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Why children need to play

Margaret Weber
CHDV 110
November 12,2013
In today's society where children have less opportunities for play whether it is
due to technology or busy schedules of parent's, children still need to play in order to
grow physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively. Young children learn about the
world in which they live in through play experiences. Children learn such cognitive
skills as math, science and social studies to name a few when playing. Young children
learn valuable social skills and emotional skills while playing with other children. Fine
they may think that children even young preschoolers should focus all on academics for d
example doing worksheets, learning to read and write by sitting at a table with teacher \)
motor skills and large motor skills are being used and fine tuned in the play of young
children as well. There are parents and other adults who question the value of play and
instruction, however children learn so much more from play that is developmentally
appropriate than they learn through worksheets and sitting still which is not
developmentally appropriate.
There are several different theorists who discuss the vqlue of play and the stages
of play that children go through. There is Parten and his stages of play that include
solitary play, parallel play, associative play, and cooperative play. In the beginning of
these stages the child is playing alone or along side of other children. By the last stage,
children are playing cooperatively with each other in for example playing restaurant, one
child is the cook, one child is the waiter or waitress, there may be a hostess and of course
you would have some children who are the customers. Paiget and Smilanksy looked at
the cognitive stages of play. Then there is Vygotsky and Elkonin and their levels of
make-believe play. Feeney, Moravcik, & Nolte, write, "Theorist Lev Vygotsky also
believed that play served as a vehicle for development. Unlike other theorists, Vygotsky
thought play promoted several areas of development: cognitive, emotional, and social.
He saw the special role of play as a bridge between what children already know and what
they will soon be able to understand with assistance form other players or through
independent replay. Vygotsky called this space between what the child knows and what
she or he will soon comprehend the zone of proximal development" (Feeney, et. al., 2009,
pg.408). Teachers use scaffolding as a way to help extends a child's play or learning in
order for the child to reach the next level. An example of this is when I was working
with a two year little girl at work with puzzles. She was easily doing simple four piece
puzzles so I handed her a puzzle that had six pieces to it. Abby was able to do the puzzle
with me showing and talking to her about turning the puzzle pieces around in the spots

until she found where they fit.
Adults who believe that children only learn through academic type activities such
as worksheets sitting and listening to the teacher do not understand that through play
children learn so many cognitive skills, some of which are problem solving skills,
communication skills, counting, classification and so much more. Play allows children to
build creative structures with blocks which then becomes a town with several buildings
and structures. Another example of a child using cognitive or thinking skills is when I
was observing the Head Start Preschool classroom with 18-36 month old children, a little
boy Jay, was putting a sock on a doll but could not find the second sock. He went over to l

the pile of dolls and began looking for the sock which he could not find. He decided to \
take a similar sock off another doll went over to his doll and tried to put the sock on the ri
doll. He tries to put the sock on with one hand and quickly realizes that it won't go on. \)
He then uses the pincher grasp and put the sock on the dolls foot. When he was done
with this task, he smiled proudly at the teacher who acknowledged his accomplishment.
Through play this child is learning how to learn a skill that will allow him to put his own
socks on instead of one of his parents putting the sock on for him. He is a
little more self-sufficient and a little more independent. According to an
California Childcare Health Program, "Children's cognitive skills are enhanced. Through
play children learn about concepts, how to group and classify objects, how to make sense
of things and events, and how to solve problems. Play often involves trial and error, and
problem-solving tasks. Play requires a child to make choices, direct activities, and make
plans to reach a goal" (California Childcare Health Program, 2013). In this example the
child is using problem solving skills to find a sock and think of how to put it on. He is
using his memory of how he put the first sock on and knowledge in that he knew that the
sock goes on the foot. This is just an example of the cognitive skills being used but the
child's physical development is being fme tuned in the fine motor skills, the pincher
grasp. Through this activity the child has emotional growth through the proud feeling he
gets when he put the socks on correctly.
When children are not given opportunities to play because they are busy doing
academic activities such as worksheets to practice writing or scissor skills or even
matching or listening to the teacher talk, they are losing out on opportunities to learn all
these skills through more meaningful and developmentally appropriate play activities.
Feeney, et. al write, "Some practitioners in early childhood education and care accept
play as part of the "care" aspect of their work but fail to trust it as a primary process in
their "educator role." These individuals might feel uncomfortable when children play in
the educational part of the program and may try to intervene in play to make it seem more
like "school" (Feeney, et. al., 2009, pg.408). They don't understand play's role in
children's development" While observing children where I work at GBLC, where the
teachers use worksheets with the children, when I sub in the preschool classroom, the
children rush the worksheets, they will hurriedly scribble on the paper, not listen to wait
is being said all because they are in a hurry to go play. On when particular occasion, on
little girl Ashlynn hurried through her patterning worksheet and did not glue the correct
pattern piece in each section so that she could go play. A short while later, I observed her
playing with the counting bears. What I observed was Ashlynn putting the bears in a
line, with the bears being put in a pattern of red, green, red, green, red, green. She then
did other patterns with the bears involving more than two colors all the while taking her
time, and yet she was taking her time and was thoroughly involved in the activity. When
asked what color bear came next, she was able to tell me what color bear came next but
yet when she was doing her worksheet Ashlynn did not want to take the time to glue the
correct pattern where they went on the paper. She was getting more from her play
experience than she did from having to sit at the table and do a worksheet.
Playing allows for the physical growth in a child's fine motor and gross motor
skills. When children are coloring, drawing manipulating play dough or clay, writing an
order in a pretend restaurant in the dramatic play area, they are developing control and
coordination of the muscles in their hands. According to the California Childcare Health
Program, "Fine Motor and manipulation skills are developed when preschoolers use their
fingers to string cheerios for a necklace toddlers scribble with a crayon on paper"
(California Childcare Health Program, 2013). While working, I observed one
preschooler who seems to enjoy making necklaces and bracelets out of the large beads in
the classroom. When she first started string the beads, they always fell off, as time went
on and she practiced, she was able to successfully keep the beads from falling off the
string. She has developed fine muscle control and coordination. J.R. sits at the table with
the bucket of beads and laces and strings a necklace that she later asks me to tie it so that
she can wear her creation. J .R. "I made this necklace so I can go to the party." She then
goes off to create a bracelet to go with the necklace. If J.R. was not given the opportunity
to practice stringing the beads onto the lace, and other opportunities to use the muscles in
her hands, she would not be coordinated enough to use a fork or spoon at the table or
even hold onto a cup. Feeney, et. al write, "From infancy on, children display an innate
drive to gain physical control of their arms and legs as they strive to reach for and
eventually grasp and manipulate objects (Bodrova & Leong, 2003; Bronson,
2000)(Feeney, et. al., 2009, pg.414). It is through play that young infants begin to
develop these skills by picking up and holding onto toys such as rattles. When working
in one of the infant rooms at the Child Development Center at MacDill Air Force Base in
Florida, as a teacher's assistant I observed infants reaching and grabbing for toys daily.
While sitting on the floor with Jill and her twin sister Gwen, I observed that Gwen had a
determination to grab a shaker toy that was a little outside her reach. She was not yet
crawling but she scouted on her bottom until she could just reach over to the toy. Gwen
tried to use her whole hand at first to get the rattle but she just could not pick it up that
way. After several tries, she used her fingers in an awkward sweeping motion to pick up
the toy, as she did this she tumbled from a sitting position to a face plant on the floor
which surprised her. All this time as Gwen is trying to grab the toy, she is working on
gaining control of her large and small muscles in her body. .../
When preschoolers run, jump, climb, and hop. Skip, throw balls and more, they
are developing all the large muscle coordination that is needed to promote good health.
Today so many young children are not getting the play opportunities that allow them to
be physically active. Instead children are sitting in front of computer screens, televisions
or other sedentary activities. "Studies show that regular physical activity helps children
to be fit and healthy, improves self-esteem, and decreases the risk of serious illness such
as heart disease and stroke later in life" (California Childcare Health Program, 2013). In
today's society where childhood obesity is on the rise and is becoming an epidemic,
children need the opportunities to run, play games such as kick ball or Simon says, climb
on climbing structures, run obstacle courses anything that gets them up and moving will
help develop their coordination for such activities as riding a bike, using roller skates or
ice skates. When observing at the Head Start classroom while the children_ w ~ r outside,
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I observed children riding bikes, playing ball, running, climbing on the climbing
structures and playing in the sand. While the majority of the children were playing, there
were a few children who were just sitting and not playing. I observed one of the teachers
go over to a child and ask why he was just sitting there and not playing. The child's reply
was startling, "I don't want to be outside, cause it is gross, I want my game". While I
can't say whether his game is a video game or not, this is an example of how young
children in today's society do not know how to play outdoors like previous generations,
instead they would rather sit indoors and play video games or watch television. These
children are losing out on large motor activities that are vital to good health. Feeney Writes, "Running, jumping, climbing, throwing balls, riding bikes-the activities we
most commonly think of as play-are of prime importance in the development oC
perceptual-motor coordination (the ability to use sensory information to direct motor
activity) and in the attainment and maintenance of good health" (Feeney, et. al.,2009,
Play is also a way that children gain socialization skills in order to be part of
society. As infants play is solitary as infants grow to toddlers and young preschoolers it
is parallel play, then associative play and then cooperative play. According to the
textbook, children who are in the associative play stage are in the same area using shared
materials but true cooperation and negotiation are rare. The children may be building the
same thing such as a zoo but they are not creating a zoo together, each child's part of the
zoo is their own and they do not talk about or plan the next play actions together. Unlike
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and share responsibility for leadership and responsibility (Feeney, et. a!., 2009, pg.409). t
When observing a group of children at work, I noticed that they were playing restaurant. )' r;) ;
One little girl A. C. walked over to R.L. and with her waitress notepad asked, "What do ( r)j ZJ.; d
want to eat"? R.L. "I want pizza, breadsticks and a coke please". When another child
wanted to enter into the play scene, A.C. said, "You can be the dishwasher". The new
child T.B. said okay and the play continued. The children negotiated who would be the
customer next and who would be the waiter or waitress, dishwasher and also they added a
"person to seat the people" as the children called it. This group of children were trying
our adult roles and re-enacting things from their daily lives in order to help make sense of
the world around them. They are also gaining skills to negotiate, self-regulate their
behavior, problem solving skills and how to handle conflicts that may arise during play .


"Play develops imagination and creativity and gives children practice in social skills such
as waiting, negotiating, taking turns, cooperation, compromise, sharing and expressing
emotions. As children learn about themselves and the world, they acquire self-
confidence, self-reliance and self-expression" (California Childcare Health Program,
Through play children are able to relieve stress and anxieties that they may have.
Play can be seen as therapeutic for children. In today' s society children are more anxious
and stressed and they use play to act out there feelings about such things as their parent's
fighting and arguing or the fact that their parents are getting a divorce. Families may
have financial trouble and the children may not have enough food to eat, or warm enough
clothes. Feeney Writes, "Children at play devise and confront challenges and
anticipate changes. In the process they master their fears; resolve internal conflicts; act
out anger, hostility, and frustration; and resolve personal problems for which the "real"
world offers no apparent solutions. It is no wonder children are motivated to play all
day" (Feeney, et. al., 2009, pg.409). During at observation at the Head Start classroom, I
noticed a group of girls in the dramatic play area. They were playing "house" and one
girl was the mom, another was the sister and then there was the child. While the children
were acting out the play scene, the girl that was the mom had left the area to go to work.
I observed the child going over to the table and sitting down. Then all of a sudden she
had this sad look on her face. When she re-entered the dramatic play area she announced
"my work is over, they don't want me". She then started to get sad and I heard another
child say, "Why are you crying"? "Cause my mommy lasted her work and now we have
no money". For this one preschool child, she was trying to make sense of why her mom v
hasnojobandwhytheyhaVenomoney. J

Children also need plenty of time to play outside. In today' s society however
some children do not have safe outdoor play environments due to high violence in p-
neighborhoods from gangs. These children may even act out things like shootings or @'I
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other acts of violence that they may have witnessed or heard about. "Children's play ? v J
reflects their experience. As of this writing, the children in our care live in a country at
war. They are exposed to violent television programming, some of which is aimed at
children. Many live in communities where violence or fear of violence is part of daily
life" (Feeney, et. al., 2009, pg.429). As parents, caregivers and teachers we can respect
children's needs for safe outdoor play. A way to provide this safe outdoor play is to seek
out a safe playground that is not in a violent neighborhood if possible to allow children
the chance to run, jump, climb and enjoy the outdoors. In outdoor play, children are also
gaining cognitive, social and emotional skills as well. While observing the children at
work while they were outside one day, I observed three children who were sitting in the
sand digging with shovels and placing the dirt in the buckets. One child said, "Hurry we
need to get this dirt to the castle to keep the monsters away." Another child picked up
their bucket and ran over to a sand castle structure and dumped the sand next to the
castle. The child said, "How are we going to keep the monsters out if they come in the
princess will be scared and start to cry?" In just that play episode, children are using their
fine motor skills with the shovels to dig, they are using their thinking skills to find out
how to protect the princess and they are using their gross motor skills in running and
walking. "Children's perceptual abilities may suffer when they experience the world
mainly through television, and computers and books. Their social abilities to cooperate,
help, share and solve problems with other children are fostered when playing together
outdoors. And when they have access to the outdoors, they gain the ability to navigate
their immediate environment safely, and lay the foundation for the courage that will
enable them eventually to lead their own lives"" (California Childcare Health Program,
2013 ). Young children today deserve the chance to play outdoors and have fun just as
previous generations have; it is an important part of their growth and healthy
In conclusion, it has been stated just how much children need the opportunity to
play. It is an important part of how they learn about the world around them. Children
make sense of their daily lives through play; they get to take on adult roles through play.
Children also learn valuable social skills through play that will help them to become
competent, contributing members of society when they grow up. Children thrive on play
and have a natural tendency to play. As parents and educators we need to allow children
the time for free-play and structured play both indoors and outdoors. Young children
learn valuable skills through play and are more focused and in tune with play than they
are at sitting quietly at a table doing worksheets or sitting in circle time listening to the
teacher talk the whole time. Young children need engaging activities and hands on
California Childcare Health Program. (2013). Active Outdoor Play. Retrieved from
www. ucsfchildcareheal th. org
California Childcare Health Program. (2013). The Value of Play. Retrieved from
Feeney, Moravcik & Nolte. (2013). Who Am I in the Liv:_:;;;;children? Upper Saddle
River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
CHDV 110
Grading Rubric for the Importance of Play Essay
SLO: Examine the value of play as a vehicle for developing dispositions, and strengthening relationships among
young children.
The degree to which the
student articulates how play
supports physical, social,
emotional and cognitive
(Points Possible:
Points received: ----dU
The degree to which the
student provides
appropriate examples to
illustrate the connection
between play and
(Points Possible: 10} \ D
Points received: __
The degree to which the
student integrates textbook
and outside sources.
(Points Possible: 10} .
Points received: __ [_U
Meets Expectations
Excellent work in this category, revisions
for your Professional Portfolio will consist
of adding information to demonstrate
your continued growth in knowledge
(Score 4 or 5)
The paper clearly describes the
connection between how play supports
development in all of the four domains.

Each domain is supported by a real
example of a child(ren) at play. The
examples explicitly demonstrate how
play supports developmenr----
Minor Revisions Needed
Good work in this category, but does
not show the depth that we are looking
for. You will need to revise this essay
prior to submitting it in your
Professional Portfolio (Score 3)
The paper describes the connection
between how play supports
development in at least three of the
four domains.
Examples are missing or may not fully
demonstrate how play supports

Textbook and/or outside sources are
referenced 5 in the essay.
The textbook and/or outside sources
are referenced 3-4 times. This material
may not always be clearly integrated
into the essay.
Major Revisions Needed
Poor work in this category. You will
need to make substantial revisions to
this essay in this area before
resubmitting it in your Professional
Portfolio. (Score: 1-2)
The paper describes the connection
between how play supports
development in one or two of the
Examples are not given or do not
accurately illustrate the domain.
Little or no textbook material or
outside sources are included in the
CHDV 110
Grading Rubric for the Importance of Play Essay
SLO: Examine the value of play as a vehicle for developing skills, knowledge, dispositions, and strengthening relationships among
young children.
Quality of writing. The The paper is proofread and edited for There are some spelling, grammar, and There are numerous spelling and
degree to which the essay is spelling, grammar, formatting, and formatting mistakes. Proper in-text grammatical errors. Student does not
proofread and edited for correct in-text citations. A reference may be missing along with a include in-text citations or a reference
spelling, grammar, (works cited) page is referr. ,ce (works cited) page page.
formatting, and correct in-
text citations. A reference
(works cited) page is
(Points Possible: 10)
. Points received: __ [U
Total Points received: