Early childhood educators have long recognized the importance of play in infants and toddlers lives. Play is a strong feature which has meaningful learning practices. Play is embedded in and threaded throughout the New Zealand early childhood curriculum called. Te WhÄriki: He whÄriki matauranga mo nga mokopuna o Aotearoa Early Childhood Curriculum. This report will be discussing quality play as curriculum for infants and toddlers and will show the importance of play which supports children’s learning and development and will examine the value of play and how play promotes infants and toddlers to learn and develop. This report will also explain how Te WhÄriki supports play as indicators of meaningful learning and together what is my role in facilitating a play-based curriculum with my beliefs and philosophy of play.
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Piaget describes three cognitive stages of play. He explains that in the first sensorimotor practice play, Infants and toddlers experiment with bodily sensation and motor movements with objects and people. My personal philosophy is making things interesting for the infants and toddlers I believe that pushing and grasping happens during their play times and through doing this over and over again the children learn that for example balls roll away and through this they experience the sensation and pleasures of movement and my philosophy is that play is natural and important for children. Vygotsky stated that “the value of play is to promote children’s physical, cognitive, language, social, emotional development”(Gonzalez-Mena, 2009, p.72). By playing with blocks and boxes children gain to master object permanence. Piaget states that retrieving hidden objects reveals that infants have begun to master object permanence, the understanding that objects continues to exist when out of sight. (Berk, 2010). According to Gonzalez-Mena (2009) “a main ingredient of any infant or toddler program should be play”(p.72). Play is natural for infants and toddlers and it should be an important use of their time. Piaget indicates play as the nature, built- in way to contribute children to accumulate learning experiences for their development (Dockeet & Fleer, 1999). My own belief for play is giving infants and toddlers the freedom to play and extend on their interests while providing them with interesting resources to play with. Children develop eye-hand co-ordination from manipulation with toys. Vygotsky describes play is always a social experience even when they are engaged in solitary play as the children draw on themes, experiences and roles that have social originality (Berk & Winsler, 1995). Play also provides rich experiences for children to develop their language, social and emotional skills (Berk & Winsler, 1995). For example, when children pretend to be mothers, they become sensitive to other’s needs and feelings because they get the knowledge about how their mothers care for them. Therefore they need to control their emotions to show their love and kindness to accomplish their roles. During play, all children need to use language, gestures, and symbolic objects to express their interests and feelings, like “I am tired”, or sit nicely on your highchair, Children may also pretend to use blocks as imaginary cakes to feed their babies. Through his play experience children learn their own capabilities and the way to understand themselves by social behavior such as sharing and taking turns, co-operating, using manners and language, emotional management, the nature of social rules and the way of making friends and feel part of a group and learn how to live and work in groups. Therefore, children improve their language communication and negotiation skills, as well as gaining the development of imagination and creation (Jalongo, 2004). I believe that even when the children disagree on who gets to be the baby, they are honing their social skills. Play is extremely beneficial and children have many opportunities to expand their own world and through play children are learning all the time.
Aspect One: Group Sizing and age span during play for infants and toddlers.
Larger groups tend to be over stimulating
According to Gonzalez -Mena (2009), As larger groups are overly stimulating the quiet children usually get ignored and it is harder for the children to really get into their play, So a strategy that will be useful is to make sure that all children get to have their turn to play and teachers can encourage children to turn take and scaffold them during their play.
Arthur, Beecher, Docket , Farmer, and Death (2007) states ” through scaffolding, those with expertise in a particular area ,such as parents or teachers, provide the framework of support that enables the children to try out new ideas, so as to lead them to greater understanding” (p.95).
Mixture of Ages
As some play programs work well with a mix of ages others work well with the same age group. In this case with a mix of infants and toddlers it is best to protect the ones who cannot move around to the ones that can move. I can do this by fencing a portion of the room for the children that are immobile. It is best to not keep the children in playpens or cribs.
Space for preschoolers and toddlers
Children need space to move around as they need room to stretch. They need the space to interact with adults who share the floor space. Arthur et al. (2007) discusses that “recent research exploring children’s social play has encompassed not only how children play with each other but also the nature and quality of social interactions, interactions among adults and children, the influence of children’s social and cultural context, and the role of popular culture in play” (p.100).
White, O’Malley, Toso, Rockel , Stover, Ellis (2007) explains that “The position of a child within a powerful social vision is articulated within Te WhÄriki’s goals: all children will grow up as confident and competent learners, healthy in mind and body, and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the sense that they make a valued contribution to society (Ministry of Education,1996,p.9).
As sometimes the mixture is toddlers and preschools. It is important to make sure that the toddlers are protected from the equipment they aren’t mature enough to play with.
Aspect Two: Environments for infants and toddlers to play.
Environmental factors that influence play
Careful considerations need to happen when giving space for children to play as the age span and group size matters.
Educators need to think about how the room is appropriate for infants and toddler for this to happen be to set the environment up and what the space needs. There should be choices that need to be encouraged. Choice depends on the philosophy of the centre and the age of the children .Culture also has an influence to the environment of play. Rogoff (2003) notes that participation and play for children is how the children “change some of these routines and rituals through their participation. Through participating in play children learn the structure and cultural expectations of events. For example, participating in play conversations facilitates an awareness of the nature of conversations (such as turn taking, speaking and listening) ” (p.102).
Setting up environments for play
It is best for a caregiver to provide structure by doing this the environment gets structured to a play environment.
Caregivers must set up an environment that has a good deal of undesirable behavior.
For example if a child is not allowed to play in the kitchen it is a good idea to put a gate across the access.
For infants and toddlers educators must make sure that everything that is in the environment to be touchable and mouth able which means that the play object is clean and safe to put in their mouths as infants and toddlers learn through mouthing. Te WhÄriki (1996) states “toddlers have access to an increasing range of playthings that can enhance both gross and fine motor skills” (p.87).
It is good to set up the right number of toys with providing the right number of choices and let the children find special ways to combine their toys and material. Which are soft and hard that will develop their fine and gross motor activity.
Hygiene and gross motor activity for infants and toddlers.
Making sure that the toys are sanitized time to time is important .Children should not be getting restricted to their natural inclinations. Ailwood (2003) describes such play as a “natural, intrinsic and free, and progressivism’s version of ‘free-play”.
Providing gross motor activity is important inside as much as outside play. Infants and toddlers should be in an environment where they get to roll and slide and climb and also run. The area should be like a gym that is set up for active play.
Aspect Three: Caregivers creating curriculum out of play for infants and toddlers.
Safety as an overarching theme
Setting up an environment that put safety a primary considerate is good so that the children are free to explore and discover. Te WhÄriki (1996)states that “safe things are provided to assist infants to move, for example, something to hold on to, to balance against, or to pull them up on” (p.87).
Caregivers encouraging interactions and then stepping back
It is important to make sure that the caregiver’s interactions are encouraging for facilitating play for infants and toddlers. It is also important to support problem solving between children so they get to see themselves as capable children.
Observing is a way to understand each individual child and each situation to promote the children’s learning. Ailwood (2003) states “the process of play is characterized by ‘play as learning which maintains is the result of the legacy of developmental psychology with its associated truths.”
Adult Roles in Infant-Toddler Play
Caregivers can create curriculum out of play by giving the children their own freedom to play and also by helping them pursue their own special interests and adults should extend on their interests .Adults should also provide fun and colourful play resources.
While children are playing it is important to encourage child to child interactions and encourage youngsters to come and learn such valuable skills and how the children can resolve conflicts. It is important to step back until needed too. A caregiver should always know when to intervene and become sensitive. Te WhÄriki (1996) discusses “toddlers are encouraged to develop skills at their own rate and to know and understand their abilities and limitations. Adults wait to let toddlers indicate that they need assistance rather than assuming that they will” (p.87).
Timing is crucial for infants and toddlers play .When adults step in too soon. Te WhÄriki (1996) states that “toddlers have opportunities for active exploration with the support, but not the interference e, of adults.” Valuable learning can be lost but if an adult steps in soon but if it is too late there is a possibility that children can hurt each other” (p.87)
It is good to remember to encourage children to solve their own problems as it is a very important part of their education. But steeping back and not intervening is another adult skill that is important to practice.
We should not interrupt a child who is really absorbed into their play as absorption is a quality that educators should value.
In conclusion, play as a curriculum is the highest form of learning in early childhood education. Infants and toddlers are able to reach their deepest, wide range level of learning best through play. Play has an important function and infants and toddlers are learning all the time through their interactions with others, as well as working through the rules and values of their cultural groups. Three aspects of the above will finally draw a conclusion of the importance of play in the learning and development of supporting infants and toddlers. Play is a professionalized process and play is a freedom of expression as well as a game for life.