With Passage of PL 99-457, the Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments of 1986 and PL 101 -476, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990, legislation was provided to ensure that services for infants, toddlers, and preschool children with disabilities be provided in an early intervention scheme.
Cowden and Easton (1991) have stated that the identification of these at-risk children be the primary focus and secondly that curriculum sequences centered around motor development be developed to begin the intervention process. Rimmer and Kelly (1989) identified the most important area of physical education curriculum for preschoolers to be gross motor development This includes the area of fundamental gross motor patterns which provide foundations for complex games and sports. Fundamental gross motor patterns include throwing, catching, kicking, bouncing, hopping, skipping. jumping, and running. Skinner (1979) developed a gross and fine motor development schedule for preschoolers into specific skills that should be attained at yearly levels beginning at the age of two. For example, at the age of two the onset of a child attempting to ride a tricycle should be observed. The child may or may not master the tricycle at this point but has begun the process. Likewise, developmentally appropriate skills begin to take shape. Any physical education program developed for preschoolers should take into consideration the following three guidelines: (1) that all motor skill development be sequential and age-appropriate, (2) that all children should progress through similar sequential motor development, and (3) that the rates of passage through the sequences are variable due to each individual child (Grineski, 1992; Bredekamp, 1992; Petersen, 1992; Rikard, 1992). The socialemotional component must not be overlooked during the programming stage. Weiller (1992) found that the socialemotional component in physical education programs includes aspects of self-concept and play-skill development. To encourage the growth of self-concept, the instructor must address the ideas and attitudes a child has of self and others. Acceptance by peers and the feeling of belonging go hand in hand with appropriate development in play-skill development in solitary play and smallgroup play.
Teacher-Directed vs Child-Directed Approach
Traditionally, educational approaches for children have been first developed and put into practice in classroom settings prior to being implemented in the physical education arena. One such approach is the traditional teacher-directed approach or often referred to as direct instruction. Cole, Dale, Mills, and Jenkins (1993) define direct instruction as explicit, systematic, teacher-directed, and fast paced, with specific procedures for error correction and reinforcement, all directed toward very specific measurable outcomes. In contrast to the teacher-directed approach is the child-directed approach in which its major advantage is its developmentally-appropriate nature for preschoolers, and it parallels what is considered the best approach in early childhood education (Cole et al., 1993; Novick, 1993). The overall objective of this approach is to allow preschoolers to select activities in a physical education setting in which they wish to participate and to merely play and have fun (Caruso, 1984). An example of this approach is having several play centers set up in a gymnasium such as scooter boards, tumbling mats, basketballs (small), and playground equipment so that children will have a selection of activities to enjoy. Instructors move around the gymnasium and provide encouragement to the children while offering suggestions for variable uses of the equipment. In this manner, while the approach is child-initiated and child-directed, the instructor can manipulate the activities of the children to enhance proposed goals and skill acquisition.
Definition of Play