Exploring Parent Attitudes toward Children's Play and Learning in Cyprus

By Shiakou, Monica; Belsky, Jay | Journal of Research in Childhood Education, January-March 2013 | Go to article overview

Exploring Parent Attitudes toward Children's Play and Learning in Cyprus


Shiakou, Monica, Belsky, Jay, Journal of Research in Childhood Education


This descriptive study, undertaken in Nicosia, Cyprus, sought to examine the beliefs and attitudes of Greek/Cypriot parents (n = 142) toward play and learning. The research findings revealed that Greek/Cypriot parents valued play over and above academic training and considered it important for the development of their young children. However, this emphasis on play was not instantiated in the daily after-school routines of their children, which incorporated more hours spent on academics and organized lessons than any other activity, including play, per day. Other findings revealed more inconsistent attitudes regarding play and learning expressed by the Greek/Cypriot parents, placing them closer to the academically oriented formal and direct instruction side of the education and play spectrum, with little time available for play.

Keywords: parents, attitudes, play, learning, Cyprus

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Early childhood education professional groups (e.g., Association for Childhood Education International, National Association for the Education of Young Children) and play researchers in North America (e.g., Johnson, Christie, & Yawkey, 1999) and Europe (e.g., Trageton, Hagesaeter, & Helming, 1999, on play in Norwegian children) have time and again highlighted the value of play in the acquisition of cognitive and social skills during early childhood. They have maintained that play, rather than more direct instructional techniques, should be at the heart of the early childhood curriculum. This belief, however, is not universally accepted, as it clashes with the view of some groups (e.g., Farver & Shin, 1997, research on Korean children; Tulananda & Roopnarine, 2001, research on Thai children) that place a high premium on educational systems that overwhelmingly emphasize a strong push for learning the basics early in life. They subscribe to the premise that there is a critical window during preschool years that not only prepares children for academic success, but also makes it easier for them to learn fundamentally academic skills that are required for later school success (Parmer, Harkness, Super, & Johnson, 2001). Furthermore, in a few societies (e.g., Hadza, Mayan children), play may be replaced by subsistence-type activities (Bock, 2002a, 2002b; Lancy, 1996) and in the minds of parents regulated as secondary to childhood development.

This study measured Greek/Cypriot parents' attitudes toward play and learning in Nicosia, Cyprus. Of interest to this research, therefore, are some of the research findings on beliefs and attitudes about the academic expectations and play activities of young children in other cultures. Studies that looked at intercultural differences in parents' attitudes toward the play and learning of young children and studies that looked at intracultural differences will be reviewed. The importance of presenting such studies is twofold: (1) to indicate that our attitudes, beliefs, and values, particularly those concerned with how children's time ought to be administered to give them the best possible base for becoming healthy and skillful grown-ups, are deeply rooted in culture (Elkind, 1988) and (2) to eventually allow future cross-cultural comparison of the attitudes and practices of Greek/Cypriot parents toward play and learning in Nicosia, Cyprus, with those of parents from other cultures and/or countries.

INTERCULTURAL DIFFERENCES IN PARENTS' ATTITUDES TOWARD PLAY AND LEARNING

In a study carried out by Carlson and Stenmalm-Sjoblom (1989), parents' perceptions of early education programs in Samaland, Sweden, and in St. Louis county in Minnesota, United States of America, were compared. Of interest to this study is the importance parents in both countries placed on the various materials and activities for children. The parents in Sweden were more likely to rate creative materials (props, puppets, and musical instruments) and high-mobility materials (riding toys, woodworking equipment, and climbing structures) and creative dramatics (role-playing in daily tasks of life) as important in early education. …

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