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1.1     Background to the Study

Play-based learning has been a topic of interest in early childhood education for many years. Research has shown that play-based learning can significantly enhance children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development (Pyle & Danniels, 2017). However, the attitude of teachers towards this method of learning is crucial in its successful implementation.

Play is a spontaneous, voluntary, pleasurable and flexible activity involving a combination of body, object, symbol use and relationships. In contrast to games, play behaviour is more disorganized, and is typically done for its own sake (i.e., the process is more important than any goals or end points (Broadhead, Howard and Wood, 2010). Recognized as a universal phenomenon, play is a legitimate right of childhood and should be part of all children’s life. Between 3% to 20% of young children’s time and energy is spent in play (Isaacs, Katherine, Heather, Karina and Eugene, 2012). Over the last decade, it has been observed that there is an on-going reduction of playtime in favour of educational instructions, especially in modern and urban societies. Yet, play is essential to young children’s education and should not be abruptly minimized and segregated from learning. Not only play helps children develop pre-literacy skills, problem solving skills and concentration, but it also generates social learning experiences, and helps children to express possible stresses and problems (Laine & Neitola, 2004; Lawrence, 2012; Erikson, 2006).

Deeply entrenched within the historical roots of early childhood education, play has long been a dominant feature of early childhood teaching pedagogy (Bono, Del, Francesconi, Kelly & Sacker, 2014). Over many centuries, philosophers, theorists, educationalists and more recently, policy makers have worked hard to define the nature of childhood, play and the purposes of education. In particular, researchers have become increasingly interested in how traditional and contemporary theories on play and childhood have informed conceptualisations of childhood  and the development of early childhood curriculum (Bonawitz, Shafto, Gweon, Goodman, Spelke & Schulz, 2011). Bos, Fox, Zeanah & Nelson (2009) claim that until the nineteenth century, ‘‘childhood was seen as an immature form of adulthood and children from all social classes had little status in society’’. Wood and Attfield suggest that it was the studies of classical play theorists, such as Rousseau, Froebel and Dewey, that dramatically changed societal views and attitudes towards children, to the extent that ‘‘freedom to learn could be combined with appropriate nurturing and guidance’’, through the strongly held belief that play was critical to children’s learning and development.

In the submission of Campbell et. al (2008). creative play is a central activity in the lives of healthy children. Almon opined that play helps children weave together all the elements of life as they experience it and that It allows them to digest life and make it their own. Salmon (2008b) sees play as an outlet for the fullness of children’s creativity, viewing it is an absolutely critical part of their childhood. With creative play, children blossom and flourish; without it, they suffer a serious decline.

Young children are born with an innate urge to grow and learn (Chi, 2009). They continually develop new skills and capacities, and if they are allowed to set the pace with a bit of help from the adult world they will work at all this in a playful and tireless way. Rather than respecting this innate drive to learn however, we treat children as if they can learn only what we adults can teach them (Chi, 2009). As a result of this approach, Henninger concluded that these children are stripped of their innate confidence in directing their own learning.

All aspects of development and learning are related in play, particularly the affective and cognitive domains. When children have time to play, their play grows in complexity and becomes more cognitively and socially demanding (Chi, 2009). Through free play children: explore materials and discover their properties, use their knowledge of materials to play imaginatively, express their emotions and reveal their inner feelings, come to terms with traumatic experiences, maintain emotional balance, physical and mental health, develop a sense of who they are, their value and that of others learn social skills of sharing, learn turn-taking and negotiation, deal with conflict, learn to negotiate and solve problems,  gradually move from support to independence, develop communication and language skills, repeat patterns that reflect their prevailing interests and use symbols as forms of representation.  In play children seek out risks, because through these they develop their self-esteem and confidence. Play is directed by the child and the rewards come from within the child. Play is enjoyable and spontaneous. Play helps the child learn social and motor skills and cognitive thinking (Cook, Goodman & Schulz, 2011).

Play is needed for the healthy development of a child. Herron & Sutton-Smith (2011) showed that 75 percent of brain development occurs after birth. Play helps with that development by stimulating the brain through the formation of connections between nerve cells (Gokhale, 1995). According to the researchers, this process helps with the development of fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are actions such as being able to hold a crayon or pencil. Gross motor skills are actions such as jumping or running (Gokhale, 1995).

Through the tool of play, children gain knowledge. They learn to think, remember, and solve problems. Play gives children the opportunity to test their beliefs about the world. Play also helps the child to develop language and socialization skills. It allows children to learn to communicate emotions, to think, be creative and solve problems( Erikson, 2006). Broadhead (2011) also submitted that children gain an understanding of size, shape, and texture through play. That it helps them learn relationships “as they try to put a square object in a round opening or a large object in a small space”. Books, games, and toys that show pictures and matching words add to a child’s vocabulary. It also helps a child’s understanding of the world.

Play with other children helps a child learn how to be part of a group. Play allows a child to learn the skills of negotiation, problem solving, sharing, and working within groups. Unstructured play may lead to more physical movement and healthier children. It enhances children’s learning readiness and their cognitive development by allowing them to move from subject and area without of the fear of failure. Playtime in school such as recess time, allows learning and practicing of basic social skills. Children develop a sense of self, learn to interact with other children, how to make friends, and the importance of role-playing. Exploratory play in school allows children time to discover and manipulate their surroundings.

Increasingly however, preschool and kindergarten children find themselves in school settings which feature scripted teaching, computerized learning, and standardized assessment. Physical education and recess are being eliminated; new schools are built without playgrounds. While allegedly, these approaches are providing what Deci & Ryan (2000) called  “quality education,” they trivialize and undermine children’s natural capacities for meaningful and focused life lessons through creative play and this leaves many children profoundly alienated from their school experiences (Daniels & Shumow, 2003).

Teachers hope that their teaching pedagogy will help them to achieve the objectives that they set out for. Early childhood teachers hope that their teaching methods would foster the growth and development that they want to see in the children. Also, parents want the early childhood education of their children to set the foundation for development into a bright, well-adjusted future.  Research has shown that through play, the above-mentioned aims could be adequately achieved. However, contemporary early childhood teaching is increasingly being done through elaborate teaching outlines, minimizing the role of play as a tool; but are these outlines as effective as play? It is against these backdrop that this study examines the assignment of play as principal learning tools in early childhood.

A study by Howard, Jenvey, and Hill (2006) found that teachers who had a positive attitude towards play-based learning were more likely to implement it effectively in their classrooms. They found that these teachers were more likely to create an environment that encouraged exploration and creativity, which are key components of play-based learning. This study suggests that teacher attitudes can significantly impact the effectiveness of play-based learning.

On the other hand, some teachers may have negative attitudes towards play-based learning. A study by Stipek, Feiler, Daniels, and Milburn (1995) found that some teachers viewed play as a waste of time and believed that it did not contribute to academic learning. These teachers were less likely to implement play-based learning in their classrooms, which could potentially hinder the development of their students.

However, it’s important to note that teacher attitudes can be influenced by various factors. For instance, a study by Trawick-Smith, Swaminathan, and Liu (2016) found that teachers’ attitudes towards play-based learning were influenced by their beliefs about child development, their personal experiences with play, and their perceptions of parental expectations. This suggests that teacher attitudes towards play-based learning are complex and multifaceted.

Teacher attitudes towards play-based learning can significantly impact its implementation and effectiveness. Positive attitudes can foster an environment that promotes exploration and creativity, while negative attitudes can hinder the development of students. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider teacher attitudes when implementing play-based learning in early childhood education.

1.2     Statement of the Problem

The lack of understanding and appreciation of the role of play in promoting learning among pre-school children is a serious problem when using play way method Many teachers, despite the growing body of research supporting play-based learning, still hold traditional views of education and see play as a distraction rather than a tool for learning (Johnson, Christie, & Wardle, 2005).

The lack of training and professional development opportunities for teachers in the area of play-based learning is another issue in early childhood education . Without proper training, teachers may not fully understand how to incorporate play into their teaching methods effectively (Trawick-Smith, 2014). This lack of knowledge can lead to ineffective teaching strategies and a failure to maximize the learning potential of play.

The third problem is the pressure from educational policies and standards that emphasize academic skills and testing. These pressures can lead teachers to focus more on traditional teaching methods and less on play-based learning, despite its proven benefits (Miller & Almon, 2009).

The lack of resources and support for play-based learning in many schools has a serious effect on teaching. Without adequate resources, such as play materials and outdoor play spaces, and support from school administrators, teachers may find it challenging to implement play-based learning effectively (White, 2012).

Furthermore, cultural and societal attitudes towards play is a problem that cannot be ignored. In many societies, play is seen as a leisure activity rather than a learning tool. This perception can influence teachers’ attitudes and make them less likely to use play-based learning methods (Gray, 2013).

Another problem of early childhood is to determine the teaching pedagogy that will yield the best results. The best teaching methods has to be favoured because of the importance of early childhood in the development of mental functions of children, which include language, motor skills and psychological skills. These functions have however been known to be greatly influenced by the nature of the educational environment to which the child is exposed during the first six to eight years of life (Bowman, Donovan & Burns, 2001). Researchers such as Daniels, & Shumow (2003) also link effective Early Childhood Education to increases in school readiness for primary school – which is an important predictor of early school achievements.

Again, the lack of research on the specific attitudes of teachers towards play-based learning. While there is a significant amount of research on the benefits of play-based learning, there is less research on teachers’ attitudes towards this method and how these attitudes affect their teaching practices. This lack of research makes it difficult to fully understand the problem and develop effective solutions.

Thus, this study examines how the best educational environment can be created for children in Early Childhood Education through the Play method as learning strategy.

1.3. Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to assess teacher attitude towards play method in promoting learning among pre-school children. This study aims to evaluate the importance of play as a learning tool in the adequate preparation of children for later childhood and future education. Specifically, this study aims to

  • Find out if teacher attitude towards play method will promote learning among pre-school children.
  • Investigate the influence of play method on the cognitive skills of children
  • Determine the influence of play method on the social skills of children
  • Evaluate the influence of play method on the motor skills of children
  • Determine the influence of play method on the attentiveness of children


1.4. Research Questions

The research questions are buttressed below:

  • To what extent will teacher attitude towards play method promote learning among pre-school children?


  • Will the Play method as learning strategy for skills development in early childhood have a significant influence on the cognitive skills of children?


  • Will the Play method as learning strategy for skills development in early childhood have a significant influence on the social skills of children?


  • Will the Play method as learning strategy for skills development in early childhood have a significant influence on the motor skills of children?


  • Will the Play method as learning strategy for skills development in early childhood have a significant influence on the attentiveness of children?


1.5     Research Hypotheses

Ho1: Teacher attitude towards play method will not promote learning among pre-school children


Ho2: Play method as learning strategy for skills development in early childhood will not have a significant influence on the cognitive skills of children.


Ho3: Play method as learning strategy for skills development in early childhood will not have a significant influence on the social skills of children.


Ho4:  Play method as learning strategy for skills development in early childhood will not have a significant influence on the motor skills of children.


Ho5:  Play method as learning strategy for skills development in early childhood will not have a significant influence on the attentiveness of children.


1.6     Significance of the study

This study will be a source of knowledge to educational planners in early childhood education. It will reveal literature on the teacher attitude towards play method in promoting learning among pre-school children thereby giving these planners greater empirical platform on which to establish their teaching paradigms.

This study will also be useful to curriculum planners as it serves as a further body of knowledge in knowing what to incorporate, what to remove, what works and what does not work.

Last but not least, this study is a source of information to both parents and teachers about how play can facilitate the physical, emotional and psychosocial growth of children and prepare them for the future.

1.7     Scope of the study / Delimitation

The study examines teacher attitude towards play method in promoting learning among pre-school children. The area covered by this study is Lagos Mainland Local Government.

1.8     Operational Definition of Terms

Teacher Attitude: This refers to the beliefs, feelings, and values that a teacher holds towards their profession, their students, and their role in the educational process.

Play Method: This is a teaching strategy often used in early childhood education. It involves using play as a means for children to learn and understand the world around them. This can include activities like role-playing, games, building blocks, and art projects.

Pre-school Children: This term refers to children who are in the age range just before they start attending school, typically between the ages of 3 and 5. During this stage, children are developing rapidly in many areas, including language, motor skills, and social-emotional skills.

Learning tool: The teaching design adopted for learning

Early Childhood:  The period from birth to three years old, marked by remarkable brain growth.

Learning Environment:   This refers to the physical conditions, context and ideological atmosphere under which students learn.

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