Below is information about the importance of play, a critical form of learning as children construct their world and how it works. Sometimes play can get messy; it involves emotional highs and lows, social conflicts and resolutions, and risks - whether physical, emotional, intellectual or social. Sometimes play looks chaotic, but it is a highly structured and complex vehicle for developing personhood, intellect and social structures.
In the Bank Street College News Flash (Spring 2008) Steven Webb outlines a Piagetian view of play:“Jean Piaget theorized that a child’s mental models, or cognitive structures, are based on the child’s activities; engagement makes meaning. Free, unstructured play is healthy and, in fact, essential for helping children reach important social, emotional and cognitive developmental milestones. Piaget’s theory is based on the idea that the developing child builds cognitive structures known as mental maps, or schemas (mental maps), for understanding and responding to physical experiences.“What is known as constructivism postulates that, by reflecting on our experiences, we develop our own understanding of the world. Each of us generates our own mental models to make sense of our experiences. Learning, therefore, is the process of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences. Constructivist teaching focuses on creating experiential and engaging activities for students. This kind of learning also involves an element of play."