Developmental Psychology And Play

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Play is a vital feature in a child’s life and is also vital for development. It helps towards the building and development of psychical, social, and cognitive skills that can be further developed through age and used in later life. Research has shown that play can be significantly beneficial for children, helping enhance physical fitness and strength, essential communication skills and also helps with learning and healthy brain development. This essay will argue the correlation between developmental psychology and play in children, with emphasis on the social, cognitive and physical components of development. Developmental psychology can be considered as a scientific look at the changes that individuals go through as they age, and the different stages that influence every aspect of an individual’s development (Brown, 2008). As well as mention of the recent decline in the opportunity for children to partake in play and activity, which will conclude the discussion.

Influences of Play on Cognitive Development in Children

Play is many things; it can be free or fixed. It is a very broad subject and accounts for numerous things that people partake in every day, whether it’s a simple board game or something as extreme as scuba diving (Eberle, 2014). One of the most important things that play is able to influence is the cognitive development of children. Play can allow for healthy development of the child’s brain as all types of play require them to remain engaged and constantly interacting, whether it is with family or friends during play (Milteer & Ginsburg, 2012). Research has shown that there is a large correlation between learning and play. Play consists of children creating routines and repeating certain and specific behaviors numerous times. Which correlates to the development of learning during play (O’Grady & Dusing, 2015). Play can also lead to adaptations at the cellular (epigenetic) and molecular (neuronal connectivity) levels, which can lead to enhancing learning (Yogman, et al. 2018). As well as being able to enhance learning, play can also engage numerous areas of the brain as it is open to development of language skills, cognition, and sensorimotor action. Allowing for the promotion of dense synaptic connections in the brain, which can be associated with the energy metabolism of specific neuronal networks within the brain (Bergen, 2002). Another thing that play allows is the brain remaining busy during play, some children may spend majority of their play time imagining scenarios. This can then lead to potential for them to have a creative mind in the future (Milteer & Ginsburg, 2012). The cognitive development of children can also be related to theory that was developed by a man named Jean Piaget. The theory that he developed was a theory of intellectual development focused on process by which individuals develop logical and viable cognitive structures that can support logico-mathematical reasoning (Nurrenberg, 2001). Piaget developed a theory about the stages of cognitive development that an individual undergoes.

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This can then be related to the cognitive development of a child and how that can be further enhanced by their opportunity for play. Piaget also had 3 main premises regarding his theory, the second being the most relevant to the cognitive development of children. It regards intellectual and cognitive growth being fundamentally linked to the physical, social and linguistic environment of an individual (Nurrenberg, 2001).

Influences of Play on Social Development in Children

As well as being beneficial for the cognitive development of children, play can also be vital for the social development of children. It can allow for the formation and strengthening of bonds, whether it is between family or friends (Milteer & Ginsburg, 2012). The opportunity for children to take part in social and communal play can allow for the development of the basic social skills that they will require in later life. They also have the potential learn the need for sharing and how important it can be, learning to negotiate with others, and the potential for the development of leadership skills within play groups (Milteer & Ginsburg, 2012). One of the most important things that a child can develop during social plays communication, this can be developed over continuous social play. These communication skills will then be further developed through age as well moving into kindergarten and primary education where communication will be essential (Yogman, et al. 2018). Similar to the theory that Jean Piaget proposed about stages of development, Erik Erikson developed a thoery focused on the development of personality where he claimed that the development of persoanality proceeds through stages. He theorized 8 stages, but only the first 4 are relevant to children and their opportunity for play (Ochse & Plug, 1986). Stage one was based around the crisis of trust versus mistrust (hope), this occurs from birth to ages 11/2. Stage 2 then occurs from ages 11/2 to the age of 3 and is focused around the crisis of autonomy versus shame (will). Both of these are aspects that can be developed through social play, learning to trust others and to build hope, as well as the development of an individual will (Ochse & Plug, 1986). The third stage is based around the development of initiative versus guilt (purpose), this stage is occurring from ages 3-5. Then from ages 5-12 is the occurrence of stage 4 which is focused on industry versus inferiority (competency). Yet again these both can be developed through continuous social play scenarios (Ochse & Plug, 1986). Thus, helping ensure strong development in the social aspect of children through play.

Influences of Play on Physical Development in Children

There is also a physical aspect of development that can be related to play, as it can be something that is important for developing healthy and active bodies and minds (Nijhof et al., 2018). The physical development that occurs during play is also essential for the long-term health of the children (Nijhof et al., 2018). Another long-term benefit that can come from continuous play is the potential for preventing obesity early in the child’s life, as well as significantly reducing the risk for any potential life-long health discrepancies. Play can allow for an easy prevention of disease and the easy development of healthy traits, promoting a healthy lifestyle (Milteer & Ginsburg, 2012). As well as paving the way for development of healthy and active bodies, it is also able to assist in the healthy brain development of children. This can derive from the activity that takes place during play (Milteer & Ginsburg, 2012). Play can be valuable in the aspect of rehearsing and practicing specific physical behaviors and actions, which can then be useful in later life, whether those behaviors were aggressive or perhaps sexual behaviors (Nijhof et al., 2018). Previous research found in an animal behavior study has shown that play has assisted in skills that have proven essential for our survival and our ancestor’s survival. Leading to the idea that play could have been a part of our evolutionary heritage (Yogman et al., 2018).

Decline in Children’s Play

Though play has proven to be beneficial to the cognitive, social and physical development of children, there has a current decline in the opportunity for children’s play. This recent decline in children’s play can lead to inactivity which is a major factor contributing to some of the obesity epidemics occurring in certain countries (Frohlich et al., 2016). During the same period where the significant decline of play occurred, there was a sudden increase in anxiety, depression and other mental/psychological disorders in individuals (Gray, 2011). This decline in play has also been related to ride in psychopathology in individuals, as the failure for children to play and socialize can harm the opportunity for healthy psychological development (Gray, 2011). A major factor in the current decline in the opportunity for children’s play is the increasing evolution of technology. Play has significantly changed since the introduction of the first computer game in 1980’s. Before this sudden introduction of computer games, children were encouraged to play outdoors with others (Etzel, 2010).. Research has shown that kids ranging from ages 8 to 18 spend approximately more than 7.5 hours on television and computer screens. Consequently, depriving them of that outdoor activity they would have previously experienced and keeping them indoors (Etzel, 2010). Children are still theoretically playing, but the introduction of technology is leading them to not play or play in a non beneficial way (O’Keefe et al., 2016).  


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