Children and development: The importance of Play (Research)

I have read an extract from a book about the importance of children’s play, and some of the theories are of interest to me. I chose to read this after some one recommended that I should research Freudian play theory.

Play is said by some to be a  ‘restorative and healing experience for young children’

In 1878, Herbert Spencer theorised that play occurs because of excess energy, similarly to art. He believed art to be surplus energy after basic human needs have been met.

Gross  (1901) saw play as a preparation for adulthood, with children acting out and pretending to take on adult roles.

Bateson (1972) commented play to be most important in developing communication skills.

Lev Vygotsky (1978) has said that make-believe play deepens children’s understandings of the social life and rules of their communities.

Sigmund Freud viewed play as a way for children to express negative emotions and reconcile inner anxieties within the unconscious. They can come to terms with traumatic experiences and events, having a safe way to express difficult feelings and learn to deal with situations. His youngest daughter, Anna Freud, believed play to reveal the unconscious mind – play reveals tensions but also helps to resolve tensions.

Children in all cultures show some playing activities. Haight claimed that universal features of play include the way objects are used and pretend play. More culturally specific dimensions of play include themes, initiation of play with caregivers and the choice of play partners.

Bruce commented that ‘play looks different in different cultural contexts’

  • Whether or not adults play with children
  • Point at which children are expected to stop playing
  • Giving of toys
  • Mixed age groups
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