Meanings of Child's Play According to Turkish Early Childhood Educators: A Phenomenological Study

Article excerpt

Play is a very critical element in and has important long-lasting impacts on child's development and learning. However, it has numerous definitions many of which are unclear. There is also a lack of research done with Turkish participants about the meaning of child's play according to early childhood educators who have significant roles in this process. Phenomenological study is the most appropriate method to investigate the meaning of lived experiences because it is committed to descriptions of everyday experiences as stated by Moustakas (1994). Hence, this research study examined the meaning of child's play according to Turkish early childhood educators based on their descriptions about their own childhood play experiences. The data were gathered through in-depth interviews from six participants who work in Turkey and were recorded and analyzed by using phenomenological study techniques. Then, essential structures of play were extracted from the data and an exhaustive description of child's play was provided at the end of this analysis. Implications were discussed and recommendations were made for future studies.


Play is easy to recognize but hard to describe. There are 116 different definitions of play listed in the Oxford English Dictionary; in addition, the definitions of play are often unclear and inexplicable, and even personal (Johnson, Christie & Yawkey, 1999). Play from a personal maturational perspective is a powerful phenomenon which is perceived differently by each person based on their own lived experiences. Therefore, each individual defines play depending on their own play experiences and personal perspectives.

In addition, play is a dynamic and active phenomenon that is a vital concept and a core element in early childhood learning and development across all cultures. Research indicated that child's play has essential positive impacts on physical development (Fromberg, 2002; Santrock, 2003), social and emotional development (Sutton-Smith, 1997; Broadhead, 2004), cognitive development (Ginsburg, 2007), and student learning (Brand, 2006).

Statement of Problem

There has been a great deal of research on child's play in early childhood education literature addressing its multifaceted effects on child development. Characteristics of play include elements as nonliterality, intrinsic motivation, process orientation, free choice, and positive effect. These elements have been posited (Garvey, 1977) and many modern theories of play in the early childhood education literature (e. g., Piaget, 1962; Vygotsky, 1978; Sutton-Smith, 1997; Singer & Singer, 1990; Ellis, 1973) explain why play, the natural language of children (Axline, 1969; Landreth, 2002), exists and what play's role is in child development (Johnson et al, 1999). However, there is a paucity research to substantiate what constitutes the essential structure of child's play from the perspective of early childhood educators who make decisions about granting adequate opportunities and time for all children to play at educational settings.

Furthermore, child's play is a natural behavior and has a personal meaning which becomes a part of long term memory of every individual (Isenberg & Quisenberry, 2002; Fromberg, 2002). It is important to make explicit the values surrounding play. Particularly, early childhood educators play an important role during children's play experiences from playing together to being an observer. Given that there is a lack of research on meaning of child's play according to Turkish early childhood educators, this study is of momentous importance.

Statement of Purpose

This phenomenological study has four goals: (1) to investigate the meaning of child's play according to Turkish early childhood educators, (2) to inform and educate Turkish early childhood educators about child's play, (3) to update the present literature in the field while serving as a phenomenological study example, and (4) to propose recommendations for future studies. …


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