4.3 Do children need to play?
Although we have considered the purposes of play and the extent to which it is valued in various societies, we have not considered how necessary play is for children's learning, development and well-being. There is reason to think that children who have their play behaviour severely restricted, or who find it difficult to play, can become very unhappy, or worse. In a study of 26 young male murderers, Brown (1998) reported that normal play behaviour was virtually absent throughout the lives of these highly violent, antisocial men.
It is interesting to note that discussions about the approach to early years provision in Reggio Emilia pre-schools rarely mention play. According to Katz (1998) there are plenty of opportunities for spontaneous play with blocks, dressing-up clothes, painting, collage and clay, as well as dramatic play. In Reggio Emilia settings, where the practitioners’ approach has been heavily influenced by the theories of Vygotsky, there is a balance between play and the more structured project work.
For Reggio Emilians play is highly valued for its ability to promote development, but no more so than the complex and long-term projects in which children and teachers become engaged.
(New, 1998, p.274)
Practitioners in Reggio Emilia are unapologetic about the use of projects in children's learning as they firmly believe that ‘children are able to listen to others, have respect for others [which] predisposes them to encountering and learning from others’ (author's personal notes on Cagliari, 2003a). Would you agree with this view?