The theory of play has been explored by many different people with varying jobs. For example, physiologists such as Vygotsky and Piaget suggested views around play that focus on different perspectives. To put it simply, Vygotsky suggested that play is where social-emotional learning takes place. Thus, when children play they are learning how to self-regulate. Of course, this requires varying degrees of guidance from the parent, teacher or role model. Piaget, suggested that there are various types of play that are important throughout a child’s life in order to develop appropriate skills for their age.

Gamification, Game-Based Learning and Engagement:

Within education, educators are continuously seeking way to engage their students in learning based activities. Game-based learning is when an educator uses games in order to teach or reinforce educational content such as using tablet-based games to teach kids mathematical equations. Gamification is defined by Nand et al. (2019) in their paper Engaging children with educational content via Gamification “the application of game mechanisms in non-gaming environments with the objective of enhancing user experience.” (p. 1) In other words, when an educator teaches a concept through the use of a game such as teaching literacy by using a game. These terms are interchangeable in the sense that they both have the same purpose and use the same methods. However, they can differ in that game-based learning can be a more independent learning or small group experience. Whereas, gamification which can be independent, small group or whole group learning experiences. Engagement within education is defined as the degree to which a student is focused, curious and interested in their learning task. The degree of engagement is essential for motivation and progression of learning.

Piaget’s Constructivist Theory On Play:

This research is based upon Piaget’s Constructivist theory on play. Piaget suggests that there are 4 stages within a child’s cognitive development through the use of play. Play is highlighted as an important role within each of the stages, although the type and focus of the play differ throughout the development of the child. Piaget suggests that the richer the play within a child’s development the better their schema will be. My research focuses on the ladder 3 stages being Preoperational stage, Concrete operational stage and the Formal operational stage.

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Pre-operational Stage:

The preoperational stage focuses on a child development from the ages 2 – 7. Throughout this stage children are engaging in pretend play that derives from their experience and imagination. Within the Preoperational stages there are also sub stages being the Symbolic function sub-stage and the Intuitive thought sub-stage. The symbolic function sub-stage is when children between the ages of 2-4 are representing their environment and the important people in their life in various ways. The intuitive thought sub-stage is between the ages of 4 -7 when children are asking a lot of questions. This stage is where children establish reasoning and building schemas that are contextualized to their world experience. Throughout the preoperational stage children are using imaginative play to understand their environment and social situations within their own contexts.

Concrete Operational Stage:

The concrete operational stage occurs during the ages of 11 through pre-adolescence. This stage is where children use logic to build their schema and identify their own thoughts in comparison to others. They become less egocentric and start to interpret and change their schema based on their various experiences.

Formal Operational Stage:

Finally, the Formal operational stage is from ages 11 to adulthood where children logically explain their experiences and their abstract reasoning that continues to form their schemas for the rest of their life. Within this stage they are able to understand their own thought processes. Throughout these stages of cognitive development children engage in play that aids them in understanding their world and their place within it. Within these experiences of play children start to develop skills in which they learn how interact with others in an appropriate manner based on the situation. They develop the understanding of how actions effect others and themselves within varying circumstances. It is seen how play is an important part of a children’s cognitive development. Thus, as educators it is imperative that the appropriate play stimuli and environment is provided to children in order for them to progress through these developmental stages.