Play is the highest form of research - Albert Einstein
The above quote has a very deep meaning and reflects Einstein's depth of understanding on play as being vital to human development. Earlier the classical theories looked at play from a very philosophical perspective, and viewing play as a form for release of pent up energy. The contemporary theorists view of play is according to the likes of Einstein's quote. Play was viewed by the contemporary theorist from a developmental perspective.
According to Sandie Rollins's, Sigmund Freud looked at play from a therapeutic perspective. Freud in his book on "Beyond the Pleasure Principle", describes play as a mechanism for the child through which the child tries to master previously experienced traumatic events. Anna Freud viewed play as both adaptive and defensive for dealing anxiety.
Bruner, 1972 stated that play had a major role of rehearsing, where the child rehearses actions pertaining to real life situations in a safe, risk-free environment, where the child is preparing himself/herself to face the difficult situation in a less stressful way.
According to Dewey, play is a subconscious activity that helps an individual develop both mentally and socially. It should be separate from work as play helps a child to grow into a working world. As children become adults, they no longer "play" but seek amusement from their occupation. This childhood activity of play prepares them to become healthy working adults.
Maria Montessori, postulated that "play is the child's work." Montessori believed in sensory play, where the child learns through play from hands on experiences, with the help of a teacher helping the child play to learn.
According to Lewin and Buytendijk's Infantile dynamics, play happens because cognitively the child is unable to judge the difference between the real and unreal world. The child plays because it's pre-wired in the not to show any other forms of behaviours other than play. Later, Piaget explain play as occurring in stages in his theory of cognitive development. The stages are;
- Functional play, (sensori motor stage), wherein the child explores his surroundings with the help of his senses and gains an understanding of the environment, which is play for the child.
- Symbolic play (pre operational stage), the child is trying to represent things around symbolically.
- Games with rules (Concrete operation stage), the child at this stage is ready to play more constructive games involving rules.
According to Vygotsky, play is a means by which the child is trying to learn to be social. Children encounter others while playing, where they learn to interact using language and role play.
It's very clear from the above discussion that various theorists viewed play from different perspectives like therapeutic according to Freud, sensory according to Montessori, intellectual according to Lewin and Piaget and social according to Vygotsky. All these theories are just a bird's eye view, there are many more theories of play which explains play from even more different perspectives.
By Dr Srividya K.