The Importance of Play for Children
“Play is a critical element of early childhood curriculum” (Bodrova & Leong 2007)
I believe play is the fundamental key to learning for children. The federal government and COAG ( Council of Australian Government ) has recently introduced a national based curriculum for children under 5years; the first national curriculum in Australia for early childhood. This has been developed by a range of specialists in the Early Childhood Services. It is called the ‘Early Years Learning Framework –Belonging, Being and Becoming. I believe this will become a guide for curriculum, to eventually replace the current state frameworks. As an early childhood educator I am proud to see the government taking the initiative to see the importance of education for children under 5 years.
Early childhood educators in services have long believed in the importance of play. We have moved from the traditional structured type of learning to play and interest based emergent curriculums. This has been a challenge at times; to educate all staff and families that interest based curriculums provide children with more opportunities to be creative, use their imagination and increase skills to become successful learners.
Play provides opportunities for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise and imagine. When children play they create social groups, challenge each other’s thinking and build new understandings and concepts (Early Years Learning Framework 2009).
In conjunction with play, the environment is an important element to the curriculum. Giving children the opportunities to self select from a variety of choices can give them many skills. It encourages self help skills; packing away, sharing and turn taking. It increases capacity for self regulation and decision making.
Encouraging children of all ages to be creative with art – see example by Olivia 4yrs.
From this drawing Olivia was allowed to express her creativity and imagination; there was no time limit or limit to the media she chose to use. Our art area is open ended so children are able to explore and be creative without being guided by the teacher. From this interest, we can extend on her current skills and/or needs for extension. This was an interpretation of Olivia’s family and home. She continued on this art work over a few days.
By giving children unstructured opportunities it increases their self esteem and creates successful learning for their future education. Children are in ‘Institutions’ from 5 yrs – 17 yrs when they are at school. Let’s not force our children to sit down and learn to read and write before school. I believe it’s important for children to form friendships, social skills and be confident in their abilities.
When children play with other children they form friendships, challenge each other’s thinking and build new understandings. Play can promote positive dispositions to learning and enhance critical thinking.
As a parent and early childhood educator I ask this question. ‘Don’t we all want our children to successful learners with a confident and positive attitude to the world?’ I know I do!
Let’s not put too much pressure on our children and provide them with opportunities to have FUN!
u Bodrova, E. & Leong, D. 1996, Tools of the mind: a Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education, Pearson Education, New Jersey.
u Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Government. 2009, BELONGING, BEING AND BECOMING – The Early Years Learning Framework.