Theories of Play, Development and Learning Child development was previously largely ignored, and there was little attention to the progress which occurs during childhood and adolescence in terms of cognitive abilities, physical growth and language usage. However, researchers have found interest to study typical development in children as well as what influences development. Many theories have emerged which have helped full understanding of the social, emotional and physical growth which occurs in a child from early childhood to early adulthood (Hughes, 2004, p. 0).

Jean Piaget proposed one of such theories and looked human development in a biological angle and explained it in four development stages. The stages are sensorimotor development stage, preoperational development stage, concrete operational development stage and formal operational development stage. However, Vygotsky proposed another theory of cognitive development which looked development in social interaction point of view. Although these theories differ in some aspects, they both consider playing as a key element in child development.

This paper will discuss Piaget and Vygotsky theories of development and attempt to relate play to the theories. In addition, the paper will cover the applications of these theories in real life situation by giving real life examples, as used by teachers to their students. Piaget looked at the cognitive development concept from a biological point of view. To him, the key principles in the child’s growth and intellect are adaptation and organization. This theory indicates all organisms should have the ability to adapt to the environment, which is a necessity for survival.According to this theory, learning involves constructivist process thus knowledge is not acquired from the environment and imitation of other people’s actions.

Rather, knowledge is acquired through a slow but a continuous process of learning. Piaget noted that children need three basic kinds of knowledge in order to develop; they need physical, social and logical-mathematical, and psychological knowledge (Hughes, 2009, p. 29). This theory also notes that physical knowledge is essential for survival and growth of the body.Physical knowledge is obtained by performing activities which allow children to observe and make conclusions of physical characteristics of objects. On the other hand, social knowledge is obtained from experience when a child interacts with other children.

Children are, therefore, able to apply what they gain from social situations. Logical-mathematical knowledge allows children to discover the relationship between objects, ideas and people. Lastly, psychological knowledge is essential for the growth of intellectual structure of a child’s mind.According to this theory, adaptation encompasses two stages, assimilation and accommodation process. Assimilation involves taking in new things or ideas, from the outside world and trying to fit it in the existing structure. Children take information and use it at their pleasure without necessarily adapting their thinking to it.

The accommodation process involves the existing structure adjusting to new acquired materials. The physical body reacts by internal process, such as digestion, and responds by growing and changing in size.On the other hand, minds reacts by accommodating new intellectual materials and responds by growing intellectually (Oakley, 2004, p. 27). In the development of a child, play is a crucial element to consider. This is essentially because, as children play they encounter (assimilate) new material.

If the new ideas are not fitting to their current knowledge, a sense of confusion will result (disequilibrium). Thereafter, the child may master new idea by adjusting current ideas (accommodation) to the new information and, therefore, learn something new.To Piaget, there are four critical stages which a child must pass through during cognitive development (Watson, 2004, p. 38). First, there is sensorimotor stage, which starts from birth to about two years, apply motor activity without the use of symbols. Children gain knowledge through physical interaction and experience, however, knowledge is limited at this stage.

They learn through trial and error since they cannot predict reactions. However, as children become more mobile, their abilities for cognitive development increases and early language development begin.Between seven to nine months, children develop object permanence, and they realize that an object still exists even after it is out of their sight (Keenan, 2009, p. 24). Preoperational, Stage which occurs between two and seven years, is the second stage in cognitive development. During this stage, children begin to use language as a way of communication and their memory and imagination develop.

They also engage in make-believe and they in symbols which allows flexibility and planning in their problem solving skills. During this stage, children are egocentric; they think all people view the world as they see (Martin, 2008, p. 0). They also begin to remember past events and even imagine future events (Watson, 2005, p.

65). Concrete operational is the next stage of Jean Piaget theory of child development. The third stage occurs between seven and eleven years. The stage is marked by conservation whereby a child understands that things still maintains their attributes even if they change their essential appearance. Children begin to demonstrate their intellectual development by using logic and manipulation of symbols which relates to concrete objects.Their egocentric nature of thinking becomes less and their awareness of external events increases (Martin, 2004, p.

40). The last stage of development according to Piaget theory is the formal operational stage. This stage begins when a child is about eleven years. . A child will acquire another level of understanding during this stage, in addition to the ability of, applying logical principles attained in concrete operational stage to more abstract and hypothetical situations. The child, who is now an adult can formulate a hypothesis and be able to think about concepts and abstract relationship.

They become interested about the broad social issues such as fairness, justice and equality. Piaget concludes that development is a lifelong process, and new structures are needed after operational stage (Martin, 2004, p. 40). Piaget theory of development can be used in school for development and growth of children. The implication of this theory is an adaptation of instructions to the development of the learner and the instructions should be consistent with the learner’s level of development.

The role of a teacher is to facilitate learning of through the provision of a variety of experiences.This will enable a child to experiment and explore, which in turn encourages new understanding. Teachers should use concrete hands on experience to allow students learn and acquire another level of understanding (Watson, 200 4, p. 65 and 66). Piaget theory has found wide application in school. For instance, the teachers teach children through sensory experiences whereby they are given objects to touch, smell and taste.

As the children grow, they can be given texture names, colour names, colour names and the names of the objects around them.In addition, they can also be taught new vocabularies accompanied by pictures; however, teachers should keep in mind the level of their understanding. As they progress, children are given complex problems, e. g. maths, whereby they are required to use logic. They are, therefore, able to make more connections with reality rather than fantasy.

Secondly, children can be involved with plays like hide and seek at the primary level. These kinds of plays help them to develop physical skills and enhance their coordination.They can also be involved with game of numbers, riddles and coded messages. As they grow, their plays become more organised and structured.

Teachers can organize games and sport events with rules. This level teaches them that winning comes as a result of following the rules. As they progress, they can be organised into clubs and team sports which helps them in understanding how they can fit to the societal system. Vygotsky proposed another theory for cognitive development.

This theory places emphasis on the fundamental rule of social interaction in the child’s cognitive development.It notes that community plays a significant role to develop a child and that they adapt through their cultural and social interactions with people who are more skilled, such teachers or parents. The basis of this theory is the idea that children will use tools such as language, maps and numbering systems in order to develop high level of thinking. According to this theory, language is a hugely critical factor in children development since it helps them to develop new ideas and control their behaviours. They also use language to engage in internal dialogue, which helps in solving difficult task.Vygotsky theory of development is based on three main principles, which are zone of proximal development (ZPD and Scaffolding or more knowledgeable other (MNO).

The theory notes that there is a difference between what a child can learn independently and what they can learn under the guidance of skilled instructor. This is difference is captured in the zone of proximity development. Vygotsky sees ZPN as the area in which most guidance and instruction should be given. This will allow children develop essential skills they will later use on their own.

He also notes that every day experience plays a vital role in children’s development because they learn through social interactions with skilled helpers, such as teachers or parents. The theory suggests that tutors should use cooperative learning exercises (Martin, 2008, p. 41). On the other hand, more Knowledgeable other principle of the theory refers to people who are more skilful and knowledgeable. When these people interact with children, they provide them with problem solving skills which serves as cognitive scaffolding, which help children to gain the ability to function independently (retrieved from rojects. coe.

uga. edu). Vygotsky theory of child development has found a wide application in schools. The current application of Vygotsky theory is in the reciprocal teaching which is used to improve the abilities of children to learn from texts. Here, teachers and pupils collaborate in learning summarizing, clarifying, questioning and predicting, through practicing.

Teachers should also come up with group activities, which allow more skilled peers to interact with less skilled children. With the assistance of adults, children can perform tasks which would be impossible on their own.Scaffolding should thus be used whereby the helper adjusts their level of assistance in accordance to the child’s performance level. Lastly, zone of proximal development should guide assessment methods, which describes what a child can do without the help of a more skilled person. It should consider both actual and potential development of a child (retrieved from projects.

coe. uga. edu). Vygotsky theory is can be simplified for quick learning of children.

For example, children are shown pennies representing each sound in a word (e. . four pennies for four sounds). In order for them to master the words, they may be requested to place the items on the table showing each sound in a word. Finally, the teacher may ask the children to indentify the words without using pennies. In this case, pennies act like scaffolding to help children move from being assisted to unassisted during a task.

In advanced levels, such as high school, a lab tutor may provide students with scaffolding by first giving them detailed experiment procedures and then a brief outline.Thereafter, the tutor may ask the students to set up the experiment on their own. In conclusion, it is clear that Piaget and Vygotsky theories differ in some aspects; however, both theories indicate that children development is a slow but continuous process, which can be achieved as children, interacts with one another, with the surroundings as well as with more skilled persons. These theories, therefore, shows the fundamental aspect of play the development and learning of children.Teachers can effectively use these theories to enhance development of children, but they must take into account their levels of growth and understanding.

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