Exploring Play for Early Childhood Studies


Mandy Andrews

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  • Back Matter
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  • Copyright

    The Author

    Mandy Andrews is a senior lecturer in Early Childhood at the University of Worcester on both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Formerly a Play Officer for a local authority she has a range of children's play experience from running an adventure playground and environmental play activities, through to community play projects and running a large Children's Centre in Cornwall before moving to the University of Worcester. Mandy has also been a playwork trainer for many years supporting programmes in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, and Cornwall. She has undertaken research into children's play in early years settings, outdoors and at the Eden Project and continues to pursue a research interest in this area.


    Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders and to obtain their permission for use of copyright material. The publisher and author will gladly receive any instruction enabling them to rectify any error or omission in subsequent editions.

    The author would like to thank all those who have helped her to source the information and images used in this book. Special thanks go to the following: Sian and Cassie Andrews; Jacob Cockle for the photograph of the play face in Chapter 1; Michelle, Josh and Jayden Dunkley for the use of the photograph in Chapter 5; Annie Vigar, Jeremy Vigar, Emma Waller and Mark Gregory for the use of the photograph of Poppy and Kitty Vigar with Zac Gregory in Chapter 6; Raymond Andrews and Laurent Depolla for the photograph of boys looking at the swan in Chapter 8.

    Acknowledgement of thanks also to Bob Hughes for his permission to use his Taxonomy of Play Types (2002 and 2010 updated) in Chapter 2 and to Roger Hart for use of the Ladder of Participation diagram found in Chapter 9 extracted from the Unicef report ‘Children's Participation: From Tokenism to Citizenship’ Florence, Italy: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 1992.

  • Time Line

    5000BCEarly toys found in China dating from this era.
    2400BCGreek wine vases depict children playing with toys.
    2000BCOldest toy found in Britain – a small carved animal placed in a child's grave at Stonehenge.
    375–360BCPlato states in the Republic that learning should be put before children as play. He recognises that play has importance for social and physical development.
    384–322BCAristotle, a student of Plato, links play to catharsis or the release of complex concerns by bringing them to the surface.
    43-410ADRomans invade and stay in Britain. Roman toys found in recent times include dolls, five-stones and model animals.
    400–1066ADAnglo-Saxon period children have a range of home-made toys, games, model animals, spinning tops, dolls and small-sized tools. Time for play is limited as children worked.
    1000ADChinese painting depicts 100 children at play, dressing up and taking part in physical games.
    1066–1154Normans invade Britain and there is a rise in church influence on morality and the restriction of play.
    1154–1485Middle Ages – a lack of evidence of play.
    1497Erasmus argues for enjoyment to be applied to study.
    1560Pieter Bruegel the Elder paints Children's Games. The painting shows children at play in Flanders, including games of piggyback, marbles, dressing up, chase.
    1592–1670Comenius, a philosopher, states that children should learn through enjoyable first-hand experiences.
    1632–1704John Locke writes several pieces on education. Considered to be the first ‘empiricist’, he believes children to be a ‘blank slate’ or tabula rasa waiting to take on new information through the senses. He promotes that learning should be fun.
    1712–1778Jean Jacques Rousseau publishes ‘Emile – On Education’ in 1762. He argues that children are naturally inclined to be active explorers and social beings, instinctively and actively learning for future survival. He asserts that children learn more from the playground than the classroom.
    1724–1804Immanuel Kant argues for a balanced approach in which children are born with some cognitive understanding and potential. He believes this is developed through the child's informed interaction with their environment and other people – foundations of constructivist approach.
    1746–1827Johann Pestalozzi establishes a school in 1805 based on Rousseau's ideas, linking education to nature rather than nurture. Pestalozzi stresses the importance of suitable learning environments and play as spontaneity and self-activity.
    1771–1858Robert Owen sets up the first infants' school and nursery in Scotland in 1816, placing it adjacent to the mills for women workers. The intention is to care for and to educate the new population for social benefit. Play is important.
    1759–1805Friedrich von Schiller, philosopher and poet, describes play and the play drive as the expression of exuberant energy and the origin of all art.
    1782–1852Friedrich Froebel opens the first Kindergarten in 1837 – and suggests that educational play is important in young children's development to help the unfolding child to absorb knowledge and develop imagination and language. He establishes set resources, gifts and occupations (planned tasks).
    1859Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species is published, influencing interest in evolution and study of animals in context.
    1820–1895Herbert Spencer presents the surplus energy theory in which play is presented as a means to ‘let off steam’. He draws analogies from industrial processes and considers that children with abundant energy also need pressure-release mechanisms.
    1849–1936Ivan Pavlov carries out his famed behaviourist work with animals (and conditioned reflex work). This is later applied to humans by the behaviourists.
    1854–1938Sigmund Freud reintroduces the ideas of catharsis (see Aristotle). Play helps to release negative feelings resulting from traumatic events. Play and dreams are windows to the subconscious.
    1861–1925Rudolf Steiner is concerned with spirituality and supporting the essential nature of the child. He proposes that the role of the adult, the environment and natural resources are important in developing a free human being.
    1861–1946Karl Groos, a German psychologist, writes The Play of Animals in 1898, arguing that play is essential for survival in later life. He uses observation to inform his ideas.
    1860–1931Margaret McMillan, with her sister Rachel McMillan, campaigns for health and education reforms for poor children. Her writings indicate a value placed on play and active learning. She opens an open-air nursery and training school in Peckham in 1914.
    1870–1952Maria Montessori develops the Montessori learning method. She opens her first casa bambini (children's house) in 1907. She advocates for choice in children's learning and provides real-life learning experiences in a planned and structured environment which develops the inner lives of children through sensory and scientific experiences.
    1872–1945Johan Huizinga writes of play as a culture creating force, but one that must be pure and free. He advocates for play as part of the generation of new society. He was killed by the German forces just before the end of World War Two.
    1884–1924G Stanley Hall proposes in 1906 that recapitulation play helps children to work through primitive instincts and with it the development of the species – echoing human development towards civilisation through activities such as hunting, gathering and den building.
    1896–1934Lev Vygotsky researches play and the psychology of development. He is interested in the value of play in its social context: a key theory is the zone of proximal development. He states that in play a child is always above his average age. His works are not widely translated until the 1960s.
    1896–1980Jean Piaget identifies play as a vital part of developing mental frameworks (schemas) which support cognitive development through the process of assimilation and accommodation. He considers child development in stages and also recognises an emotional impact of disequilibriation.
    1885–1948Susan Isaacs, a psychologist, joins an experimental school, the Malting House. Here she observes children at play, taking careful notes. She declares play to be a child's life's work in 1929. Isaacs and Piaget communicate about play and psychological development.
    b.1902Mildred Parten publishes her developmental Play Types relating to social play development from unoccupied to co-operative, in 1933.
    1919First Waldorf School (later to become Steiner Waldorf schools) opens in Stuttgart (funded by the Waldorf Astoria Company) with an intention to address class exclusion and support a better social state for the working class. Emphasis on play as the spiritual, creative movement and learning by ‘doing’.
    1895–1982Anna Freud contributes to the field of psychoanalysis. With Melanie Klein (1882–1960), she draws on the work of her father (see Sigmund Freud) to develop the use of play as therapy, to play out the troubled feelings in children.
    1904–1990B F Skinner develops the behaviourist approach of operant conditioning – with children being encouraged to do something for tangible reward.
    1915–presentJerome K Bruner, a strong advocate of play, sees children as active learners. He draws on Vygotsky's social constructivist ideas to describe scaffolding. He stresses the importance of learning through first-hand experience and play.
    1924–1929Malting House experimental school runs in Cambridge. Susan Isaacs takes careful observations of children at play. As a result of her studies, the practices of this school remain influential today.
    1925National Playing Fields Association is established to ensure that everyone should have access to free, local outdoor space for play and recreation and sport.
    b.1925Albert Bandura draws on the work of Skinner and develops the behaviourist approach of social learning theory (ie that children are influenced by the behaviour modelled by others).
    1943First adventure playground opens in Copenhagen, Denmark, called Skrammellegepladsen or junk playground.
    1948First UK ‘adventure playground’ opens in Camberwell, London. Such playgrounds are described as places where most of the site can be used by the children for games of their own invention (adventureplay.org.uk).
    1961Pre-School Playgroups Association is set up to offer childcare to working mothers through a co-operative approach.
    1963National Bureau for Co-operation in Child-Care (NBCCC), which later becomes the National Children's Bureau, is established, maintaining a focus on play.
    1963Reggio Emilia education system begins in Italy. First pre-schools using the Reggio Approach (developed after World War Two) are opened in the Italian town of the same name.
    1967Plowden Report, the first review of Primary Education since 1931, states that play is the central activity in nursery schools and infant schools. This highly influential education report recognises that play is important for children's learning and development and prompted a renewed interest in play as learning through the 1970s.
    1969Piaget and Inhelder write their cognitive development response to behaviourism and conditioned learning. Play features strongly in the text.
    1969Iona and Peter Opie publish their research into children's games around Britain collected in the 1960s.
    1970National Children's Bureau emerges from the NBCCC and develops a remit to support play, later hosting the Children's Play Council.
    1971Simon Nicholson writes of the theory of loose parts in which in an environment the degree of inventiveness is proportional to the number of variables. This theme is picked up by the play movement.
    1970sVivian Gussin Paley writes of the importance of play to learning in the USA. Her research raises the profile of play and embeds inclusion.
    1979Lillian Katz introduces the concept of dispositions for learning.
    1979Johnson and Johnson Paediatric Round Table discussion on play in which Sutton-Smith, Hutt, Csikszentmihalyi and other play researchers publicly discuss play theory. This is subsequently published as an influential document for the field.
    1988The National Curriculum is introduced for all children over five.
    1989Children Act comes into being, an overarching act relating to children's well-being. This gives local authorities the duty to provide day care and play provisions for children under eight. Also brings in inspection requirement.
    1991Tina Bruce writes of play as a process, not product and uses the term free-flow play.
    1991United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is ratified by the UK Government recognising, among a range of rights, all children's right to play.
    1992Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) is established and has the duty to inspect children's play provisions where registered.
    1995Pre-school Learning Alliance is the new name for the former Pre-school Playgroup Association.
    1996Ferre Laevers introduces the Leuven involvement scale and emotional importance of children being at home in a setting as prior condition for learning and involvement.
    1997Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) and aligned Researching Effective Pedagogy in the Early Years (REPEY) research commences, following the development of 3,000 children across England.
    1998Perry Else and Gordon Sturrock explore psychological concepts of ludic play, play cues and play responses.
    1999Sure Start, a New Labour Government initiative, is introduced to support children and families, reduce poverty and offer opportunity. Family play sessions feature among a number of other initiatives in the Sure Start Centres.
    2000Best Play is published, stating what play provision should do for children.
    2000Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage embeds play within early years provision and support for learning. There is widespread concern that it actually restricts play in introducing a curriculum for the under fives.
    2001Bob Hughes writes Evolutionary Playwork and Reflective Analytic Practice in which he claims that children at play demonstrate recapitulation, the exploration of stages of evolution through play.
    2002Welsh Assembly Government Play Policy is released.
    2003Every Child Matters is issued as a green paper. It considers childhood as holistic with five overarching outcomes essential for all children (stay safe; be healthy; enjoy and achieve; economic well-being; make a positive contribution).
    2003Initial EPPE and REPEY reports released. Siraj-Blatchford et al. identify that practitioners have a narrow concept of play, largely relating to imagination/role play and the outdoors.
    2003Birth to Three Matters is issued. This is a highly praised pack to support learning in children aged 0–3. The document is thoroughly researched and uses play approaches.
    2003Fraser Brown writes of play and compound flexibility.
    2003Chris Athey writes of research exploring children's schemas.
    2003Scottish Curriculum for Excellence is released.
    2004Getting Serious About Play: A Review of Children's Play is produced by a panel chaired by Frank Dobson MP. This triggers funding for play projects in England.
    2007Play England is established from the Children's Play Council as part of a Big Lottery Fund project to promote children's play across England.
    2007English Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), a framework and statutory guidance for early years education and care is issued.
    2008The First National UK Play Strategy is released.
    2008Scottish Government creates a policy framework for play.
    2008EYFS is amended slightly and re-released.
    2008The Welsh Foundation Phase curriculum, a play-based approach to learning for the under-eights, is introduced by the Welsh Government.
    2010Scottish Curriculum for Excellence is amended and re-released and focuses on an active learning approach from three years, with play as an integral part.
    2010MP Frank Field's report into poverty and children's life chances highlights access to play opportunities as a predictor of children's successful life chances.
    2011Dame Clare Tickell review of the EYFS is issued.
    April 2012New EYFS is issued. The main Statutory Framework document has limited reference to play, but support documents promote learning through play.


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