This observation took place at a public day care facility that serves children 6weeks to 6 years of age. It had an infant classroom, a toddler-two year old classroom, and a preschool classroom. The infants and toddlers were located in the same large room, with dividers that were gates. I focused my attention on the infant and toddlers room. There were three infants and 9 toddlers and 2 -year-olds that were present at the time. They had three full time teachers, one with the infants and the other two were with the toddlers/2-year-olds.
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During their mealtime was when I first observed the interactions between the infants and the toddlers. Toddlers and infants were allowed to interact with each other during meal time. Infants were in their high chairs or rockers and toddlers were seated near them. I was so amazed to see the interactions between the two age groups. Both groups seem to really get along with each other. I observed a two year old girl feed an infant around the age of 6 or 8 months old. They were both smiling and enjoying each others company, of course with adult supervision. Another toddler was allowed to feed another infant a bottle, and the toddler had this huge grin on his face as to be so proud when the infant allowed him to feed him.
During their play time I observed some toddlers were more interested in the toys the infant had then toys they had. One of the toddlers would frequently go to one of the infant rockers trying to climb in instead of playing with toys that were there for her. I also observed the toddlers playing with baby dolls. One thing that caught my eye was how they were handling the doll with such care. One of the toddler girls sat the doll in her lap and grabbed a book and pretended as though she was reading to the doll, while another toddler was rocking and singing to her doll. In another section of the room I observed three toddler boys playing. One of the boys had just turned three years old and the other two boys were 1 year old. The older toddler wanted to lead and control the play. He would make suggestions on what to play and the others would follow along. Also, when the younger boy toddler tried to leave and go to another area, the older toddler guided him with his own type of language back to the group.
Analysis of play and interactions
Infants respond positive to toddlers when interacting with one another. Field (1990) found that infants smile at, look at, and reach more often to peers when seated near each other than they do when seated in front of a mirror. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD, 2005) indicated that children in early care experiences become more positive and less negative toward peers in their play between 24 and 36 months.
In observing the environment alone, it made it conducive for the positive interactions between infants and toddlers. It was possible for them to see each other at all times even though their classes were divided. The gates made it possible for them to be separated and at the same time, allowed them to have visual contact at all times. For example, during meal time, infants were seated at the same table with the toddlers/2year olds at eye level and the 2-year olds’ were definitely showing strong interest in the infants and their well being. This shows that when they have the opportunity to closely interact with one another, they have a trusting relationship.
Description of use of cultural objects and language use
There were dolls and other materials in the toddler and 2-year-old classroom. The children imitated the interactions they observed between infants and adults in the classroom. For example, how the toddlers were handling their dolls was much the same as adults used in caring for the infants. Some things toddlers were doing when playing with the dolls were feeding, comforting, singing, rocking and reading to their doll.
I also observed a male toddler that had just turned 3 years old interacting with the younger toddlers that were 1-2 years old. I called this 3 year old toddler the alpha toddler because he led the group with ideas of play. The younger toddlers responded with acceptance and trust. I think this gave the 3 year old a since of responsibility of being a leader as well as looking out for them. For example, when one of the 1-2 year old toddler decided to wonder off to a section I assume he wasn’t suppose to be in, the alpha toddler ran after him telling him, “no, no,” and the 1-2 year old returned with the others and continued his play.
The last thing I observed before I left the facility was an infant and a toddler playing and interacting with each other. They were both playing with some sort of plush toys really enjoying and exploring them. They were making eye contact with one another, returning their smiles, making gestures, reaching to communicate with each other. When the infant dropped his toy he was playing with, the toddler picked it up and handed it to him and the infant nicely received it from him with a smile and they continued to play and explore with their toys.
Theories of play
Here are a few modern psychological theories and theorists that describes the current trends put into “play” in today’s educational settings.
Piaget, Erikson and Vygotsky all agree that the child uses play for self teaching. The child plays through situations very much like an adult thinks through a situation. Also, fantasy play is a manifestation of symbolic representation— the child represents objects and ideas through play situations. Vygotsky believed that play is a means of deferring immediate gratification-instead of tantrums or swallowing the need; the child fulfills needs in fantasy play. He also believed that children learn to live within self imposed rules during fantasy play; play allows the child to practice self regulation. Play, for Vygotsky, was vehicle for a child behaving more maturely than a other times. “In play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.”
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In 1920, Sigmund Freud posed a psychoanalytic play theory that was defined in his book, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” In this work, Freud described play as a child’s mechanism for repeatedly working out a previously experienced traumatic event in a effort to correct or master the event to his satisfaction.
In 1972, Bruner stated that one of the main functions of child’s play was to rehearse actions to various real-life scenarios in a safe, risk-free environment so that when confronted with a difficult situation, it would not be so stressful.
John Dewey was prominent theorist in the early 1900s. According to Dewey, play is a subconscious activity that helps and individual develop both mentally and socially. It should be separate from work as play helps a child to grow into a working world. As children become adults, they no longer “play” but seek amusement from their occupation. This childhood activity of play prepares them to become healthy working adult.
Maria Montessori, an Italian educationist during the early 1900s, postulated that “play is the child’s work.” According to the Montessori Method, which is still employed today in private schools, children would be best served spending their play time learning or imagining. Montessori play is sensory, using a hands-on approach to everyday tools like sand tables. The child sets her own pace, and the teacher is collaborative in helping the child play to learn.
Lev Vygotsky suggested that children will use play as a means to grow socially. In play, they encounter others and learn how to work together using language and role-play. Vygotsky is most noted for introducing the ZPD, or zone of proximal development. This suggest that while children need their peers or playmates to grow, they need adult interaction as they master each social skill and are ready to be introduced to new learning for growth.
I really enjoyed the time I spent at the daycare facility. The classroom spaces for their infants and toddlers provided opportunities for the younger and older children to interact with each other. I think through their interactions and play, the infants will learn certain behaviors from the older children, such as feeding themselves, walking, running, etc. Things that will possible make transitioning stages from infant to toddler easier as well as making the transition from toddler to preschool easier. Allowing the toddlers to assist with things such as feeding the infants and playing with them, and in their mind helping them, allows the toddlers to have a since of maturity and independence and not scared and dependent on others do everything for them. It also allows them to be caring and a positive support for others.