Children love to play. They are so engrossed in play activities that it is not always easy to dissuade them from it. In many cases, a child’s play is spontaneous. Children do not need any adult or external prompting before they start to play.
However, free play may not necessarily mean that play is completely free from adult intervention; rather it implies that when initiated by children, an adult may come in to guide them especially when play becomes purposeless or dangerous.
Nevertheless, adults are not supposed to have a direct control over children’s play while attention to process means that play gives more importance to the activities involved rather than goals (Ogunsanwo, 2004).
In the light of the immense importance of play in the growth, development and learning of the preschool children, it is expected that children’s play be facilitated with the provision of play materials designed to meet the requirements of developmental appropriateness in the preschoolers.
Purpose of Play
Adults are able to recognize play as practice, spontaneous and relaxing. To a child however, play is real work. Play gives the child a chance to:
- Develop a mind of inquiry;
- Explore and manipulate the environment;
- Arouse his curiosity;
- Create, imagine, experiment, express;
- Develop self-image.
Play is self-learning and it is a source of information about the environment of the child.
Read Also: Planning the Learning Environment
The Play Environment
An interesting challenge in the field of early education is the use of play in teaching the children.
If the child’s environment permits it, the child can learn whatever is available to learn, and if the child permits it, the environment will teach him everything it has to teach. The child learns to move when he can move around, handle and manipulate objects.
Teaching through play therefore means providing play activities that will engage the child activity. The play method infuses activities with learning (VLNET, 1999). In order to do this effectively, the children need materials to interact with as they play.
The following play materials are especially recommended for use in daycare institutions:
Rocking chairs cribs Rattles soft terry/space toys, Meeting toys Yarn balls, Hand mirrors Plastic bracelets, Bounce chairs Household items, Small bathtubs Pacifiers, Green plants, Music boxes. Record players, Mobiles etc.
For the Art Area in a children’s classroom to be enriched, the under-listed items can be useful:
Erasers, drawing paper paint, Crayons brushes Tablets, Clay Construction paper Paste Marketing pens, Scissors, Aprons, or smocks Yarn Junk box
Large Muscle Activity Area
The following items can be quite useful in fostering healthy physical development in preschool children: Balance, boards Sandbox Wagons Ladders Tricycles Blocks Traffic signs Platforms wheelbarrows and Jungle gyms.
Dramatic Play Area
The Dramatic Play Area may be stocked with the following materials: Furniture Puppet stage Variety of dress clothes Dolls Props etc.
Read Also: Learning and Teaching Model for Children
The Manipulative Area may feature such materials as the under listed: Tinkertoys Blocks Beads Puzzles Pegboards and pegs Blocks Table game etc.
The children’s Library Area should feature some of the underlisted materials:
Books Story books Chairs Tape recorder Carpet Flannel boards Catalogs Pictures Homemade books.
Water and Sand Play Area
Children often enjoy playing with nature. The following materials will enhance their play in the Water and Sand Play Area: A plastic wading pool.
Water table with dishpan Squirt, bottles, Funnels, Sponges, Food coloring, Detergent, Coffee pots Doll clothes Straws construction equipment.
Children’s interest in nature can be used as a basis to foster scientific skills of exploration and inquiry. Thus, the Science Corner need to be equipped with materials that include:
Balancing scales compasses, Magnets, Magnifying glasses, Seeds Various materials to dismantle e.g. Gardening tools clocks, pencil sharpeners, old toys. Plants Simple machines, Aquarium Terrarium, Animals, Rocks, and Sea shells.
In conclusion, teaching through play therefore requires providing play materials and activities that will engage the child actively.
Play serves many purposes in the growth and development of children. Play is a source of information about the environment of the child. The play method infuses activities with learning.
Many materials could be used to foster learning in many areas. The materials could be grouped as infant materials, materials for Art Area, Large Muscle Activity Area, etc.