Play and Child Development (4th Edition)

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9780132596831: Play and Child Development (4th Edition)

More than any other textbook on the market, Play and Child Development, Fourth Edition, ties play directly to child development. The authors address the full spectrum of play-related topics and seamlessly blend research, theory, and practical applications throughout this developmentally-based resource. Readers will learn about historical, theoretical, and practical approaches to promoting development through integrated play and learning approaches across various age or developmental levels. The book analyzes play theories and play therapy; presents a history of play; and discusses current play trends. It explores ways to create safe play environments for all children, and how to weave play into school curricula. Finally, the authors examine the role of adults in leading and encouraging children's natural tendencies toward learning by playing. Special coverage includes a full chapter on play and children with disabilities, and the value of field trips in supporting learning. This edition offers expanded and/or updated coverage on evidence based play theory, child development, play environments, and early play-based curricula for children of all abilities in various learning contexts. All content in the text is purposefully arranged to guide its readers through key and core topics leading to a comprehensive understanding of play intended to help prepare pre-service teachers to lead and support children’s play in a number of contexts: preschools, elementary schools, park systems, and research programs.

 

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More than any other textbook on the market, Play and Child Development, Fourth Edition, ties play directly to child development. The authors address the full spectrum of play-related topics and seamlessly blend research, theory, and practical applications throughout. All content in the text is purposefully arranged to guide its readers through key and core topics leading to a comprehensive understanding of play intended to help prepare pre-service teachers for guiding children’s play in a number of contexts:  preschools, elementary schools, park systems, and research programs. 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Preface

This book is about children's play and development. To understand any human activity, such as play, it is necessary to explore that activity as it has evolved over time. We begin in Chapter 1 with a look at "Play's History: Ideas, Beliefs, and Activities." Indeed, play does have an epic history, dating back thousands of years. As we state in Chapter 1, play activities existed long before recorded history. As a result, we have both prerational knowledge of play, which has remained with us since before the onset of recorded history, and rational knowledge of play, those aspects of play that we have come to be aware of by means of scholarship.

Our earliest rational knowledge of Western play can be described in terms of three themes: agon, mimesis, and chaos. These themes continue to describe play across the centuries, although the relative weight of each is seen to vary over time. Agon, or conflict, appears in competitive games and has its present manifestation in sport. Mimesis, or imitative action, is associated with theater, role play, and creative forms of play. Chaos, or leaving things to the Fates, is reflected in games of chance. During the Enlightenment and Romance periods of history; during those eras, versions of mimesis were exalted, to call attention to humankind's creative spirit. It is during these times that particular attention from scholars begins to focus on children's play. Freedom and the human spirit were associated with play by educators such as Johan Pestalozzi and Friedrich Froebel. This belief has remained with us and forms a cornerstone for understanding children's play.

The history of children's play developed a life of its own during the 19th century, with the scholarly research efforts of individuals such as G. Stanley Hall and John Dewey. Although these scholars reflected differing assumptions about play, their combined efforts, building on the work of earlier philosophers, kept play at the center of children's development.

Our history of prerational and rational experience with children's play serves as a basis for our current efforts to study play. Through the past century, research on children's play contributed to theories about play and its role in development. As we look at our efforts to make sense of play, we see a variety of rhetorics for play and a wider variety of theories to make sense of it. Chapter 2 introduces a number of theories that dominated play scholarship throughout the 20th century, as well as a number of emerging theories.

Chapter 2 also provides a model for deciding which theory may be most useful for professionals who are supporting play. Theory is placed in the model as a tool for assisting teachers to plan, observe, and assess children as they play. Values and beliefs about play must be articulated and aligned with relevant play theories. The model is supplemented by research on teacher beliefs as they relate to theory and practice.

History and theory are invaluable tools for understanding play and for seeking keys to practice. During the 20th century, additional tools emerged from research in several disciplines. Chapter 3 details the work of behavioral scientists who introduced during the 1960s the notion of plasticity of the human brain with particular reference to very young children. This set the stage for national attention to early development in playful contexts.

The relationship between development and children's play changes as the child matures. Theories of development are reflected in the nature of children's play, and some are more dominant than others in different stages of development. Adult roles in children's play vary as children grow, and characteristics of play evolve and diminish as the child matures. Thus, elements of development in children's play can be described as both continuous and discontinuous.

Three chapters address play and development. The first, Chapter 4, discusses the first 2 years of development. The preschool years are discussed in Chapter 5 and school-age children in Chapter 6.

Issues of culture and gender are addressed in Chapter 7. Because so many societies are multicultural at this time, there are always questions about the traditions, meanings, relationships, and communications that may vary with different groups of people. Building on earlier reviews by Schwartzman and Slaughter and Dombrowsky, we present research on the topics of continuities and discontinuities in children's play.

Implications for practice in child care center and school contexts naturally arise from discussions of play theory and research. Over recent decades, a number of approaches evolved addressing the integration of play into curriculum and the roles of teachers. In Chapter 8, we examine the dominant approaches, ranging from "hands-off play" to broadly and narrowly focused play intervention. Since all these approaches are drawn from serious examination of theory and research, practitioners may borrow relevant dimensions from more than one model. In a multiethnic, pluralistic society, the developmental needs of individuals and groups may not be appropriately met by a single approach. Play is not all that children need, but knowledge is constructed through play, and, through sensitive adult intervention, play and work become complementary activities.

The questions of how children with disabilities engage in play and what adaptations need to be made to adult roles and the environment to expand play are the important focus in Chapter 9. Researchers interested in the nature of play in children with disabilities have conducted studies comparing the play of children with specific disabilities with the play of peers who have typical development. The play of children with specific disabilities has also been studied to determine how changes in the environment and adaptations of toys can enhance play opportunities for children. Most significantly, modification of the outdoor environment has become a significant design challenge within the last two decades as play specialists have sought to make outdoor play more accessible to children with all types of disabilities.

The natural therapeutic qualities of play lend even greater emphasis to the importance of play for child development. As seen in Chapter 10, play therapy has its roots in the psychoanalytic tradition, but, over the years, theorists and practitioners modified the practical applications of this tradition to develop several approaches. The fundamental tenets of child-centered play therapy are rooted in the beliefs that children play out their phobias, feelings, and emotions and that play has natural healing powers. Play therapy is now successfully conducted with children of all age groups and in individual, family, clinical, school, hospital, and group contexts.

Since play is an important ingredient of both indoor and outdoor activities, Chapter 11 focuses on the creation of special, magical, creative outdoor play environments. This section is intended to counter the growing pattern of "cookie-cutter" (standardized) playgrounds in American child care centers, schools, and public parks by focusing on comprehensive environments featuring natural elements such as sand, water, tools, materials for construction, nature areas, and "special places." Fundamental to countering this trend is convincing adults that recess and outdoor play are essential to children's healthy development. Even the best outdoor play environments have little effect unless children have ample time to experience and create over extended periods of time.

The extensive analysis of child safety in public places, discussed in Chapter 12, is unique in child development texts, perhaps because of the prevailing view that accidents and injuries are inherent in growing up. Safety experts and a growing body of safety research conclude that accidents can be prevented, especially those that expose children to risks of permanent injury or death. We wish to make one point crystal clear: We do not advocate "dumbing down" playgrounds or play venues in an effort to make them "safe." Quite the contrary, play environments can be made safer than traditional settings while simultaneously expanding challenges and opportunities for physical development.

The discussion of play leadership in Chapter 13 promotes the concept that all adults who "supervise" children at play—parents, aides, teachers, youth workers—need certain skills. The term play leader is intended to apply to all such workers/players. The skills needed appear to be inherent or "natural" for many adults. For example, most parents play peek-a-boo with infants and toddlers, cuddle them, talk to them, and provide toys. But as the child matures and is passed from one caretaker to another, play leadership skills frequently take a back seat to didactic instruction, scheduling, and academic pursuits. Good play leaders respect children and play; they sense the "flow" of children's play recognize this as the release of ultimate creative impulses, and know this is the stuff from which learning and development are formed.

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to acknowledge and express appreciation to those who helped prepare this book. To John Sutterby Seunghwa Kim, Dottie Hirshman, Jim Therrell, and Shu-Fen Cheng for comments on chapter drafts; to Suzanne Winter and Rusty Keeler who assisted with photographs; to Laura Havelik who helped with computer foul-ups and various tasks; to our colleagues at other universities who provided valuable, extensive analyses and suggestions for improving the manuscript: Diane Karther, University of Akron; Lynn Lessie, Atlantic Community College (NJ); Linda L. Reiten, University of Wisconsin-Stout; Kevin Swick, University of South Carolina; Mary Ann Waldon, Texas Southern University, retired; and Stan Wollock, William Patterson University; and to the many students who contributed in countless ways. We would also like to thank the staff at Prentice Hall, who were always prompt, courteous, and skillful: Ann Davis, executive editor; Laura Larson, copyeditor; Pat Grogg, editorial assistant; and Carol Sykes, photo department manager.

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