Academic journal article Childhood Education

What Is the Value of Play?

Academic journal article Childhood Education

What Is the Value of Play?

Article excerpt

Over 100 years ago, Caroline Pratt, Patty Smith Hill, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, and John Dewey knew the value of play for early childhood, elementary, and early adolescent students. They had little or no difficulty explaining the importance of play for children's cognitive, social, and emotional development (Wolfe, 2002). Things are different in the 21st century. With high-stakes assessment, No Child Left Behind, and competition for limited funding, play has taken a back seat. In fact, play and even naptime have been eliminated from many early childhood education programs. For example, in Jennifer Kilgo's home county in Alabama, administrators did away with naptime for kindergarten children. As Strauss (2004) reports, "Kindergartners in Gadsden, Alabama, discovered that school administrators had eliminated naptime in order to not lose precious seconds preparing for standardized tests" (p. 162).

Of particular concern in the education climate of today is the fact that most teachers are unable to articulate the value of play to administrators, parents, and the public. Each of the following articles is about the value of play in the lives of children. Maxie Kohler, Jennifer Kilgo, and Lois M. Christensen, all professors of education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, jointly reviewed the following articles with the idea of helping educators better explain the significance of play.

IN DEFENSE OF PLAY: Beginning the Dialog About the Power of Play. Myck-Wayne, J. Young Exceptional Children, 2010, 13(4), 14-23. The author wrote this article in response to a new early childhood teacher's request for support about the value of a play. When her administrator questioned the use of play in her classroom, the teacher found it difficult to explain her knowledge about the importance of play to young children's education. Myck-Wayne notes that despite significant research supporting the value of play for young children with and without disabilities in early childhood classrooms, teachers of young children often cannot articulate a rationale for a play-based approach or explain how they facilitate learning through play within the curriculum. Myck-Wayne points out that the educational landscape in the United States has shifted to "prescriptive curricula, standards-based instruction, and standardized tests" (p. 14), which is forcing play out of the education of young children. This increases the need for teachers of young children to understand and articulate the components of effective early education through play-based learning.

The article is particularly helpful to teachers of young children, as it provides a definition of play, a rationale for how play can enhance interventions for young children with disabilities and facilitate learning for all children, and a discussion of how to incorporate play into the curriculum. The article concludes by discussing the role of early childhood educators in advocating for an increased emphasis on play in the learning process for young children. The author calls for the beginning of a dialogue among regular and special early childhood educators so that they will have a clear understanding of the research supporting play and the importance of play in the early learning experiences of all young children. As MyckWayne suggests, "Using research as the foundation, the discussion can explore realistic curricula and meaningful activities to benefit the learning of all children" (p. 21).

SUPPORTING THE PLAY OF PRESCHOOLERS WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS: Implementation of Visual Scripts. Ganz, J. & Flores, M., Young Exceptional Children, 2010, 13(2), 58-70. It is now considered commonplace for young children with disabilities, including those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), to be educated in classes alongside their typically developing peers. This article describes the characteristics of children with ASD and the research base for how to support their communication and social skills during play. …

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