Children Learn About The World Around Them Through Play.
Children are born with an in built desire to play. This is how all animals in nature learn about the world, practise skills and form bonds with each other. A child will naturally explore their surroundings and don't need any encouragement or reward for doing so, they enjoy it ! It has been this way for thousands of years , our natural human curiosity drives us to play and explore. This innate need to learn and explore never really goes away we just have more knowledge when we are older and know most of the answers already. Have you ever viewed a new house and opened the wardrobe doors, just to see? turned the tap on? We know what will be inside , but it is a new surrounding and we find it hard to resist our in built explorer...
Play Is A Necessity. Play is so important in children as a basis of almost all the learning they will do in their early years. They enjoy doing it , It's easy to do and is sociable too. All aspects of a child's development will benefit from playing. The beginnings of speech as they ask for cup, car, dolly, up or again. Gross and fine motor skills as they climb the 'castle walls' (climbing frame) to defeat the dragon ( stick fight the other child) and collect the golden coins from the King ! (place small coins into a bag). When playing a child is free to be as creative and imaginative as they like without the constraints of 'real life' , You can not tell them what is in their game, If they say there is a giant purple spider who plays the drums for marshmallows , then that is what there is in their game, and how amazing is that ... Children who play with others will gain experience of how to share , how to communicate, how to understand another child's emotions, and even how to care for or cheer up that child. Some friendships made in these early years can last a lifetime, or give us skills to make friends in the future.
'Practitioners must consider the individual needs, interests, and stage of development of each child in their care , and they must use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience for each child in all of the areas or learning and development.' Para 1.6 of the EYFS statutory framework.
Inclusive Play All children in the setting should be able to participate in all the activities, in some way or another. All the children will be assessed for their individual needs , abilities , likes , dislikes, cultural beliefs, allergies and personality. If a child would like to be part of an activity then everything within our power should be done to assist this. For example if we had a child who was Coeliac (highly intolerant to gluten) then when we do a baking activity , gluten free flour should be provided for the child to join in. A disabled mobility child should not automatically be excluded from outdoor games, could they participate with adult assistance? Could they still play in a wheelchair ? Is there a way to make this activity suitable for everyone? These are questions we ask ourselves when planning all of our activities. As children grow they begin to see differences in each other , and they also have learnt "discrimination" from other sources and viewed behaviours. We often see boys not allowing girls to play with the cars as they are "not for girls" , or a child getting teased for playing with "baby toys", We as adults will be role models for the children and show them how to include everybody in play , praise the child who carefully explains the game to a younger player and explain the benefits of helping each other to learn and discover together. There are regularly children who enjoy solitary play, this is of course OK if the child is happy, we will however try to encourage the child to join in, this may be by finding a common interest for the task , If the child loves to play with building blocks then an activity or learning session would be created to include this. For example a counting game of match the numbers to the right height tower in teams , the child would enjoy this whilst also learning and socialising. Our job is to create an inclusive and enabling environment and we will strive to do so.
Supporting Your Child's Interests and Abilities, Observations are carried out often to gauge where your child is at on their developmental journey, but we also carry out observations on the activities we provide to ensure they are doing their 'job'. We know which child enjoys which activity and will cater for this when planning and creating new opportunities for your children to reach their next goals. However if the child does not participate in an activity we like to know why. When we observe we are checking is the activity age appropriate? Is it interesting? Did the child enjoy it ? How long did they play for and if not did we ask why ? Did the activity promote playing with others? We ensure we are always looking for how can we make YOUR child interested and ready to learn ...
Different views early years practitioners must acknowledge Adult Led Play The adult chooses what the theme or topic will be usually with an aim. Learning or confidence boosting activities may be chosen with the adult showing how to play or doing some acting in a home corner. This type of play is usually copied then by the child after the adult has left or next time they play. Being adult led can give scope to add learning in to the activity , maybe new words or skills could be tried and explored.
Child Initiated Play This type of play is fascinating to watch as the child will pick what to play with , how to play with it and if there are rules / characters etc to the play. The main development areas are- confidence , in their own choices and abilities. Imagination and creativity , making up the game. Concentration and perseverance as most children tend to stay longer and get more involved in their own play activities. There should always be times when a child is free to choose and enjoy what they like. This could be alone of with friends, special time to just enjoy playing.