From the perception of adults, the practice of play is usually very underestimated and seen only as a waste of time. In fact, many are the parents that punish their children by not letting them play. Many teachers also make the same mistake by not giving enough time for children to play as they only focus on the academic and syllabus aspect. Due to many restrictions and limited time, children of today’s generation find it very difficult to find adequate time and space for their play to occur. When asked about play, one child responded: “it’s what I do when everyone else has stopped telling me what to do”.However, play shouldn’t be restricted but widely enriched due to the fact that it is through play that children learn.Play, apart from being a way children learn and perceive the world in a better way, is also a natural biological function also known to be an intrinsically motivated activity.This means that when playing, children choose what to do, how to do it and who to do it with.Erikson emphasizes the importance of play as a vehicle for children to find their identity. On the other hand, Piaget views play as a function of mental development.Piaget also believes that the development of play has three main stages: Practice play, Symbolic play, and Games with rules.Moreover, from what I saw during observations, I learned that children in kindergarten are able to make use of all the three stages of play that Piaget mentions.Practice play is the most visible one since children in kindergarten are very much used to a routine. Teachers in kindergarten also have to keep with a routine, in fact in the school I’m observing, the teacher has to follow a schedule.Example at 8.30 a.m, as soon as children get into the classroom, they are used to play with the same toys on the table for 30 minutes.These toys are generally blocks, animals or puzzles.Afterwards, at 9 a.m, they have to do circle time which is also very repetitive as they have to say the prayer and sing the same songs.Research such as Freud’s attachment theory shows that a predictable routine allows children to feel safe and secure, it allows them to build attachments and to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives. As this sense of mastery is strengthened, they can later tackle larger changes and start doing things more by themselves.It’s true that routine is essential however a teacher must be brave enough and take the risk to break that routine sometimes so children don’t get bored and at the same time learn new things.Symbolic play is also visible especially when children are allowed to free-play and make use of role-playing.In the classroom they have a small house build out of carton which the teacher made and also a small kitchenette where the teacher allows them to play with after each activity made or during an activity rotation where half the children are doing an activity and the other half are allowed free-play time and then they rotate. Children don’t see the world the same way as adults do, thus for a better understanding of life experiences, children need to make the use of play, especially the use of free-play and role-play.Especially because in role play children are able to imitate and copy the behavior of other such as a parent or caregiver and present it through play to express themselves.Bandura’s Social Learning Theory states that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling. This is illustrated during the famous Bobo doll experiment (Bandura, 1961). Games with rules are mostly visible during break time in the playground where the children after lunch are allowed 20 minutes break in the playground.Here children invent their play and make rules by themselves.The teacher let them do whatever they want while being alert that they don’t hurt or play too roughly. You can see children really enjoying themselves as they are running around freely while interacting with others.This type of play helps children gain more social skills while at the same time improve their physical development as they are constantly on the move.From all three stages, one can see how play effects and is essential for a child’s well-being.But the real question is what should the teacher do to enrich play and motivate the child to play? It’s important to keep in mind that adults have a huge impact on play, especially when they intervene in play together with the children.This is because children can benefit more from play with adults, and as adults have diverse interests, children learn different things from the different people in their lives.The teacher’s job, as a responsible adult, is not only to see that during play the children are not doing a mess or not getting hurt but also to intervene during play by taking part, being a participant rather than a spectator.Unfortunately few are the teachers that are able to do this as I already said they only focus on the syllabus so as to finish it rather than on the importance of play.In the kindergarten class, I’m observing, the teacher rarely interacts with the children as her relationship with them is quite distant.Most of the play that is done in the class is very structured play and it is in this play that the teacher is mostly visible.Most of her structured play involves painting and colouring in worksheets.Here scaffolding is very much visible.According to Vygotsky scaffolding is the assistance of a teacher during activities that leads to the independent level through the ZPD.On the other hand in free play, the teacher sits back, observes the children solve problems on their own but doesn’t join in when needed.During free play the teacher is supposed to have two kinds of roles: the role of play manager and the role of play enhancer or playmate (Kontos, 1999; Kontos, Burchinal, Howes, Wisseh, & Galinsky, 2002). In her role of play manager, the teacher must set the stage by organizing the physical and social environments. She must then create a rich play environment and rearrange the classroom in appealing corners or areas.As play manager, the teacher not only structures the children’s environment, but he or she must also regulate the children’s behavior by giving them directives and explanations why the behavior is or is not appropriate. A teacher, however, should never have a direct involvement in young children’s play as it can have a negative impact on children’s play engagement (Harper & McClusky, 2003) Therefore, teachers are found to disturb children’s engagement with objects and peers by being too directive without responding to children or by being intrusive and taking over children’s initiatives.To conclude i must say that a teacher’s job is not an easy one and as guardians of these young ‘learning sponges’, the main job of teachers as ‘learning allies ‘ towards the role of play is to :offer a safe learning environment,let children follow their own play urges, support children without interrupting, watch and wait as they discover, invent and explore however intervene when needed.Play shouldn’t be seen as something to fill time with but as an activity that by the use of it children learn while they are enjoying themselves and also exploring the world around them.
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