Utrecht, The Netherlands
Play and playfulness are basic features in early childhood education. The elements of play are pleasure, a sense of freedom, and the co-construction of shared meaning through the use of rules or rhythms. Play and learning are closely related in early childhood. But when the focus on the educational benefits of play becomes too strong, the most essential feature of play is lost: children’s pleasure. Young children in group settings often have to adapt to the teachers’ demands related to security, hygiene, and social norms and values. But the playfulness of the teachers helps to overcome differences in power in the caregiver-child relationship and prevents young children from becoming overburdened with strict rules and group discipline. Play and playfulness are a resource of shared pleasure and creativity in learning processes.
Keywords: play theory, game theory, play curricula, day care, teacher-child relationship, very young children