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Children Play and Wellbeing


Play is the term used to define the wide range of activities that people and particularly children engage themselves in for purposes of amusement and enjoyment. The players usually get involved in the activities willingly. Moreover, in the case of children, the motivation to play is due to their curiosity to link their world of imagination and reality. Therefore, play may involve interpersonal or intrapersonal interactions or both and the players may pretend by assuming some roles in the ongoing activity while relating their ideas with and the actual process.

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This is a term used to define a positive and balanced state of the mind, the heart, and other body organs in their metabolism and reaction to changes in the immediate environment. Well-being refers to the physiological and mental fitness of a person due to the proper relationship between the individual and his/her social and physical environment. In order to maintain a good intrapersonal balance, wellbeing relates to playing or other times called exercise so that the child feels part of his or her society.

Well-being and play are related in the sense that, well-being is the balanced state of bodily functioning as well as the extended scope of thinking and imagination, playing is the medium upon which these fantasies are perceived.

Types and functions of play

There are various types of plays aimed at fostering learning in society. The functions of the plays may be intentional or non-intentional. The common types of play include role-play, pretend play, games and toying. In all these types of play, objects symbolize the meaning of certain things that are understood by the mind while in reality may be out of reach at the moment. In a broader sense, the play explores the mind-body interactions of the child. The ability of the child to coordinate his action in accordance with his or her understanding of language forms the basis of all play. Therefore, as children play, the brain is involved in determining appropriate actions as their body movement is in response to the messages relayed from the brain to the rest of their body. This essay examines the various avenues through which play enhances the wellbeing of children and associated limiting factors.

The two main contemporary issues about play and wellbeing discussed in this essay are obesity and the children’s plan. Obesity issues relate to playing while children’s play is associated with wellbeing. Due to the complexity of play, its primary function remains to facilitate the cognitive development of the child’s natural and acquired abilities.

Social interactionists theories

Social interactionist theories emphasize the environment and the context in which language is learned as the main influencing factors in language acquisition. It derives from the concept that pragmatics of language should be mastered first before grammar. In these theories, the child and other members of the society who have already mastered the language exist in a relationship where there is provision for feedback from either side. This approach to early childhood language acquisition and development is the main reason that makes it important to teachers and parents. Therefore, interactionist theories are applicable both in school and at home environments. This theory maintains that language is not part of a person’s intrinsic ability. According to Piaget, language development is because of a balanced exchange between the child and the environment. Since vocabulary defines language within the context of culture, speech becomes necessary as long as it occurs within this boundary (Bruce 2001).

Historical and cultural perspectives on play and the link to wellbeing

Since the evolution of modern-day man, people across society have been involved in one type of play or another. Some played for fun; others played various kinds of games as a way of carrying out societal or community values. The main purpose of the play focuses on the lives of children. It has been interesting to note how the transformations in the children as they grow up influence their daily lives. The play developed, as a result of people’s desire to compete together in a free environment where the natural condition seems not to intervene in the activities. As children played together, they developed a sense of belonging to society and one another. Most of the play has been inclusive, therefore; it tends to eliminate the effects of discrimination. Consequently, it contributed to the enhanced social wellbeing of the children mainly because it makes them secured and loved by adults. Children equally found comfort in expressing themselves behind the mask of different roles they acted as they played together (Wood & Attfield 2005).

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Theories of play

Play behavior and playground culture

Lev Vygotsky’s theory of play or children’s games takes a psychological perspective. He postulated that as the child plays, they acquire an abstract meaning of the world around them that sets them unique from other creatures in the world. He emphasized that this development is critically important in the future mental functioning of the child. The desire for a child to take on the extremely challenging task at age seven manifests in his or her imagination mimicked in a play. Play is due to some action out of consciousness resulting from the human ability to perceive things illusionary. Therefore, in this context, the playground culture involves the use of objects to represent the “ideal world” in the child’s imagination (Davey 2001).

The patterns of play development follow a sequence of thoughts in the child’s mind that generate ideas. As the child thinks, he gets ideas and begins to carry them out unconsciously. This development generates excitement in the child as he stumbles upon new findings. Like a scientist experimenting, he works with objects without necessarily knowing their meanings. Through play, the children learn to appreciate themselves when they can successfully link their thoughts with reality. In essence, play inculcates in them, the values associated with self-esteem and confidence especially when they demonstrate to the world around them that they can equally understand and take part in its activities. In the final analysis, the child’s image shown by their potential to contribute to real-life events, albeit in negligible proportion through play and games, enhances their wellbeing (Opie & Opie 1959).

The progress generated from playing with objects that symbolize characters in their creation records in their brains. This is probably the most interesting aspect of play that makes it much significant in their childhood and adult life. The ongoing debate on obesity predominantly indicates that, due to the excess weight of obese children, their ability to properly exude deep sitting thoughts of their illusionary world is critically impaired. However best they would wish to display their skills, amongst their peers or in the presence of adults, play behaviors and playground culture fails to recognize their orchestrations because of their physical discomfort that often predisposes them to partiality. The classical example, the child wants to ride a horse. The principle of human action shows that play begins with concrete ideas, not the objects that the child plays with. It is generally difficult for children to comprehend ideas from the objects at tender ages (ages 5, 6 up to 11). Therefore, play fills in the gap of abstract meanings in their minds.

The linkage between play and wellbeing based on Vygotsky’s theory for school-going children falls in a number of ways. For example, as the children play they mimic the actions of different members of their society.

In the process, they develop certain rules that are important in their social relations with the rest of the members of the family. The children may not know what the rules are in the actual sense, but through plays, they end up reinforcing existing values through the “pivots” involved. Through self-regulation acquired from continued play. The child’s spirit of competition is developed and their urge to outdo each other contribute to their well-being when for example the joy of winning downs on them out of fair play. In the case of an obese child, this may not however be the case. Their body weight is already a limiting factor play that involves first movements. Consequently, it only leads to the discriminatory role of the child during playing.

Margret Donaldson’s theory of play explores children’s minds. After her interaction with Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner, she conducted her own studies in which she concluded that children make mistakes because of two reasons; because they are responding to the instructions they are given and because they are struggling to understand the meaning of their assignments. Quite often, children wonder how the rules in their societies operate. Therefore, they intentionally resort to experimenting through play. Donaldson’s hypothesis suggests that children’s play is comparable to modeling in its simplest form; out of children’s ideas, they organize simple objects to represent their ideas against reality. Play then takes on the pattern of children manipulating these objects and drawing incoherent observations from the process. As this continues, play develops progressively from those involving simple and few objects to complex play that involves many objects operated to generate comprehensible meanings of the abstract world. This is what she refers to as the human sense (Davey 2001)

Due to the trial and error method used in most of these plays and games, children are bound to make mistakes. However, the constructive nature of play allows them to develop their cognitive skills because learning and language are innate to a very large extend. It, therefore, becomes increasingly important for the children to learn from the playground culture since the behaviors acquired from the process compound on their knowledge of societal values and rules. In essence, the knowledge acquired remains permanently in their brain. This is also critically important in their continued understanding of normal education and general life functioning because they would easily understand basic arithmetic and learn how to carry out simple tasks in their environment. Under normal circumstances, an obese child would find it rather cumbersome to jargon between roles were carrying objects to and forth occur more frequently (Brown 2003).

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As she focuses on the “concept of embedded and disembodied thinking’, it would logically follow that such play behavior acts negatively to the perception of obese children. This is primarily because; they may understand the appropriate action but its implementation model defined in the play limits his or her full participation. In the end, the child suffers psychological problems characterized by self-blame leading to withdrawal. If a child does not play with his peers, then the playground culture hampers the social well-being of this child. The child who withdraws from playing with their peer will not be happy he or she may not have well developed brain-based ability to act efficiently through his or her requirements. Therefore, thinking based on simple things makes tasks easy for the children to understand.


Piaget’s theory appears to be contrary to most behaviorists in its claims. It suggests that language and a number of other cognitive skills are learned since they are not necessarily innate in children. Piaget’s ideas derive from the Darwinian Theory of evolution. The theory sought to explain why human cognition developed as opposed to other lower animals. Biologists generally believe that not all knowledge comes from experience. According to this theory, the patterns of development in play score more important than the results accruing thereof. Children’s language skills and mental reasoning which are the guiding steps in play are requisites for the child’s development, especially in the early years. It complements most interactionist theories in the view that the processes are more important than structure since their proponents reveal play as a series of actions emanating from mental processes expressed physically and emotionally (Broadhead 2004).

The series of actions follow in stages, at each stage, the movement from an object to a symbol marks the shift from concrete thought to abstract actions. The progress through these stages indicates the development of the child’s physical and mental abilities. The underlying concept is that at each stage of development, there is internal pressure that motivates the child to move to the next stage of development. Only up to a point when the child’s behavior becomes tolerable to his or her environment does the pressure gets to a balance. In attempts to understand and develop the play, the use of schemas in teaching children becomes important because mental schemas vary from stage to stage reflecting on the child’s development. An important aspect of play on obese children, in this respect, lies in their cognitive abilities to follow the schemas. Jean Piaget used four key stages in the process of children’s language acquisition, thus sensorimotor (18-24 months), pre-operational stage (18-24 months to 7 years), concrete operations (7-12 years), and formal operations (12 years and above). Children’s action focuses on wellbeing.


Pretend play contributes to children’s cognitive development. In the early years of children’s development, high-quality play is important in their social and academic progress. Based on these observations, Henry Jenkins developed the theory of pretend play by hypothesizing that there exists a strong relationship between symbolization and abstract meaning of things. Children tend to use objects while playing and animate those with various kinds of roles, in some cases, dolls represent babies, and teddy bears may even represent a feared animal and boxes used as cars. The detail of the objects and the roles they serve while playing capture the mind attention of the children in relation to the real objects (Tones& Green 2004).

How the children formulate ideas that make the objects fit perfectly in the context of play forms an interesting pattern of play. The fact that these symbolizations reflect their understanding of real-world happenings, logically follow in their physiological development. Therefore, a correlation exists between children’s pretend play and their performance on mentally involving tasks. Pretend to play and role-play draws on the children’s performance on “theory-of-the-mind tasks”. It is the most suitable approach developed by Jenkins to understanding and developing outdoor play. Some of the cognitive skills developed during role-play involving the use of language include problem-solving, team planning, negotiation and goal setting (Simnett 2003).

Since pretend play involves emotion, cognition, and language among other actions touching on various lives of the children. It demands a lot of attention from the child because the decision to use an object for any given purpose does not rest on a fixed way of thinking. Issues concerning obese children with respect to TOM tasks claim that such children may be reluctant to participate fully in the play because they may not be fast enough in completing their tasks. TOM task sometimes involve brainstorming actions that require prompt responses in speech and actions, since they are also designed to cause excitement for children, the physiological wellbeing of hyperactive children is reinforced while those who fail to adjust to the challenging conditions is minimized in the children’s plans (Bilton 2002).


Freud’s psychoanalytical theory involves the use of symbols. In this approach to children’s play, there is a clear representation of objects as they occur in the child’s environment. A strong correlation exists between the signifier and the signified so that the symbols used during playing highly motivates the relationship of resemblance. Freud’s theory stresses the importance of childhood play and its associated experiences in four main development stages, thus oral, anal, and phallic and latency stage. In all these psychosexual stages, the child gratifies his or her libidinal desires. This aspect of play behavior shows the changing patterns in play development from one stage to the other while distinctively pointing out the physiological expressions of the child. At one stage, the child may be involved in play and games that focus on eating and chewing objects and at some other stage plays that focus on the family environment. All these are expressions of their natural desires for parental love and need for some special attachment with the real society around them as shown by the objects used in the play.

Therefore, play in this case improves both social and physical aspects of children, including those suffering from obesity. Most of these stages manifest in playing outside, the games may include children carrying one another, rolling, and even falling in groups, most of the children may fear pairing with the obese counterparts, lest they get tired of carrying them because they fear their weight. The children must play these games because the children’s plan requires that every child get adequate attention in service provision and work. Through interactive play negotiations, the teacher may opt to inspire the children in the class and outside class to balance various discriminatory activities during playing. This would result in equal participation of all the children in the play thereby promoting their social and physical wellbeing. In the end, the children grow with rounded psychosexual aspects well developed in their adult life (Forbes 2004).

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Brian Sutton-Smith

Brian Sutton-Smith’s theory of play identifies the roles of play in human life. When play is organized and intended for some specific purpose, then it is termed as a game. In their struggle for survival, children engage in play in order to express control over their world constructs. Children may not be genuine in their play after all. It is conscious and intended to inform their actions by some logical reasoning accepted by society. Quite often, children tend to compete with each other at performing similar tasks albeit in different ways. In the process, they display their knowledge and skills. Play becomes an important part of children’s lives because the objects that act as a medium between their inner being and the real world actually communicate their ideas. It proceeds to influence their language development and thus their interaction with other members of society. a child’s happiness and satisfaction result from creating an object or set of an object with as many features as he or she can imagine should be in the play. Perfect symbolization leads to their improved wellbeing especially if it cuts across all the participants. Conversely, the obese child may struggle with numerous challenges while moving here and there, to and forth in attempts to organize his or her objects (Moyles 2005).

Social interaction theories

Rosemary Roberts

Roberts presents important theories toward the explanations of current issues about play and wellbeing. She proposes that play is an education tool that helps to improve the child’s happiness and therefore performance in academics. This social interactionist approach to learning defines that happiness is symbolized by a free playing environment where children explore their fantasies in the realm of reality opens their minds. In such a state, children learn from their peers out of curiosity. Since they see certain things in their environment, classroom, or home, they tend to imitate their functioning from friends and their knowledge. Obese children, just like the others take roles in pretend play that animate objects with their ability, other children in the class equally assume roles reflecting their strengths and weaknesses. However, most obese children may be forced to limit their roles in role-play to fit in the design because of their weight and size. The difference only occurs in symbolization plays where object animations create the actual impression of imagined situations. By and large, it becomes a daunting task for teachers under the Children’s plan to maintain fairness throughout playing periods. Children may act unconsciously by using approaches that alienate overweight children thereby influencing negatively their well-being (Baird 2005)

The expert of the mantle thematic teaching theory

The expert of the mantle thematic teaching theory makes the child assumes the role of the teacher, thus giving the children the position of the expert in a particular area of human knowledge. In this example, children are “classical” geographers who guide visitors as they travel through the nation with intention of seeing the queen. The teacher assumes the role of the queen’s chief soldier. The teacher’s attention is on how every child acts his or her role, be they guards of the visiting hero or lieutenants. This scenario allows the children to explore the understanding of sequence and relevance because it involves suggestions of direction, use of schematic pictures representing the queen’s palace.

Reference List

Baird, A. J., & Astingsion, J. W., 2005, Why language matters for theory of the mind. New York, Oxford University Press.

Bilton, H., 2002, Outdoor play in the early years: Management and innovation: London.

Broadhead, P., 2004, Early years play and learning, Developing Social Skills.

Brown, F., 2003, Play work: theory and practice, Buckingham: Oxford University Press.

Bruce, T., 2001, Learning through play. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Bruce, T., 2004, Developing learning in Early Childhood. London: Sage competence, London: Routledge.

Davey, B., 2001, Birth to old age: health in transition: Buckingham: Oxford University David Fulton.

Forbes, R., 2004, Beginning to play, young children from birth to three, Berkshire: London: Sage.

Moyles J., 2005, The Excellence of Play (2 Edition). Maidenhead: Milton Keynes Open.

Opie. L., & Opie,P.,1959, The Lore and Language of School Children. Oxford: Oxford.

Scarlett, G.W, Nandeau, S, Salonious, P, &.& Ponte., 2005 Children’s Play. London.

Simnett, l., 2003, Promoting health: A practical Guide. London: Balliere Tindall.

Tones.K, & Green, J., 2004, Health promotion: Planning and Strategies. London: Sage.

Wood. E. & Attfield, J., 2005, Play, Learning and the Early Childhood Curriculum.

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