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Children and Play - 2

The Driving Force of Playing

Why do children start playing? We wonder what is driving them to play when we see them playing full of joy with sparkling eyes.
Today many psychologists say that the driving force of playing is an inquiring mind and curiosity. Because the development of children's mental and psychological functions enables them to pay more attention to their surroundings.
Babies start playing by looking at their own moving hands, or playing with a rattle; they start playing by licking a spoon or their fingers. As they grow up, their fields of interest expand; balls, dolls, paper, strings and everything around them. Two-year-old children may stay with other children, but they make a so-called parallel play by themselves.

When children reach the age of two, they start to show an interest in the world of adults. The number of playmates increases and there is a variety of playing patterns. They have a stronger inquiring spirit and become more curious; they play with swings, jungle gyms, hanging bars and rings. These physical plays may well develop into the next phase, group play like playing tag and soldiers.

The same is true for monkeys. If there are hanging bars, rings and slides, they play with them alone physically prior to playing tag and soldiers.
Behaviors such as going up something and moving around hanging from a bar originate in an inquiring spirit and curiosity accompanied by the comfort to move muscles, tendons and joints. That is where the rationale of playing is established.

"Playing Tag" and "Playing Soldiers"

Playing tag and playing soldiers are typical examples of children's play. There are variations according to their age, which can be seen in small children's groups. When children at nursery school get together, they play something like playing tag or soldiers, although their playing style may not be well established.
What is the implication of these playing games? What is meaningful is that small children get in direct physical touch with, or avoid touching, each other. By doing so, they have a sense of unity which leads to the development of sociability.
Certainly children are caressed by their parents and they feel a sense of trust, security or guarantee in their inter-personal relationship. Children's play expands such a relationship and can act as a liaison to link them with our society. These kinds of play, however, now seem to have disappeared replaced by mass media. It may be necessary to restore new forms of such traditional physical plays once again.

Kobayashi, Noboru (1981). "Kodomo to Asobi - 2" (written in Japanese). Tokyo: Child Research Net. Retrieved Sep. 9, 2004, from the World Wide Web http://www.crn.or.jp/LIBRARY/KOBY/MIRAI/cbs0114.html
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