Understand the value of play in the early years

“Play is not something new. It would appear that for thousands of years children have played. It would also seem they are born primed and ready to play and also to explore. Interestingly they do this without needing any rewards from adults and will often play for hours at a time. There is some speculation that, as many young animals play as a way of practising skills, this is probably the basis for children’s interest in play.” (Tassoni, 2019)

Play takes on many forms from shaking a rattle, playing peek a boo to helping a child’s imagination; they recreate home life taking on specific roles, and will often be found in home corners ‘making dinner’ and ‘cups tea’. Or using the telephone and playing ‘ba-bies’.

The uses of puppets, different materials and stories help with children’s imagination.

Initially children play alone, however as they develop and are supported by adults they learn the skills to play together.

Children can learn new skills, make friendships, have fun, and gain a high self esteem and will be more willing to try new things.

Children may engage in fantasy play; children creating their own stories, playing super-heroes and make belief where objects can take on a role in their play, for example boxes become space ships.

Play helps children develop understanding of the world around them; dressing up as doctors or wearing multi cultural costumes.

Play develops social skills; to play together, learning to turn take and share.

Communication and language skill increase; they are chatting, whether this be to them-selves or their peers. Children may use different voices in their play.

Physical play: this includes outdoor play with a range of activities including obstacle courses, climbing wall, balls, bats, hoops, beanbags etc. This may be rough and tumble, can be games of chase or climbing, practising gross motor skills, making own risk as-sessments and challenges and building resilience.

Games with rules; this could be board games or games children have made up, where there are turns to takes, winners and losers, the skill of negotiating and working with oth-ers and problem solving.

Having a creative climate so that children in the setting can explore different materials to develop their creativity, this may be; art, drama, dance, music, messy activities, mark making, learning about colour, painting, dough, loose part items and building. In creative activities children will develop both fine and gross motor skills and hand eye co ordina-tion and to share ideas.

Sensory play is a valuable way of engaging children in activities that will heighten their senses and enrich their learning, it encourages discovery. Some of the key benefits of sensory play; brain development as this helps strengthen a child’s brain development for learning, which enhances their memory. Language development; as this is an opportuni-ty for practitioners to talk about textures.
Fine and gross motor skills; squeezing, pulling and pushing using dough, shaving foam, gloop. Social Interaction; Children may begin to share their ideas and build new relation-ships, for example in the sand or water. Comforting; Therapeutic sensory play, using items such as light up toys and therapy balls, can help calm an anxious or restless child.

Understand children’s rights in relation to play.

In 1989 world leaders came together to decide on the human rights that every child un-der 18should have. When they agreed they signed the UN convention on the rights of the child – UNCRC. The UNCRC consists of 54 articles setting out children’s rights. Arti-cle 31, states that “every child has the right to play” (1989).

Children learn through play, Children’s time must be managed so that they have the op-portunity to become deeply involved in their activities and to follow their ideas through, including returning later to continue. setting’s can meet children’s right to play by giving children choices of what they want to do.

Heuristic play

Heuristic Play is a term used by Goldschmied and Jackson (1994) to describe children’s interest in filling and emptying containers. It is often recommended for children aged 10 – 20 months with it being offered for a certain amount of time but not every day. A quiet space is needed with up to 8 children at a time with no other resources out. It can provide quality time with the child and key person to develop a relationship with older babies and for the practitioner to observe and then to encourage the children to put the things away after. Children can get exited about discovering new ways of using items.

A range of everyday resources should be available, made of different materials with dif-ferent properties, such as ribbons, pegs, shells, spoons, combs, keys, boxes etc. no toys, only every day items.

Bottrill (2018) states:
“Play is one of the most misunderstood concepts. In today’s educa-tional wordlist is also one of the most underrated…… play creates the conditions for chil-dren to test the world, to make sense of it, to grow the skills needed to communicate, to negotiates and explore their inner selves.”

Yates, A, 202