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The Different Theories of Play

Playing has been proven to serve a vital role in the development of a child. Because of this, various theories have arisen to better explain and understand the unique relationship between play and early child development. The theories, stretching from the ancient time up to this postmodern age, were significantly discussed in the book Play and Early Childhood Development (1987). According to the book, theories of play could be divided into three time frames: classical theories, modern theories, and postmodern theories.

Under the classical theories lies the Surplus Energy Theory, Relaxation Theory, Preparation Theory, and Recapitulation Theory. The Surplus Energy Theory proposes that children play to release surplus energy, thus, does not explain why children with low energy still play. Relaxation Theory says that playing is a form of relaxation but was debunked by the idea that playing is sometimes not relaxing. The Preparation Theory suggests that playing prepares children for adulthood by teaching them team work and role playing.

Recapitulation Theory comments that playing activities are events in history that children re-enact, such as hunting. Modern theories include Cathartic Theory that suggests playing is a form of catharsis where children can express negative emotions in a harmless way; Competence/Effectance Theory proposing that children seek to optimize their arousal level and need to interact with the environment; and Cognitive Theory saying that playing involves two processes: accommodation or the attempt to imitate and interact with the environment, and assimilation or the attempt to integrate externally despite limitations in skills.

Finally, Postmodern theories suggest that a child is made up of physical, philosophical, historical, and cultural aspects. Thus, the relationship between child development and play is even more complex. References Johnson J. , Christie J. and Yawkey, T. (1987). Play and Early Childhood Development. Illinois: Scott Foresman & Co

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