Play In Early Childhood Education

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Play is a ubiquitous phenomenon where children learn about the constantly-changing world (Elkind, 2004). Teachers and families frequently have different perspectives on the value of play. Early childhood educators believe that “play is a child’s work” yet there are still parents who have the impression that play in the curriculum have no learning objectives but to become a time-filler and are therefore, meaningless (Ng, 2012).

There is a plethora of research done on the social, cognitive, emotional, and language benefits of play. Play is so essential that the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (1989) recognized play as a fundamental right of every child. The theories of Vygotsky (socio-cultural experiences) and Piaget (cognitive and physical development) describe play as an optimal learning time for children (Elkind, 2004). Moreover, brain research has also shown the importance of play, citing that the critical periods of brain growth occur during the preschool years (Healy, 2004).

In the article, play supported the cognitive development in contexts such as symbolic thought (Hyun using blocks as a new home for
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Children today, compared to their counterparts two decades ago, played eight hours less (Elkind, 2008). Under the pressure of rising academic excellence, especially in Singapore’s meritocratic climate, test preparation in kindergartens has taken the place of play. Parents who aim to give their pre-schoolers a head start for their formal education are led to believe that educational “toys” and flashcards are the path to success. Our society has generated a false dichotomy between learning and play (Chua, 2008). Academic expectations have been pushed down and early acquisition of skills and content knowledge have left little room for play in the early childhood
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