Play From A Theoretical Point of View

1. Play and Education -- Hymes

Play is a solid means of helping children learn. It is a way for teachers to assess what a child understands and what interests the child. Play exposes his problem-solving skills so that a teacher can know how a child thinks, plans, and organizes. It is a means of exposing the child's private world, for a world of play and pretend can always allow the child to be powerful, able, and successful. The rules are all in the child's mind. Play provides a free, easy, try-it-yourself experience for every youngster.

2. Play and Imitation -- Piaget

A. as a vehicle for overcoming egocentrism;
The egocentrism of the preschool child is characterized by an inability to see or take another person's point of view. Through repeated social interaction, another individual's needs, interests, and goals can come into focus for a child. Often in play at the preschool level, two very different egocentric points of view meet and conflict. Through the conflicts the child comes closer and closer to understanding that others have ideas also.

B. as a means of accommodating and assimilating reality;
Play and imitation are an important part of Piaget's theory, and both would fall under the general definition of play used in this module. Piaget believed that play is almost pure assimilation without any attempt to adapt to outer reality. The child who plays "airplane" with a rectangular block is usually unconcerned about the necessity of certain structural design to overcome gravity or to make use of air pressure. The child is merely assimilating the wooden block into an existing schemata of airplanes.
The opposite of this almost pure assimilation is imitation, or the child's serious attempt to accommodate to outer reality. A house burned in the neighborhood of one preschool class. Two days after the incident the children were playing in the blocks. Their "house" caught fire. The children took the roles of the firemen and the people caught in the burning building. As they played this situation through, they were making a serious attempt to accommodate the reality which they had seen and heard about.
Assimilation and accommodation are both included in the interaction which unites the individual child to the environment and the child's reality. The give and take in play and imitation is one way that the child learns about the child's world.

C. and learning about symbols;
In both play and deferred imitation, the child is learning about symbols, or he is learning that one thing can stand for something else. A child puts on a hat and becomes a cowboy or a railroad man. The hat is the symbol for the role. Play itself is a symbolic representation of the child's own inner world.

D. and the preoperational stage.
During the preoperational stage, the child learns through first-hand experiences by touching, tasting, smelling, and later through actual hands on experiences with materials, equipment, and ideas. Play provides the child first-hand experiences to try on and try out.

3. Play -- Erikson

A. and the Ego;
Erikson believed that the world of play is very important in the early stage of a child's development. It offers the child a safe place to work through conflicts of the child's life. A child can often be seen pushing a doll in the preschool in the same way that the child was pushed earlier. Role playing various family members, the doctor, police officer, or school teacher are most common at this age.

B. and autonomy;
Play is a safe world where the consequences are not too strong or the limits too rigid. The child can be the authority -- the one who can stop rather than the one who is being stopped. Some of the favorite things of child in preschool are role playing wild animals, monsters, parents, and teachers. All of these play situation put the child in charge.

C. and initiative
An environment which provides materials, equipment, space, time, and understanding adults allows the child to organize the child's ideas, feelings, and fantasies into a plan for play. The initiating child can be an intrusive child using shouting, shock words, scuffling, and wild running to express intent. Play affords the exploration and manipulation of ideas and relationships without too much doubt, shame, guilt even though the child is yet unskilled.

4. Play -- Vygotsky

Vygotsky believed that play is a means of deferring immediate gratification - instead of tantrums or swallowing the need, the child fulfills needs in fantasy play. He also believed that children learn to live within self imposed rules during their fantasy play; play allows the child to practice self regulation. Play, for Vygotsky, was vehicle for a child behaving more maturely than at other times. “In play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” In fantasy play children can work at the top of their Zone of Proximal Development.

5. Play and Reason -- Piaget, Erikson & Vygotsky

Piaget Erikson and Vygotsky all agree that the child uses play for self teaching. The child plays through situations very much like an adult thinks through a situation. Also, fantasy play is a manifestation of symbolic representation - the child represents objects and ideas through play situations.