to embark on provision of free play opportunities by offering stimulating play facilities on their sites, explore opportunities to make these obtainable outside of hours and by making links with local parks and play services. It states their desire to help deliver part of the Government’s obligation to finish child poverty by giving families with safe, cohesive and prosperous communities. In these places the children can flourish, with safe places to play, opportunities to develop, and access to high quality services. The staff working within children’s centers should acquire an understanding of play and play work. This should be incorporated as part of the common core of knowledge that each adult needs when interacting with children (Ginsburg, 2006).

According to Play England, evidence shows that giving good quality free play chances for children is essential for physical, emotional and social development. The expression free play is describes a play that is self-directed by the kids rather than organized activities coordinated by their parents. In addition to its contribution to development of creativity of children, it has also been demonstrated to aid children to change to new environments and to encourage children’s readiness to learn. Children are able to extend effective learning behaviors, and develop problem solving skills. Research has indicated that play enhances brain activity. Play improves the child’s resilience, creativity, social skills, and emotional intelligence (Mackett, 2004).

Children in disadvantaged communities often are short of safe spaces to socialize and play. Children health development researchers have suggested that an advance to building services for children that take their larger domain into consideration would act more to tackle the broader, more ecological and structural aspects of social exclusion.  Research in London has indicated that unrestricted access to play areas and child welcoming public space can present compensatory benefits for children from families with economic strains. Sure Start Children’s Centres have been shown to help bring part of the Government’s dedication to curbing child poverty. This is achieved by offering families with safe, consistent and prosperous communities where children can exist, with high quality venues for play. Childhood obesity and anti-social behavior have been associated with lack of play in children (HMG, 2009).

Eastern Nigeria context of play

Play is an instinctive response to a specific environment at an early age. At an early age children start interacting with objects, other adults and nature and they automatically engage in play. Play is vital aspect to learning. As one plays, one learns to develop creativity, imagination and a better sense through the perception of play. For children, whether from poor or rich background, play entails more than fun games as it is their way to gaining social, emotional, physical and cognitive skills. All children regardless of their parenthood or opportunities in life need to play as a necessity for their development. Play in childhood is so important that it has to be incorporated in all areas of a child’s life. This includes both home and school (Ginsburg ,2007).

Even so, this is not always a practical case. Today in Eastern Nigeria, we find schools divided in the significance specified for play. There is an inevitable pressure to present academic learning and this reduces the time assigned for play. In many schools, play and learning are not mutually exclusive. Experts agree that playing as far as children are concerned is more than just fun and games. This is because play is connected to a child’s academic, social, physical and emotional development as well. The benefits of play are many and indispensable. Each day, a child should be encouraged to play. Self initiated play by children involves collaborating with others, to realize and provide solutions for problems. It enables the children to have a sense of pride (MacDonald, 1993).

Play aids the children take part in active play which is the best preventative method of obesity. This is a growing epidemic today that is a major threat to the health of children. A child involved in play learns to think broadly and always have a diversified reasoning while solving problems. Play in both poor and rich schools is associated with good academic performance. However, in some schools, there are some barriers that inhibit children’s exposure to adequate play. These barriers are mainly caused by the school’s administration misunderstanding on the time required for child play and for class work. Some trends in school and family life deprive the children of healthy creative play. Lack of time, space and support from home and schools reduces one’s creativity. In the school for the wealthy, it is observed that children are simply given electronic devices to play with. These devices weaken the importance of play.  The electronic devices are a threat to imagination and creativity of a child (Burdette & Whitaker, 2005).

Children who play with electronic devices become less physically active and develop the problem of obesity. Research done by Leong and Bodrova (2003) explores the significance of play mainly because today children have more academic pressures from their schools.  Because of these pressures, there is a necessity for these children to engage in physical play. There are some plays that are more academic. An example is dramatic play where the children act various roles in life in different relationships. While acting, they are able to learn how to utilize their emotions and actions and in the long run socialize with others. Other plays that are common to all schools are where they use play props with imagination. This stimulates their creativity, imagination, language and symbolic thinking. Language and symbolic thinking helps the students to develop their vocabulary, exercise grammar and proper use of language (Burdette & Whitaker, 2005).

Physical play is normally natural to children of all backgrounds; however, today an increasingly number of children spends a lot of their time watching television.  Other modern games are videos and other electronic gadgets which do not involve physical exercise. These kinds of plays cannot have equal benefits as live play. To encourage play one must give children many real life experiences that can serve as real experience. Such real life experiences include excursions, field trips, pet stores, museums, and animal zoos that children can easily like. The further experiences a child gets the more his imagination will develop and the more he will yearn for more. Children should be encouraged to make their own toys in order to increase their creativity and boost their imagination. Play is essential to the healthy development of children and it cannot be replaced with any gadget or object. Play should be an experience that encourages the natural interaction of children with each other. Experts asserts that play is indispensable and children should be given an hour of play daily (Leong and Bodrova, 2003).

Since play is very important, schools should implement it in their curriculum. Research conducted by Cooney (2004) studied the importance of play in two different Kindergarten programs. The research study evaluated the socioeconomic level of the children, parent and teachers. It also examined the perceptions of parents and teachers and this included classrooms observations to investigate the significance of play in the classroom and barriers that limit the play. Two schools in were studied by use of surveys, both parents and teachers were asked about their views on play (Miller & Almon, 2009).

The teachers also gave their view on significance given to play and benefits of play in the classroom. The surveys concluded that the classrooms consist of a higher socioeconomic class of clients. One of the schools was a middle class of low socioeconomic clientele. The findings from the study showed three themes that impact the magnitude of play.

These factors include pedagogy and environment, benefits of play, and image of childhood.

Pedagogy and environment theme discovered higher social economic school parents and teachers behind pedagogical teaching advance that entail teacher and child directed activities. In this school, they were balancing play and class work to achieve learning. They chose some structure through some desks and tables but also an open learning center. Parents and teachers in this school conceived play as a way of acquiring social skills. They also viewed play as a way developing imagination and as a necessary tool to learn concepts. Results from the low social economic group also showed similar characteristics. Play was viewed as way of instinctively developing creativity and imagination. Significance of play by the higher social economic group were improving vocabulary, understanding concepts and developing imagination. Moreover, learning how to play as a group was seen as important social skills.

Nevertheless, the assessment showed more structure and less creativity options in the environment. Child driven activities were very little and had very little impulsiveness and imagination was observed in these classrooms. The knowledge centers made to create creativity were lacking in materials to create excitement or creativity. The low class groups also conceived play as a way of vocabulary development, emotions expression and learning how to exist with each other. They also observed that it helped them appreciate differences between themselves, develop imagination, interact without discrimination and relax or release nervousness.

Close observations of these groups revealed a more teacher guided learning, inadequate hands on materials. Moreover, only finger play activities were seen as play.

From both high social economic and low social economic groups, parents and teachers came to an agreement that children at a young age have to be given extra time to explore and have time for play. Results from this study revealed that parents and teachers perceive play as a vital means of learning. The study therefore concluded that the adult perceptions were not the barriers to play. Variances were seen in the pedagogy and environment where the environment was not conducive for free play (Rich, 2005).

The teacher child ratios were large and professional growth was missing. In high social economic groups, there were lower teacher-child ratios.  Resources for an active learning center nonetheless they did not have specific professional development for encouraging learning center processes. Low class groups, however, had problems with higher ratios, space, resources, and professional growth. In general, notwithstanding the socioeconomic hurdle, both schools had limited desired play centered curriculum. This was due to lack of definite professional growth. It was apparent from surveys that both teachers and parents understood the advantages of play in the classroom. It was also evident that they both needed to acquire a more child centered atmosphere. The major problem is that they lacked the understanding of making such an environment (Cooney, 2004).

With adequate substantiation of play being vital in the growth of children it is important to evaluate an entirely play based school. The early class work system such as formal instruction and rote learning are coming back into our school systems. The controversy over free play and structured learning is ongoing as a result of this. Nevertheless, play and learning are not mutually exclusive. This means experiences and learning can be achieved in a free play configuration. Nel (2000) conducted a research on the effects of formal academics on young kids. Early education must enlighten children to meet real life situations; this he called it horizontal relevance. This is chosen instead of teaching them skills relevant in the future, which he called vertical relevance.

Nel observed that learning within the horizontal relevance is more in tune with what children can actually be able to do. Research indicates that children have the ability of grasping names, sounds, letters, and recognition of certain sight words without being made to read.

A study conducted to little children shows that by age three, children have the ability to distinguish writing from print. By four years, children can identify environmental print and become fascinated by shapes and sounds. By the time they are five; they can even read some words out of context and are familiar with basic reading conventions. Horizontal relevant literacy can be acquired only through first hand experiences and meaningful contexts. Providing formal reading directives builds vertical relevance and more frequently children reading early are reading to gratify parents rather than their inherent desires to read. Learning to satisfy parents rather than ones own contentment can cause lifelong emotional impairments.  Children are interested and intellectually capable of reading at five years. Before that the many of them are simply not fascinated in the technicalities of reading (Lester & Russell, 2008).

Nel observed that even learning phonetic can give a good learning environment by providing a large category of materials available for children. Availing colorful and appealing equipment at children’s reach; encourage print awareness with magazines and books. Literacy education can be included in preschool curriculum, but with no formal instruction. This is better than providing them with a free play setting. Appropriate atmosphere and excellent adult modeling will give any child start of their own literacy experience. At this juncture learning will be achieved because children are interested in learning (Nel, 2000).

Knowledge by free play gives a child an opportunity to utilize their own imagination and creativity as well as internal longing to discover. Adults helping children play a major part in making such environments in particular teachers in the early system. To comprehend teachers beliefs concerning how they see their own responsibility in the play of children and their judgment to what they do Davis (1997) looked at interviews of directors in eight preschools, ten preschoolers, and the real comments of students. The interviews concentrated on beliefs, responsibility of teachers and open-air curriculum. Results from interviews showed that teachers supposed that their responsibility was to administer children and permit them to freely take on activities of their preference. They also supposed that they give emotional sustenance, encouragement and the proper guidance for children because children are lively and competent of selecting their activity of choice. The teachers observed play outdoors as a chance to socialize, knowing how to play together, and developing communication and concession skills. It was also observed that teachers interacted with children merely when a child needed guidance or backing. Most of times, it was observed that the children played without any interaction or interference by the adult (Davis, 1997).

Play is a natural and important progression of learning in children. Given the proper environment and requirements, children have the ability to direct themselves with slight adult interference. It is apparent that a free play atmosphere is encouraged by teachers in school surroundings as viewed in various researches.  Nevertheless, what a teacher believes and what she actually does sometimes vary. It has been observed that indoors teachers may desire to give a less structured setting although might not have the professional qualification to give it. Outdoors teachers on the other hand are in a better position to give a free play environment. In the early education field, there is need for teachers and parents to get more understanding. Currently, parents adopting the new trends of fast paced jobs and knowledge driven lifestyles are bringing the same pressures on their children. There is availability of electronic gadgets for children as early as six months old. These gadgets promote watching television which, according to child development experts, cannot complement real play (MacDonald, 1993).

Schools today are at pressure to do the right thing by staying true to the meaning of early education and importance of play to young children. At the same time they face more pressure from the parents to adapt to their requirements rather than the desires of children. Most parents appreciate the need of physical education but put more emphasis on the need for academic learning.  Parents feel that learning is recognized by math and language growth only and fail to see emotional, social, behavioral skills as important part of learning. Schools therefore have the task to first bring parents in agreement with the needs of children. The teachers need to convince the parents the significance of play, significant emotional, social and behavioral development in a child’s life in addition to just academic intensification. The more collaboration between parents and teachers and good understanding of the children needs gives the children an opportunity to enjoy the play. It gives them the confidence to express themselves and explore their ambitions in a stable environment (Pellegrini & Smith, 1998).

In spite of the many benefits derived from play for both children and parents, time for free play has been noticeably condensed for some children. This has even affected nursery school children, who have had free play decreased in their program to include for more class work. A review taken by the National Association of Elementary School Principals found that over 95% of investigated school arrangements possessed at least one break period. Another investigation 10 years later found that only 70% of nursery school classrooms had a recess period. At present, many children are prearranged a reduced amount of free time and fewer physical education at school. Many schools were seen to have a trend of reducing time committed to vacation, the imaginative arts, and even physical education in an effort to center on reading and mathematics. This transform may encompass effects on children’s ability to store new information. This is because the cognitive capacity of children is improved by a straightforward and noteworthy change in activity (Fantuzzo & McWayne, 2002).

An alteration in intellectual coaching or class topic does not offer this straightforward alteration in cognitive effort and definitely does not present a bodily release. Even a proper prearranged physical education course group may not present the similar benefit as free-play alcove. Decreased time for bodily movement may be causative to the poor academic abilities in children. Schools that endorse inactive styles of learning become a more complex atmosphere for children to find the way successfully. Some children denied time for free tentative play as they are rushed to get used to adult roles and get ready for their future at tender ages. Parents are getting cautiously marketed messages that superior parents render their children to every chance to excel, buy an excess of enhancement tools, and make sure their children take part in a wide diversity of activities. Children are subjected to enhancement videos and computer programs from tender age as well as particular books and toys premeditated to make sure that they are well-formed and sufficiently enthused for excelled growth (Coolahan, Mendez and McDermott, 2000).

Specialized places for physical education, gyms and enhancement programs designed for children are available in various communities. There is plenty of after school enhancement activities. These activities and programs are greatly advertised and many parents have developed to suppose that they are a prerequisite of an excellent parenting and a stipulation for suitable growth. Consequently, a lot of parent-child time is consumed planning for special activities or transporting children between those places. Besides time, significant family finances are being spent to make sure that the children possess what are advertised (Qadiri & Manhas 2009).

The children and the parents view this as the best opportunities. Clearly, the organized activities possess a growth gain for children, in particular in distinction to entirely unverified time. Some study reveals that for many kids, advantages augment with increased levels of contribution. Additionally, it has been viewed that due to this lifestyle is connected to middle class families. It may have an advantage in maintaining a social class or in making increased mobility. It is not very clear, nevertheless, at what point a child may be overscheduled to their growth disadvantage or emotional suffering (Miller & Almon, 2009).

Child-initiated play known to promote children is reduced and the downtime that enables parents and children some very productive time for interaction is at best when schedules are exceedingly crammed with parent-supervised or parent-initiated activities (Pelligrini, Kato, Blatchford and Baines, 2002).

Parents are left to judge suitable levels of involvement, but many parents tend to feel as though they are running fast to keep up yet dare not slow their pace for fear their children will be left behind. Besides, some are concerned that they will not be acting as properly as parents if they do not take part in this speedy lifestyle. Although very greatly scheduled children are blossoming, some are living with associated pressures with apprehension and increased stress. Studies indicate that extremely scheduled children possess less time for free self initiated, creative play which provides advantages that may be defensive against the impacts of demands and stress. There exist confirmation that childhood and adolescent hopelessness is increasing through the college period. While there are definitely numerous factors involved, there exists a direct connection between the previous anxiety filled forceful preparations for a perfect adulthood (Hardy, Power and Jaedickes, 1993).

There could be as many answers for today’s trends as there are families, but various chief factors that have led to reduced free play in both rich and poor should be put into consideration. There are many households with a single head of family or two parents who are working. There could occur a fewer families with several generations in which grandparents and extended family members can watch the children. Consequently, fewer families have available adult administration at home during the workdays. This makes it obligatory for children to be in child care or other settings in which they can be controlled by adults in the course of the day (Comer, 1991).

Academic enrichment opportunities and activities organized after school give valuable choices to children who will otherwise be left with negligible or no adult direction. The other point is that many parents have learned how to become more and more proficient in balancing work and home schedules. They wish to make the most effectual use of restricted time with their children and believe that making their children to have every chance is the best use of that time (Rosenfield and Wise, 2000).

Some parents get information from a variety of sources telling them that good parents aggressively build each skill and capacity their child might need from the earliest ages. They are get messages in parenting magazines and in the media with a variety of enhancement tools and actions that hype their capacity to create perfect children. They get information about parents who go to extent of personal forfeit, to ensure their children take part in various athletic and artistic chances. They understand about their overburdened programs and distinguish it as the culture and expectation of parents by their children. The admissions process for colleges and institutions of higher learning has become more thorough in recent years. Most parents fear that their children will not make it to college because they are not well prepared academically. These parents therefore end up to advice their children to build their resumes through academic excellence starting at younger age. Most secondary schools in Northern Nigeria are judged by the number of their students who are accepted by the most esteemed centers of higher learning. As a result of this, many young people are advice to concentrate on their academic schedules and not necessarily play (Hallowell, 2002).

Many kids in northern Nigerian schools spend most of their time working as part of their family and taking care of their siblings. A study conducted in two province of Northern Nigeria indicates that most kids combined simple household chores with play. Play was also found to differ from place to place with poor background children having more ample for play than rich kids. Schools with poor kids were found to have lots of homemade toys from wood, straw, animal skins, stones and bone. Some specific games were found to be very common in poor schools. These included rolling hoops, tires and rims, drumming, athletics, wrestling, play dancing and acting, masks and flying kites (Golovnin, 2009).

Some specific games common in schools with rich background kids included soccer, basketball, kickball, volleyball, playing with trucks, checkers, scrabble and play with electronic devices. Girls in all cases primarily were involved in bicycling, kickball, jump rope, hopscotch and playing with dolls. The dolls in poor kid’s schools were often hand made from wood, cloth, straw and locally found objects. The study also found that boys and girls liked participating in hide-and-seek, marbles games, dancing, singing and music.  The instruments differed with region, but it was found that various locally made designs of drums, stringed instruments including guitars and harps were common (Golovnin, 2009).

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