The Importance of Play In Children’s Learning. Play is the language of children and is crucial to their development. Childrenof guiding a child through learning experiences by using language to help create the thought concepts needed to meet challenges. Mediated learning experiences provide a range of resources a child might use to solve problem without explicitly telling them how to solve the problem. If one simply gives the solution to a child, an opportunity to develop higher level thinking skills is lost. By allowing the child to make associations between previous experiences and the resources around them, they learn important developmental skills. Words and language are ‘resources’ that can be used to surround events in a child’s experience.
They are symbols that assist in the formulation of the thought constructs that influence future responses. Therapeutic games provide a mediated learning experience of socio-emotional skills with a skilled game leader. Have a natural inclination to play and having fun is an important issue to them. The reciprocity between play and learning equips them for physical, social, cognitive and linguistic challenges (Smilansky & Shefatya 1990). Opportunities for language acquisition, communication development, hypothesis testing, problem-solving, behaviour rehearsal and the formation of mental constructs arise in the natural setting of a child’s game. Prosocial skills like turn taking, explaining, negotiating, accommodating and sharing are exercised when two or more players are involved (Connolly et al, 1988). While engaged in play, children create ‘scripts’ that reflect the shared cognitive themes related to their cultural understanding (Fromberg, 1992).
The helping professions use games, psychodrama, role-plays and simulations to develop insight and empathy (Dromi & Krampf, 1986; Porter, 1995; Sheridan et al, 1995). Malouff and Schutte (1998) field-tested therapeutic games by evaluating the types of therapeutic experiences produced in the games and the extent to which players enjoyed them. The results supported the effectiveness of therapeutic games with children, adolescents and adults. In a meta-analysis of moral education interventions, Schlaefli et al (1985) concluded that programmes that involved moral dilemma discussion and psychological development, ran for a course of 3 to 12 weeks and involved a supportive adult, produced significant results.
Therapeutic games meet these criteria as well as being highly motivating for children. According to the social cognitive theories of Bandura (1986), children’s learning depends on their social milieu as much as their internal, inherited characteristics. By observing and imitating the interactions of those around them, children integrate behaviour into a framework of internal meaning. He concluded that programmes based on modelling, coaching, behavioural rehearsal and social reinforcement yield significant results. Vygotsky (1976), a child development theorist, postulated the importance of language as a mediating factor between a child and an event. He suggested adults help children develop higher level thinking skills through a process called ‘mediated learning’, that is, the process.