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It engages the mind to actively imagine various scenarios for fun or for problem-solving. Babies and toddlers play in order to get to know their world – how things work, how people react, etc. They get to explore and discover things that otherwise they will not learn about if they do not actively engage in play. This free exploration is considered Heuristic play by Holland (2003) and encourages it without adult intervention. Adults provide simple materials and allow the child’s imagination to take off. “The child learns from observing directly what these objects will ‘do’ or ‘not do’, in sharp contrast to much of the ‘educational’ equipment which has a result predetermined by the design which has been devised by the adult maker (Holland, 2003, p. 142). Not only will heuristic play stimulate a child’s thinking, but it also develops his creativity as he will see in his mind endless possibilities in imaginatively transforming ordinary objects into various things with various functions. Young children learn better in play- like settings because they retain concepts better when learned in the spirit of fun. Macintyre (2003) discusses the value of play in all the developmental areas of children. Children love games that stimulate thinking. Such cognitive benefits extend to their real lives as they make decisions, compare and contrast things, use their imaginations and thinking critically and creatively. Play also engages the body. Certain games involve gross and fine motor coordination. Running around, jumping, tumbling and other physical activities help them be physically fit as well as release tension. Much practice in physical play develops their muscles, agility, flexibility and endurance. Socially, play fosters the development of friendships, coaxing children out of their shells. As they play with other children or adults, they get to know about how other people behave, think and feel. They also get to learn socially acceptable behavior like not hurting others and playing fair. Most importantly, they get to know themselves better- how they react to certain situations in the play setting. Play may also be an outlet for emotional release. Young children use role play or puppet play to process experiences they do not fully understand. Doing it over and over helps them realize what was wrong or right in confusing situations. Resolving issues in play may also be therapeutic for some children. B. Linking Play to Literacy Educators are now coming to understand that learner-centered strategies are more effective in engaging young children’s learning since it puts much value in the young learners’ construction of their own understanding of concepts. This makes learning more meaningful and relevant to them, hence, retention of concepts and skills is easier to achieve. Play is one approach to learning many concepts and skills. Reading and writing skills spring out of play-like story-reading sessions. These are examples of activities wherein children’s imaginations are actively engaged, as it is in their play. Books and sharing stories are just a few of the learning materials and activities that enhance communication, language and literacy skills. These help concretize learning for very young children in the company of other learners who may contribute much to their shared learning. Emergent literacy is the term used to refer to the earliest period of a child’s literacy development, specifically the time between birth and when the child can read and write (Sulzby and Teale, 1991). According to emergent literacy theories, the child is the central figure in the construction of learning. His life experiences directly affect his literacy. One theoretical perspective in
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Childhood is the formative phase of life. Foundation laid during this period carries its implications throughout the life of an individual. Considering the significance of this phase of life the benefits of high quality of early childhood education as well as programs that formulate the personality of the child have been recognized.
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