The Importance Of Play In The Early Years and Early Childhood Education

According to Clough & Nutbrown, (2002) ‘All research is about asking questions, finding problems and evaluating on what unfolds in order to form meaning from the information and convey the research story.’ (Chevron Notes 2020).According to MacNaughton et al.(2010) research is best described as a tool, and how to use that tool to help us answer important questions during the research process. By using this way of thinking, one can gain control during the research process. It is about finding out more about unanswered questions in relation to the research topic, and approaching it from a different angle.

It is about digging deep to inform others of the information the researcher has found. Research allows us to take important information into consideration. A huge amount of research has been carried out into the lives of children and young people, it has been very beneficial and has an effect for policy and practice. It has provided a new comprehension and has bought questions about a range of theories across a range of topics.

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(MacNaughton et al, 2010)

Through research of child development childcare practitioners observe children to build up a portfolio of observation and assessments which progress to an understanding of the development and needs of the children. It allows early practitioners to fully understand their own professional role as childcare and education practitioners and have the knowledge into good practice in the workplace. Through the research of observation, child practitioners will know how to support the child in their playful activities and why is early childhood education important .

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(Hobart et al, 2014)

Manning-Morton and Thorp (2004) examined how play was important for children under three years of age and established the role for the adults in such play by supporting and developing children’s experience of play. Play is always part of a child’s day and a part of all areas of development, play should provide support to the whole child when it comes to education and care. (Nutbrown, 2011) Clark & Moss, 2001 states that, ‘Research in Early childhood education over the years has been very loyal with increasing attention to how important it is in listening to and having respect for children to have ownership within their social and cultural settings’. (Dockett et al,.2009) This can be carried out through Aistear: The curriculum framework for children from birth to six years, where it gives great opportunity for learning and development. Through Aistear much of the development of the child and their learning happens through play and what they experience. Through their experiences, they explore physical, social and imaginary worlds. These experiences help them to be capable of managing their feelings, to think for themselves, to use language, and to develop socially, to be imaginative in becoming effective communicators and learners. Giving children space to play with other children, they are learning about co-operation, being able to deal with conflict. Through play children are being respectful of one another. Giving toys, and materials that reflect the child's own cultural setting in order for the child to learn. The place where a child plays should be warm and inviting, it should support who they are about, their family and community. It is good for the child to see and experience, reflections of their culture and identity, and also the children who they play with. This gives the child a sense of belonging while at play. (NCCA ,2010) Research can make different cultures understand development and help early educators to consider Anglo-centric ways of learning, comprehend theoretical concepts, curriculum and the effects of social contexts on what takes place in early childhood. (MacNaughton et al., 2010).

According to The Early foundation stage (EYFS), (N.D), play and exploration is committed to the principle of learning and development. It is about learning through experience, adult involvement and plenty of time and space to get to play indoors and outdoors. Practitioners need to deliver excellent practice and reflect on the outcomes of good practice and have a balance between creative learning and planning for a group.For an early year's practitioner to support children's play this is carried out in showing a child how to play. At times play does not come naturally to children and they would need to be shown how to play. Doing this is supporting children in their play experiences. Their environment in which they play may need to plan and research it as it may be challenging. Doing this children’s play is supported and carried out for longer. Through play children’s language development can be supported and developed further, by carrying out observations and appropriate planning from the outcomes for intervention. Practitioners may need support if play is unsafe, racist, sexist, offensive, violent or bullying. Children need plenty of space to learn using equipment to solve problems. Role play allows children to take on familiar roles. (Nutbrown,2011)

A paradigm is very important to research because it is a view or an opinion about a particular topic, and it is the basis of where your research begins. Bell et al, (2014) suggests it is possible to go through a beneficial investigation without having detailed knowledge of different approaches to styles of research, but a study of unique approaches will provide a good look into different ways of planning an investigation and also will increase your understanding of the literature in question. (Bell & Waters, 2014). A paradigm has two perspectives which are Positivist and Interpretivist. Positivism which assumes you view knowledge has been difficult and capable of being passed on in an understandable way. This way you would use a research approach that reflects that of the natural sciences, structured observation, experiments, control of variables. As the researcher you would not be interested in the involvement with participants in the research. This approach to educational research is regarded as positivism. Interpretivism assumes you view knowledge as a softer, based on experience and a look into a unique and important personal nature. The researcher would show great interest in the individuals in the research in understanding the feelings, beliefs, reasoning, thoughts, perceptions. Ideas would be hugely important to your research and you would reject the ways of natural science. This approach to educational research is regarded as interpretivism. (Jarvis et al, 2012) These determine our approach, such as Quantitative approach, Qualitative approach, or Triangulation approach or mixed approaches. (MacNaughton et al, 2010). Quantitative researchers collect facts and figures. Qualitative researchers are concerned about individuals' perceptions of the world-meanings and understandings.

The Mosaic Approach was developed by Alison Clarke especially for Early years settings. This approach focuses on the main participant of children in research that is focused upon their care and education and finds out ways that their opinions can be fully acted out, without having any language skills. To do this Clarke (2004) got the children to draw pictures or take photographs in place of having any language skills. (Jarvis et al, 2012).

Triangulation is mixed approaches of Quantitative researchers and Qualitative researchers. Aubrey et al, (2004) suggests Qualitative and Quantitative approaches should be seen as complementary rather than opposing. Mixed methods would be explanatory, exploratory and triangulations when it involves the research design. (Mcmillion and Schmauder, 2006) (Chevron Training Notes, 2020). The varied methodologies, I would consider in the research of the importance of play in Early Childhood Education, is the many types of Observations. Such as Laboratory or Naturalistic observations. I will be focusing on Naturalistic Observations, as this would be the type of observation most Practitioners are familiar with and are not without limitations. (Mukherji & Albon,2011) According to Bell (2010), methods are used because they will provide me with the information I require to develop a finished piece of research. I must decide which methods are best and be designed to do the job. (Bell,2010). It could be argued that all researchers should try and observe children in their Naturalistic environment, as this may recognise that children grow and develop in complex social worlds, and not worlds that are easily controlled. (Mukherji & Albon, 2011). Researchers should observe children in their everyday lives. (Dunn, 2005).

Observations can be Quantitative or Qualitative. It is the main methodological difference in preparing research. Quantitative observations occasionally known as structured observations. Its purpose is to give standardized numerical information, with the benefit to reduce the number of variables and to make the findings reliable. Qualitative observations are often used for explanatory purposes because what is exactly observed, won’t be known beforehand. Qualitative observations are carried out in the Naturalistic situations, the information the researcher records, can be directed towards the overall aim of the research. (Mukherji & Albon, 2010). I am drawn towards a Qualitative methodological approach, because as Aubrey (2004) stated, “Quantitative and Qualitative should be seen as complementary rather than opposing”. Narrative Observations are Qualitative in nature. I could reduce the information obtained to allow a quantitative analysis if appropriate. (Mukherji & Albon, 2010)

According to Alderson, (2004) ethics is extremely important from the beginning to the very end of the research design. It produces questions and standards that lets the researcher become aware of and consists of any aspects of the research design. Questions are asked as each stage arises, especially by powerless groups, such as children.’ When children are involved with research, the researcher must be very careful to make sure the children comprehend the topic of their different, separate roles and relationships. (Chevron Notes, 2020)

When considering ethical considerations, I believe it is vital to ask yourself questions, such as Who does it benefit? The participants involved; Are they being treated fairly? What is your view of the participants involved in your research design? Do they have issues when they come to power? By asking yourself these questions, you're being respectful, and fair to your participants. Therefore, ethical considerations are very important and making sure relevant data is being made known to the participants when required. It is about protecting the welfare of all participants involved. There are four main principles when it comes to ethics in research. They are respect for personal integrity and autonomy, Justice, avoiding harm, and beneficence. Taking ethics into consideration throughout the research process is important at every stage. A researcher's choice of paradigm impacts upon the researchers understanding of ethics. (Mukherji & Albon, 2010)

Research is essential, if our comprehension of human development is to be developed further. The history of research has shown examples of harm caused by researchers to their participants, such as post World War 2 - Nuremberg Trial ,Experiments in the concentration camps and many more. As a result of these findings ethical research codes were developed. The Nuremberg code was made widely known and has been added into many codes involving the government's research. (Coady, 2010) The first in this code is the voluntary consent of human participants, which is absolutely essential. According to the Nuremberg code, informed consent of all participants is key to ethical research. This view of informed consent is based on the ethical view that all humans have the right to determine what is in their own best interests. If the participants are children, according Brotherton et al, (2010) ‘Ethical research practice can shut down the involvement of children and young people and fails to recognise the same rights as adults in terms of what consent means.’ (MacNaughton et al, 2010)

The participants must be told in simple language they understand, such as the nature of the research, what is to be expected of them, any possible risks of the research and that if they withdraw from the research, they can also withdraw the data that was given. (MacNaughton et al, 2010). According to Coady (2010), sometimes the attention to research can in situations slow down research. In these situations there is certain research which is not allowed, and can stop valuable information, because it is so harmful to the participants. They should not be aware of this data. With this in mind, research can be limited, out of respect for the participant involved. As mentioned above, an example of this, when accepting the participants right to withdraw. Consideration for ethics in the planning and execution stage, can add to the quality of the research . Overall the researcher will evaluate the implications of the research process, while having greater protection of the rights of all participants, and who may be affected by the research. (MacNaughton et al, 2010)

As an Early years Practitioner/Educator, researching in early years has opened my mind to better, structured research. Research within child research has given me in-depth knowledge to apply to my daily practice with children in early years. The key elements that came to the forefront during my learning of this module is, no matter what topic I am going to research, is to have respect to all participants involved, especially children.


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Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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The Importance Of Play In The Early Years and Early Childhood Education. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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