‘The benefit. As opposed to free play, there

‘The term play is often used to
label most forms of children’s social and non-social behaviour, regardless of
whether it is play or not.’ (Pellegrini,
2009). There are many types of play found within an early year’s classroom,
each with a different end goal. Defining play can be anything from children’s
social interaction with others to just ‘playtime’. Play can be one of the most
important things in a child’s
development, helping to develop cognitive skills and social and emotional
development. Play helps children learn about themselves, their likes and
dislikes, consequences and emotions. I am particularly interested on how play
helps with social and emotional development, along with different types of play
and how they develop certain skills. ‘Play is essential to development because
it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well- being of
children and youth.’ (Ginsburg, 2013). Ginsberg’s understanding suggests that
play is something that all children need to develop skills in, if not then they
may not develop more important factors.



Free play is the most common type
of play used within schools and early year classrooms. Guided by pupils
themselves, it is vital for free play to be incorporated into an early year’s
classroom – it gives children the ability to explore and be creative freely.
Through this type of play children are able to develop co-operative skills and problem-solving
skills which is a major benefit. As opposed to free play, there are guided and
structured play where play is guided by the class teacher. A type of play that
is the complete opposite to free play is guided or structured play. Guided or
structured play is play that is guided by the teacher, the class teacher
structures guided play in a way that it supports the pupils with a class topic.
Benefits of this type of play include following instructional directions competently
and developing collaboration skills.

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Along with free play there are
other types such as independent play, onlooker play and unoccupied play. Independent
play is where a child plays of their own accord with no guidance from friends
or more knowledgeable adult. This type of play encourages self-sufficiency and independence.
When a child observes other children playing and doesn’t take part in any of
the action, this is known as onlooker play. (“All the Types of Play We Fit in a Day at Forest Lake
Childcare – Childcare Forest Lake – Joseph Banks Education &
Childcare”, 2017)



Learning through the use of role
play areas


Role play areas in a classroom
are important for them to develop everyday social skills, it helps give a deeper
understanding about the wider world. Role play areas are often consisting of
different jobs, shops, environments such as airports – they often relate to
different themes and class topics.






Emergency services themed role


The picture of the role play area to the left
is of a police station with a wider theme of, most likely, emergency services.
In this play area, the children are able to recognise different vocabulary
relating to the emergency services. In this particular role play of a police
station, problem solving is a key area of exploration where students can
develop teamwork skills and problem solve ‘crimes’ through drama. The use of
drama helps develop different emotions and understanding of other’s emotions
around the child. This is an expansion of social and emotional development. Using
drama as an exploration tool in the EYFS incredibly helps with broadening their
understanding of situations and emotions.


Supermarket themed role play


The second image is of a role play area of a
supermarket where the children can play, through the use of drama. They can depict
certain roles that each of them play (eg, shop keeper and customer). There is
an ability for mathematics to be involved into the role play, with the addition
of monies and items of products (such as fruit etc). There are signs on the
wall using mathematics, encouraging the children to use maths whilst in the
role play area. The link of mathematics helps build on prior knowledge in
future lessons, whether that’s in the EYFS or further up in the school.


Creative and Expressive learning
is one of the most important aspects of a child’s education, it allows them to
exert their energy in a productive and artistic way. After exercising their
energy through an inventive outlet, this enables children to be successful in
their learning as a whole. Cross-curricular learning through creative studies
helps students link areas of learning and prior knowledge.


There are various different types
of play in the classroom (learning through play, n.d.), ranging from;

Dramatic play

Small world play

Water / sand play

Playdough play (linked to creative play)

Creative play


Learning through dramatic play


The use of role play allows students to test hypotheses and
examine alternative points of view beyond their experience (Burke and Peterson
2007). In the role play areas, in the classroom, the children are free to voice
their opposing emotions and consequently develop their deep empathetic view of
emotions and how to deal with experiencing different feelings. Role-play or
dramatic play areas are a place for children in the EYFS classroom to exercise
and communicate their creativity through the ability to mimic adults and
real-life situations in these role play areas.

Taylor (et al., 2004) determined that to help encourage and
inspire pupils to form healthy relationships with their peers and superiors,
children must imitate and use that to improve emotional understanding.

Learning through play encourages children to mimic what they have
seen, whether that is by a parent, teacher or classmate. Through role play
areas, this gives the children a specific area to exert their creativity and energy.

Another benefit of learning through dramatic play is that it can
help develop vocabulary and the children’s language. The social skills used in
role play areas relate to talking and listening skills as the narratives are on
the basis of social talk, reading and writing.


Learning through sand / water play

Small children seem to be instinctively
attracted to all the things the planet is made of, and above all to sand and
water. These materials offer rich learning opportunities for children but the
learning would not take place without the children’s own delight in the
substances themselves – it is pleasure which provides the motivation for their
play. (learning through play, n.d.). There are so many skill developments with sand
and water play, from personal, social and emotional to physical developments.
As well as teamwork, they learn to respect each other’s ideas and co-operate
with each other to share equipment as a group. These are major social developments
that are vital through EYFS.

The development of fine motor skills through
the grasping and manipulating of dry and wet sand is one end goal of physical
development. Through pouring water and moulding sand, it can help improve
hand-eye coordination. However, the negative with learning through sand and
water play is that the learning would not take place if a child was not fully enjoying
their free play. In a recent observation of an early year’s classroom I noticed
that not all children like the feel and texture of the water and the sand and
therefore, during free play, not all children will get involved and miss out on
the benefits of this area of free play.





Learning through creative play


There is a large skill base that art in the
EYFS can develop. Such as poking, pinching squeezing, cutting and playing with
playdough can help improve hand strength and develop fine motor skills.
Grasping crayons or markers supports future writing and drawing skills. There
are so many different approaches for including creative arts in the EYFS such
as the referencing to the Duncum strategy (1999). The theory of working with ‘line’
is a simple way of creating effective art but also developing art techniques
and artistic vocabulary at such a young age. In creative arts in the early years,
the emphasis should be on the enjoyment and creativity of the making process
rather than the finished product.


Work in the arts is not always individual,
developing social skills such as cooperative work and teamwork is able to be
done through the arts in the EYFS. Schwarz and Luckenbill (2012) developed
techniques to further deeper understanding, one technique they developed was working
on an easel, painting with a partner. This develops social and emotional skills
in the early years, through developing factors such as cooperative and sharing
skills and teamwork – as well as feelings such as empathy. It allows for discussion
when problem solving with other class mates.


The development of building the
foundations of an arts education in early years makes the children able to
revisit areas that they enjoy most in future years, as well as build on prior
knowledge in future years in the school. Expressing and conveying creative ideas
for children in the EYFS is vital as it ensures the foundations for future arts
learning. It is also, evidently, a key factor for developing skills such as
fine and gross motor skills.

Dialogue in play / social talk



Is Play Important? Cognitive Development, Language Development, Literacy
Development”, n.d.)


In this particular section of
dialogue, Ellen, Jasmine and Taralyn are taking what they have observed in the
classroom and adapting it to fit in with their role play of a classroom. They
share the role as teacher fairly and use social skills, learnt in the
classroom, to problem solve between themselves. The phrases used by the
children indicate that they have observed the teacher say the phases in class,
such as ‘raise your hand’, and therefore are mimicking the teacher. The pupils
obviously have a good, thorough understanding of the mechanics of a classroom
and are therefore able to create a role play scene and share roles fairly and
maturely. Through the role play, the children are developing teamwork and
co-operation skills which will help in future role play situations as well as
real life situations.




Play is vital within a classroom
as it encourages children to develop skills to benefit them in the future –
whether that be further on in the school or in real life situations. Play
develops skills such as social talk, social and emotional skills, teamwork,
sharing, co-operation and more. From my research, theorists suggest that play
plays a vital role in developing children’s social, language and teamwork
skills however, there are also negatives. For example, some children may work
more efficiently in a structured classroom environment and therefore play is
not the most effective way of learning for them. Other children may get
distracted easily and therefore stray from learning through play, this links to
children maybe being disruptive and disturbing another pupils learning. There
is a whole lot of trust involved with assigning the children to use the
apparatus set out for free play effectively. Play offers a fun and engaging way
of learning, which in turn, offers ability for effective learning.