Childhood games play an integral role in the early years of growth and development. It provides numerous evolutionary advantages, which contribute to the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional well-being of young ones. During the initial years of life, children are immensely influenced by the environment and the people around them through playful interactions (Saracho, 2012). Developmentally appropriate plays and tasks provide the most important opportunity for active, meaningful, and practical learning experiences for children. Although games are considerably undervalued, play-based education programs foster the optimal evolution of toddlers across all developmental domains.
Importance of Play in the Early Childhood Curriculum
Play-based education activities create meaningful opportunities which intertwine development and learning. Playful experiences provide children with the most diversified opportunity, which simultaneously stimulates multiple centers of their growth and wellbeing (Saracho, 2012; Syomwene & Mwaka, 2018). According to Faas et al. (2017), childhood play boosts the holistic welfare of young ones due to their multidimensional nature. Children’s cognitive capacities are stimulated by undertaking mentally challenging tasks, such as figuring out the correct approach, which will enable them to build with larger blocks when the small ones are unavailable (Saracho, 2012). Therefore, incorporating play sessions in the early childhood curriculum allows young ones to master their world, learn, and develop.
Additionally, plays mediate children’s developmental trajectory by creating appropriate, effective relationships with their peers and adult caregivers. As a result, interactive games become a foundation from which other skills and competencies grow. Nelson et al. (2019) contend that such psychosocial deprivation often results in various long and short-term implications, including behavioral and psychological impairments. In the absence of designated playtimes in the early childhood curriculum, children cannot develop and sharpen their resilience, communication, and coping skills, which they learn as they navigate the inherent social and relationship challenges.
Further, childhood games satisfy the basic human need to express curiosity, imagination, and creativity, which are critical resources in the modern knowledge-driven world. Play provides the ideal opportunity for young ones to convey their ideas and test their knowledge. Playful activities become the basis for inquiry and exploration, which generate random ideas, divergent thinking, and innovative concepts. These tasks stimulate learning from trial and error and problem-solving skills, which ultimately enrich the knowledge acquisition process. Thus, games should constitute a critical component of the early childhood curriculum as an approach to enhance holistic learning and development.
Role of Adult Caregiver in Providing Play-Based Experiences
Adult caregivers are critical pillars in providing and supporting developmentally appropriate play-based experiences. Early childhood educators are responsible for exposing children to appropriate and available opportunities and ensuring the young ones participate in a wide array of playful activities (Saracho, 2012). The provided materials should be intellectually arousing to enhance the quality of play and entice engagement. The design and materials of the play should be contextualized to befit the respective content areas of mathematics, sciences, social studies, art, music, language, and literary domains.
Adult caregivers and educators facilitate and support content-specific play-based learning experiences. Reikerås (2020) argues that diverse play skills foster a broad set of skills. This implies that suitable games should be selected to promote particular learning concepts. Typical mathematical quantitative skills, including making distinctions between one and many, and bijections can be achieved through games, which involve the use of blocks, threading patterns, and bead boxes (Reikerås, 2020). These materials also support the development of basic geometrical competencies, including drawing, identifying, and experimenting with shapes. Moreover, dramatic plays and writing tasks can encourage the acquisition of social skills, language, and literacy competencies. Therefore, the role of adult caregivers entails the provision of a safe environment and supportive play materials which foster playful learning.
Additionally, adult caregivers should participate and involve themselves in various plays. By offering companionship, the educators demonstrate how a particular game is played and may even assist in forming groups for the associate and cooperative plays. Helping children plan the roles of dramatic play, encouraging peer engagement, and pairing them in educationally useful formats validate their efforts and even encourage the progress into complex play levels (Saracho, 2012). Such an approach sparks the toddler’s communication abilities and provides an opportunity to think and formulate an answer in an entertaining format (Gol-Guven, 2017). Thus, adult caregivers play an influential role in childhood games by participating, validating, and constructing appropriate scenarios which promote learning.
Play-Based Centers and Content Areas
Play-based strategies integrate both child-initiated and teacher-supported activities which focus on knowledge and skills acquisition of the specific domain areas. Educators evaluate the various play-based centers and suitably blend them with the diverse content area to encourage the accomplishment of competence development. These approaches help children achieve mastery of the multiple skills significantly easier since they learn best when they are socially engaged with other people and interacting with objects in their environment.
Art as a Content Area and Materials for Manipulatives and Carpentry and Woodworking
As a content area, art can effectively be taught through play-based learning, which includes various materials to promote an in-depth understanding of artistic concepts. These assistive items provide experiences that foster creativity, imagination, and divergent thinking. In the manipulative play-based center, materials such as porcelain, paints, crayons, water, dough, and sand effectively engage the learners’ feelings and often lead to innovative productions. In carpentry and woodworking, items such as wooden blocks, twigs, sawdust, driftwood, and tree barks can be introduced to children in their early years of learning.
Role of Caregiver in Manipulatives and Carpentry and Woodworking
Adult caregivers are indispensable in children’s plays as facilitators and supporters. Effective teachers provide the best opportunity and flexibility for learners to maximize the benefits of play-based learning activities. In manipulatives, carpentry, and woodworking games, the caregivers can participate, comment, instruct, or help the children to familiarize themselves with the materials and ensure safe interactions. For instance, educators can teach the students how to prepare or mix ingredients for the dough and then demonstrate how to mold an elephant. The presence, companion, and proximity of the teachers are critical invalidating their efforts and encouraging exploration.
Play-Based Centers’ Modifications for Children with Special Needs
Making adaptations and modifications in play-based centers is fundamental to ensure inclusive participation for learners who may have difficulties engaging in regular play activities. Movahedazarhouligh (2018) asserts that mobility problems, visual impairments, and other disabilities impede a toddler’s ability to find, investigate, engage, and comprehensively explore they provided toys or maintain relationships with their peers. This implies that environmental, social, and physical alterations and improvements are imperative to accommodate the interests of learners with special needs (Plessis & Ewing, 2017). Thus, teachers should innovatively modify the learning centers to ensure they accommodate even the children who are living with disabilities.
In manipulative play-based centers, teachers can meet the needs of children with mobility problems by limiting the number of toys and ensuring the appropriate arrangement of the play environment to minimize intrusiveness and accommodate supportive materials. For instance, reducing the size of the play area will create a provision for a wide aisle for wheelchairs and ensure that children are in close contact with their non-disabled peers. In carpentry and woodworking, teachers can provide construction and working areas with adjustable heights and tilt tables to ensure access by learners on wheelchairs and keep the floor uncluttered.
Modifications for Mathematics with Manipulatives and Block Play-Based Center for Visually Impaired Students
Manipulatives and block plays can support the development of mathematic concepts in young children. Modifications such as high contrast objects and protected block areas ideally on three sides are critical in enhancing the visibility of the items and minimizing the possibility of the items dropping from the creative zone. These assistive materials and adjustments ensure that visually impaired learners acquire mathematical skills just as effectively as their sighted peers.
Modifications for Social Studies with Dramatic and House-Keeping Play-Based Center for Hearing Impaired Learners
Dramatic and housekeeping play stations provide effective learning opportunities for social studies since children get the advantage of interacting with their peers. Hearing-impaired students encounter difficulties in developing an in-depth understanding of the roles of family members, learning about community helpers, and experimenting with relationships. However, modifications such as visual aids, emphasizing instructional clarity, assistive listening devices, and integrating gestures and facial expressions can significantly enhance the acquisition of social skills for learners with hearing challenges.
Materials and Role of Caregiver in Mathematics and Social Studies Content Areas
Materials such as seashells, nuts, beads, puzzles, blocks, and cardboard cylinders can be integrated into the manipulative and play-based centers to enable students to actively explore and connect with mathematical concepts. These hands-on approaches deepen the understanding of abstract ideas by utilizing physical models to illustrate conceptual thinking. The role of the caregiver entails ensuring the safe use of materials, stimulating exploration, and validating children’s efforts.
Social studies help students understand how the world works and make sense of all the occurrences. Materials such as stuffed animals, garages with small vehicles, kitchens with utensils, dolls of diverse sizes, grocery stores, and cleaning items including brooms, can be integrated into dramatic and housekeeping play-based centers. These resources provide a stimulating, aesthetically pleasing, and engaging environment to enrich the acquisition of social, physical, and cognitive skills. The caregiver’s roles include ensuring the materials are developmentally appropriate, hazard-free, and capable of broadening children’s experiences and exploration.
Field Trip for Art Students
Field trips provide students with invaluable opportunities through which they view the world through a broad window. A field trip to an art museum offers the ideal chance to stimulate multiple domains of knowledge acquisition and skills development. An art-oriented trip immerses the learner into the real world from where they can see artworks that display the imagination, critical thinking, and creativity of the artists. Additionally, such a trip increases the school-goers’ sensitivity and keenness to details. It ignites the ability to express themselves in diverse ways and make multiple discoveries about a single subject. Therefore, a trip to an art museum would immensely support learning by exposing the learners to the real world.
Childhood games are fundamental activities that support young ones’ cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development. Early childhood is a critical stage in which the essential functions of a person are established and nurtured. Adult caregivers and educators play a useful in designing, creating, and supporting the developmentally appropriate games which promote learning and the overall wellbeing of the children. However, different plays apply to diverse content areas, and teachers should evaluate and determine the best play-based experience for a specific discipline.
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Movahedazarhouligh, S. (2018). Teaching play skills to children with disabilities: research-based interventions and practices. Early Childhood Education Journal, 46(6), 587–599. Web.
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Plessis, J., & Ewing, B. (2017). Reasonable adjustments in learning programs: Teaching length, mass, and capacity to students with intellectual disability. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 5(10), 1795–1805. Web.
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Syomwene, A. & Mwaka, M. (2018). Significance of play in early childhood education curriculum. Journal of African Studies in Education Management and Leadership, 10, 57–74. Web.