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Play has not always been welcome in the classroom settings, but in recent years as people has been able to recognize the importance of play (sarach and spodeck, 1995). It is also discussed by the government as more legislation order has been passed to increase the support of early childhood education so it is becoming increasingly popular in our world today (Pellegrino and smith, 1998)For many people, they might be wondering what exactly is early childhood education and what it consists of and what are the goals. Early childhood education is very significant in the development your children. It influences society and the future of our nation. It makes the child’s productivity better as they grow (Evans, N). Researchers have also shown interest learning more about play (saracho and spodek, 1995). Play is “diversion” and “pretense.” Play is “exercise. Play is a child’s way of expressing their feelings and their interest. Play has played a lot of parts in the history of education of children. (Scott G. Eberle, 2014)

1.1 Background to the Study

Historically, since the 19 century, education has observed the transition from play to learning as children smuggle to leave the world of play at home and enter the world of learning at school. The idea that play could be used as a tool of teaching and curricular was first put into practice by Pestalozzi (1827), who believed that young children could be educated to developed an inquiring approach to things and words. He developed a pedagogy that encourages the development of children’s activities that was built on their potential for morals. It was Froebel’s modification of Pestalozzi’s theory, however, that became a medium of learning within the context of schooling. Froebel proposed that “play is the purest, most spiritual activity, and at the same time, typical of human life as a whole of inner hidden natural life (human beings)” (Froebel, 1885 pp 86-87).He suggested that children continue to maintain continuity in their life by bringing playful activities to their formalized learning experience. He says play allows children to master many aspects of themselves and their environment through exploration of feelings and interaction with others (Garvey, 1977).Froebel observed that the way children play often reveal their inner struggles (Adelman, 1990) and that play often reveal the primary means for children to learn social expectations, attempt to understand culturally appropriate behaviors, learn to manage emotions and gain access to techniques and skills of the world in which they live (Michelet, 1986).Maria Montessori (1965) also based her teaching methods from the natural play activities of children. She developed her method by bringing to classroom materials she was designing. She watched the children play with them freely. She discouraged free play.

Conceptually, Sandra (1993) defines play as a fertile field where a broad range of learning can thrive and flourish. In early childhood classes, play is considered to be the most efficient pedagogic strategy carried out through music role play, games, singing, drama and stimulation. According to Plato, the teacher’s roll in this was to try to direct the children’s inclinations and pleasures through play towards their final aim in life. One of the earliest significant contributions to the modern conception of the place of play in education was provided by the English philosopher John Locke. According to Locke (1989), the chief aim of education ought to be virtue. He believed that children learn best not by being forced if learning was made a recreation. Research shows a strong relationship between play and cognitive development.

Vygostky (1926) sees play as having a direct role in cognitive development with symbolic play having a crucial part in development. In a study by Lieberman (1977), playfulness in kindergartners was found to correlate with higher scores in divergent thinking. Through play, children use divergent thinking to research solutions to problem. Play has been recognized as the highest form of research Caplan and Caplan, (974). Play provides many opportunities for children to create, invent, and design as they build, draw, and dramatize. Play is a natural avenue for the expression of creativity. Dansky and Silvennan (1973 & 1975) conducted experimental studies and found causal relational between play and creativity. Creativity is considered the highest form of problem solving. Play encourages problem solving through discovery. Bruner (1972) found that play enhanced children’s ability to solve problems by increasing their behavioral options. In fact, several studies have found that play encourages children’s problem-solving abilities, (Simon & Simon, l953).

Vygostsky, (1976). Piaget maintains that as a child engages in sensory motor play, he or she is laying a foundation for reasoning,(Piaget, 1962)Children test out concepts and revise them as they play- Processes of categorization, generalization, class inclusion and concept development. Children generalize concepts to new situations as they play. Kamii and Ewing (1996) found that children make a great variation of generalization as they play. During the play process, children observe events and begin to make fairly accurate predications as to their probable occurrences. Children learn probabilities through these repeated observations. Perspective-taking, (Burner& Brainerd, 1979) is a cognitive process that occurs during socio-dramatic play. Other researchers have found even more cognitive benefits of play. Play also enhances language development (Levy, Schaefer, and Phelps, 1986).Smilansky (1968) found that play improves planning skills. Academic skills and attitudes were also found to be improved through play (Sylva, Bruner and Geova, 1982).

 Finally, correlation studies done by Johnson, Christie, and Yawkey (1987) showed a positive relationship between Intelligence Quotient scores (IQ) and socio-dramatic and constructive play. Children who were taught how to engage in socio-dramatic play gained in both play and I scores Saltz, Dixon and Johnson, (1977).

Early childhood education has been known to provide many services to children and their families. Early childhood education is important for young children to experience and learn from. It consists of the age range from birth to 8years (Bruce, 2015). The toddler and infants program has been one of the fastest growing programs in recent years (Bruce, 2015). In early childhood, it is vital to consider when teaching them developmentally appropriate task for the child’s age. To be successful in teaching children in early childhood, There is need to understand how the learned and what they can do depending on their age (Bruce, 2015).

One of the important components of early childhood education is play. It has been found that play has many benefits to young children. Many theorists and researchers have different thought and definitions about play. Many researchers and theorists have had many reasons why play in good for young children (Saracho and Spodex, 1995). One of the biggest reasons is to help the young children develop. The four theories of play are surplus energy, recreation, recapitulation and instinct (Saracho and Spodex, 1995). These theories are about what play is and how play has come about. The surplus energy theory advocates that children build up lots of energy and play is how they release that energy. The recreation theory thinks of play as a time to relax or free time. The recapitulation theory refers to pay as an act that everyone does. The instinct theory is the thought that play was an inherited act that everyone does. This theories help to bring light to the subject of play and create how we see play in childhood programs today.      

Erik Erikson was another theorist who played a vital role in early childhood education. According to his theory, at the Initiative Vs Guilt stage (3-5years).children assert themselves more frequently and begin to plan activities, make up games and initiate activities with others. Children develop a sense of initiative, and feel secure in their ability to lead others and make decision. These are the theorists that will be used in chapter two.

Contextually, today’s world is uncertain and constantly changing from shifting career and political landscapes to increasingly digital economies and social life. New technologies have come that children need to live in and adapt and try to create opportunities to themselves and their communities (Golinkoff and Hirsh-Pasek 2008) Looking at our Cameroonian context, children are seen playing through creative play. Children create their own knowledge. They use papers to build things like airplanes, cars, ships and use small bricks to build houses and also used tins of tomatoes to cook while the girls assume the role of the mother and daughter respectively the boys take the role of the father and son as well. Play gives children the opportunity to unlock their creativity and imagination and develop reading, mathematical skills and their cognitive abilities, and also develop their fine and gross motor skills. All these activities greatly affect children’s Socio-emotional development as they grow up. The united nation high commissioner for human right (UNHCHR, 2016) recognized play as the right for every child and its importance in his/her development.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Play is an important aspect of a child’s early development. It is a natural and enjoyable way for children to keep active, stay well and be happy. Play improves the cognitive, physical, social and emotional wellbeing of children and young people. Through play, children learn about the world and themselves. Play enhances social development of children in early childhood but this is being overlooked. The extent to which play enhances the development of social skills in children is an empirical question. This study thus aims to find out how play in terms of solitary, dramatic and symbolic influence the social developments of Children in early childhood.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

General objective

The main aim of the study is to investigate the influence of play on the social development of Children in early childhood in the Buea Municipality

Specific objectives

Specifically, the study is out;

  • To find out the extent to which dramatic play influences the social development of children in early childhood

  • To investigate the extent to which symbolic play influences the social development of children in early childhood

  • To investigate the extent to which solitary play influences the social development of children in early childhood

1.4 Research Question

The following research questions were formulated to guide this study.

General Research Question

To what extent does play influence the social development of Children in early childhood  in the Buea Municipality?

Specific research question

  • To what extent does dramatic play influences the social development of children in early childhood?
  • To what extent does symbolic play influences the social development of children in early childhood?
  • How does solitary play influence the social development of children in early childhood?


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