Johnson et al. summarized several classical theories. Surplus-energy theory argues that each persons extra energy that left over after meeting survival needs must be expended. Otherwise, it becomes pressure. Play is a tool used to regulate and get rid of this surplus energy. Differing from surplus-energy theory, in recreation theory the purpose of play is to recover energy expended in work, especially hard work. This explains why children enjoy playing during break time after concentrating on a class for a while. Other classical theories include recapitulation theory, which regards play as a means to eliminate primitive instincts that are no longer needed in modern times, and practice theory, which supports the idea that play, enables the practice and perfection of essential skills for future survival. These four classical theories of play are all related to human energy, instincts, and evolution. Although classical theories have had some deficiencies, such as being too narrow in explaining why play exists and being limited to a segment of play behavior, they have established the foundation for later modern theories. Except for explaining why children play in a broader context, modern theorists also have focused on the contributions of play to children’s development.
There are three major groups of modern theories psychodynamic, cognitive, and socio-cultural theory. Freud and Erikson are representative promoters of psychodynamic theory. Freud (1966) claimed that play makes a critical contribution to children’s emotional development by removing children’s negative feelings and helping them to handle frustrations stemming from unpleasant experiences. Erikson (1950) focused on personality development and believed that play can reflect children’s psychosocial development. Both of these psychologists stressed the critical contribution of play to children’s inner development.
Cognitive theories include those of Piaget, Bruner, and Sutton-Smith. According to Piaget, assimilation and accommodation are two complementary processes that result in learning and cognitive development. Children go through a series of different cognitive stages (sensory motor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operations stage). At each stage, children engage in a certain type of play that matches their cognitive developmental level. For example, from 2-7 years old, children are at a preoperational stage and engage in symbolic play, rather than games with rules (which occurs after 12 years of age), which require more cognition. Piaget put significant emphasis on the role of play because it helps practice and consolidates newly acquired skills that are needed for 14 human lives. Therefore, play not only reflects children’s cognitive developmental level but also facilitates their mental development.
Both Bruner (1972) and Sutton-Smith (1986) focused on the role of play in providing flexibility and opportunity for children to explore fresh experiences and experiment with new behaviours without any pressure. Through play, not only is children’s knowledge stretched but their patterns of behaviours are established as well. Vygosky (1978), a socio-cultural theorist, paid attention to the influence of socio-culture on children’s development. How children interact with parents, teachers, and peers facilitates cognitive development. He viewed the zone of proximal development (ZPD) as the transitional state between “actual development” and “potential development”. Play, as “a self-help tool”, may just act as a scaffold in the ZPD of children. Thus, through play, children master their behaviours, such as social skills, language use, cognitive thinking, and abstract thinking.
In sum, why children play and how play contributes to children’s development have been discussed for a long time. Tracing from the past, a number of educators and philosophers (e.g., Freud, Piaget, and Vygosky) have proposed different theories. Classical theories, including surplus-energy theory, recreation theory, recapitulation theories and practice theory, paid much attention to human energy, instincts, and evolution. Modern theorists provided a more complete explanation and focused on the contributions of play to the child’s development.
Child Behaviour and Development in Contemporary Theory
Rationale for Choosing Observational Method
The observational method that has been chosen for the present study is based on the mixed method study that includes qualitative nature of assessment including both secondary and primary sources of data. The qualitative method of study is an important analysis that provides in depth analysis into the past theories and literature that has been provided by the authors. The qualitative method of analysis has long been executed by the researchers in their study in order to enhance the reliability of the research. The data that has been provided for explaining the child behavior and its development is completely reliable. The qualitative method of study is an important method of analysis that is used by large number of researchers in their study to enhance the reliability and the depth of the results being provided.
Another important reason of choosing qualitative research method is that of the nature of the topic. The chosen topic of the study is “Child Behaviour and Development” that is discussed with reference to the classical and contemporary theories. The classical and contemporary theories that have been presented in the paper can be discussed in an appropriate manner mainly through qualitative nature of data. The qualitative nature of data provides imperative results about the topic
Strength and Weakness of Chosen Method
The strengths and weaknesses of the research methods are important perspective that needs to be addressed appropriately and adopt alternate techniques for resolving them. The greatest strength of the qualitative method of analysis is that of the interpretation that is provided within the data about various variables. The variables are properly defined and explained in order to provide in depth analysis of the subject matter with respect to the chosen topic.