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UNIT 4 A

Development of emotional maturity during play

Unit 4

EEC 003/03
Development and Play in
Early Childhood Education

Development of
Emotional Maturity
during Play
B WAWASAN OPEN UNIVERSITY
EEC 003/03 Development and Play in Early Childhood Education

COURSE TEAM
Course Team Coordinator: Dr. Tan Saw Fen
Content Writer: Mr. Lim Keat Heng
Instructional Designer: Mr. Yeap Hock Aun
Academic Member: Associate Professor Dr. Goh Lay Huah

COURSE COORDINATOR
Dr. Tan Saw Fen

EXTERNAL COURSE ASSESSOR


Dr. Mazlina binti Che Mustafa, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris

PRODUCTION
In-house Editor: Mr. Yeap Hock Aun
Graphic Designer: Ms. Valerie Ooi

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UNIT 4 C
Development of emotional maturity during play

Contents
Unit 4 Development of Emotional
Maturity during Play
Unit overview 1

Unit objectives 1

4.1 Emotional maturity of young children 3

What is emotional maturity? 3

4.2 Developing and enhancing emotional maturity 7

Development of self-concept 7

Stress and coping mechanisms 10

Expression of emotions during play 12

4.3 Play as therapy 21

What is play therapy? 21

How play therapy works 21

Summary of Unit 4 25

Suggested answers to self-tests 29

References 31
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UNIT 4 1
Development of emotional maturity during play

Unit Overview

P lay is the medium through which children best express themselves and cope
with their feelings. Play brings about positive feelings and makes children feel
comfortable with themselves and others. Children use play to release their emotions,
work through their feelings and understand their world better. During play, children
learn to regulate emotions that are stressful such as anger, fear and anxiety.

This unit looks at the link between emotions and play. It discusses the role of play in
the emotional development of children and how children develop emotional maturity
through play. Emotional maturity depends on a childs ability to cope with his or
her emotions and stress. Emotional maturity also depends on a childs self-concept.
A child that has a high self-concept will be able to achieve emotional maturity faster
than a child who does not. Therefore, this unit discusses the role of play in building
self-concept and helping children to cope with stress, and as a channel for healthy
emotional expression. This unit also helps you to understand how play can be a
therapeutic tool for children with emotional and psychological problems.

Unit Objectives
By the end of this unit, you should be able to:

1. Explain what emotional maturity in young children means.

2. Discuss ways to develop and enhance the emotional maturity of young


children through play.

3. Explain the use of play as a therapeutic tool for emotional and psychological
problems.
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UNIT 4 3
Development of emotional maturity during play

4.1 Emotional Maturity of Young


Children
What is emotional maturity?
Let us get to know a young healthy girl called Asiah. She is a happy four-year-old
child, contented with the people around her and the toys that she plays with. She
smiles and laughs when she is happy. She cries when she is sad. She screams and
stomps her feet when she is angry. She can be quite aggressive when things dont
go her way; throwing tantrums, for example. Is Asiah the kind of child you usually
encounter in your preschool?

You will meet many children like Asiah when you work in a preschool. Children
can be angels but they can also be difficult to deal with when their emotions get
the better of them. Normal and healthy children like Asiah are capable of expressing
their emotions from the time they are infants.

Activity 4.1

Visit a preschool and observe the children taking part in classroom


activities at ten-minute intervals. Take note of all the emotional
expressions you can see. What kind of emotional climate do you
think the preschool classroom has? Is it generally a happy class?

Infants are able to express emotions such as distress (by crying), joy (by smiling) and
surprise early in life. Later, more complex emotions such as fear, pride and guilt will
emerge (Figure 4.1). When children develop self-awareness and self-concept, they
will be capable of feeling embarrassment, envy and even empathy for other children.
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Feeling sad Feeling happy

Expressing surprise Expressing fear and anxiety

Figure 4.1 Young children are capable of showing basic emotions


Source: Unsplash

Infants initially find it difficult to regulate their emotions modifying and


controlling their emotions is a challenge at that age. By the time they are five to
six years of age or in their preschool years, they will have learned to regulate their
emotions to a certain degree. Attaining this stage enhances their ability to form
relationships with others, particularly their peers. In addition, they will acquire
the ability to recognise emotions expressed by others. This is the path to acquiring
emotional maturity.

What is emotional maturity? To understand it, let us first take a look at its opposite:
emotional immaturity. Remember Asiah? If Asiah behaves in ways that show her
insecurity such as not being able to control her fears and anxieties, crying a lot,
or continually throwing tantrums she is displaying emotional immaturity. An
individual who cannot control his or her emotions; is always scared, timid, easily
agitated and insecure; and has low self-confidence and low self-concept, is a person
with low emotional maturity.

On the other hand, emotional maturity is the stage of maturity at which we are able
to control and modify our emotions. It refers to our ability to regulate emotions
and not let emotions control us. Emotional maturity is closely related to emotional
development, which begins with the expression of basic emotions during infancy
and continues until a child reaches adulthood. The development of emotional
maturity is also closely related to social development. Relationships with others,
whether between children or between children and adults, help in the recognition
and regulation of emotions.
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Development of emotional maturity during play

It must be understood that emotional maturity is related to age. When we talk about
physical maturity, we are talking about a particular point in time when it happens.
However, with emotional maturity, we are not talking about a particular point in time
but a period of time. For example, a person in his twenties can have the emotional
maturity of a ten-year-old! Emotional maturity is therefore something we have to
observe over time. We cannot expect the emotional maturity of a five-year-old child
to be the same as that of an adult. Many parents have unrealistic expectations of their
childrens emotional maturity. Parents should have age-appropriate expectations of
their childrens emotional maturity and guide them accordingly.

What are the characteristics of children who are emotionally mature? Generally,
children who are highly emotionally mature have the following characteristics:

1. Confident

2. Have high self-esteem

3. Have high self-concept

4. Exhibit pro-social behaviours

5. Able to form positive relationships with others

Children who are emotionally mature will usually be able to form healthy
attachments, form relationships with others and experience peer-group acceptance.
We will further discuss self-concept in the next section and try to understand its
importance in the development of emotional maturity.

Activity 4.2

This activity is an extension of Activity 4.1. In your preschool


classroom observation, take note of any occurrence of conflict
between the children. Observe the behaviour and emotions of the
children involved. How was the conflict resolved? Was it resolved
by the children themselves? If they needed help from the teacher,
how did the teacher help them to resolve the conflict?

Self-test 4.1

Explain what you understand by the term emotional maturity.


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Development of emotional maturity during play

4.2 Developing and Enhancing


Emotional Maturity
Development of self-concept
How can we develop and enhance emotional maturity among young children? Since
play is childrens natural medium of expression, one of the ways to teach children
to understand and manage their emotions is by using play. In this section, we
will discuss the role of play in the emotional development of children. Emotional
maturity depends on a childs ability to cope with his or her emotions, including
stress. Emotional maturity also depends on a childs self-concept. A child who has a
high self-concept will be able to achieve emotional maturity faster than a child who
does not. To help you understand the link between play and emotional maturity, we
will discuss the role of play in building self-concept and helping children to cope
with stress, and as a channel for healthy emotional expression.

What is self-concept? Self-concept is what we think about ourselves or how we


view ourselves. It is our image of who we think we are as a person. A baby begins to
develop self-concept early, starting with the development of self-awareness. Babies
who are fifteen months old begin to realise that they are separate individuals. Lewis
and Brooks-Gun (1978) found that children as young as fifteen months of age will
rub a red spot placed on their noses rather than reach out to the red spot on their
image in a mirror, indicating that they already know that the image they see in the
mirror is actually an image of them. Younger children will not be able to do that.

Activity 4.3

In this activity, you will repeat Lewis and Brooks-Guns experiment.


Visit a day-care centre and with the permission of the centre,
perform the mirror experiment. Allow a one-year-old baby to
interact with his or her image in a mirror. Point out the image of
the baby in the mirror and observe his or her reaction. Next, bring
a toddler who is about 15 24 months of age to the mirror. Place
a mark on his or her cheek with lipstick and point to the mark in
the mirror. What is his or her reaction? Share your observations
with your classmates.

Just before young children turn two years old, they will develop self-awareness and
will respond to their names when called. They will use the words I or mine
or even refer to themselves using their own names; for example, Asiah wants to
eat! (Asiah is the child saying this, calling herself by name). They will develop a
self-identity and realise that they are different from others in the sense that they
have a special name and are a separate individual. They will also be able to identify
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themselves in mirrors and in photographs. Their self-awareness and self-identity will


form and develop their self-concept. The development of childrens self-concept is
also aided by how adults respond to them. A positive self-concept is built on caring
and loving interactions between adults and children (recall Erik Eriksons Theory of
Psychosocial Development).

A young childs self-concept is therefore dependent on relationships with the adults


who care for him or her. The child is not born with the ability to see himself or
herself as a person. How adults treat and care for the young child is important to how
he or she develops thoughts and feelings about himself or herself. Generally, children
who are cared for in an encouraging and supportive environment will develop a
positive self-concept (Figure 4.2). Warm and happy experiences with adults who
care for them help shape and influence the development of childrens self-concept.

Figure 4.2 A child who has a positive self-concept is a confident and happy child
Source: Unsplash

As children grow, their ability to interact successfully with their environment


promotes a healthy self-concept. This is critically important in early childhood.
The development of a positive self-concept at an early age empowers children to
feel competent, try new things, and strive for success. Parents have the opportunity
and responsibility to help their children build a positive self-concept.

How can you tell if a child has a positive or negative self-concept? Children with
a positive self-concept have a can do attitude. They believe in their ability to
complete tasks without help, or with minimal help. They do not exhibit problematic
behaviours as doing so would be against their positive self-concept.

How does play build self-concept? When children play, they get to try out things that
test their physical abilities, like running, jumping, dancing, skipping and hopping.
The more they play, the better they become at doing those things. For example, by
regularly playing with marbles, a child becomes better and better at shooting the
marbles. Each time a child plays hop-scotch, his or her ability to jump improves.
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Development of emotional maturity during play

As such, indulging in play helps children to build confidence in performing the skills
involved. Children gain a sense of accomplishment as their skills improve. Success
empowers them to try out even more things as they become more skilful and creative.
All of this makes them feel good and proud about themselves. Feelings of I have
done it!, or I am good!, or I can do it well! help children to develop a positive
sense of self. Their self-esteem is boosted through play as they discover what they
can do. In this way, play helps to build childrens self-concept.

Play also provides opportunities for empowerment children feel that they have
the power to do things on their own, no longer depending on others. During play,
children are in control they have the opportunity to make decisions, for example,
to put a block over here and one over there to build a house as he or she thinks
fit. The empowerment that play provides children is important for developing a
sense of self-efficacy, self-confidence and self-image. In other words, play helps to
develop and enhance childrens self-concept.

If play is carried out in a social situation, a childs ability to perform tasks during
the play situation will further enhance his or her acceptance by others. By being
accepted as part of the group in the play situation, the child feels recognised as an
individual, valued as a member of the group, and confident to do what is expected
of him or her. Usually, young children join a play group without any rules being
imposed on them, although this may change in later years as play becomes more
complicated. Such acceptance will help children to build a positive sense of self,
and thus further improve their self-confidence and enhance their self-concept. Even
if acceptance is according to certain exclusive criteria (e.g., gender-based), being
accepted in a play situation is still a boost for a childs self-concept.

Although play can help to build a childs self-concept, the child needs support from
adults towards this end. Other ways to enhance the development of a childs self-
concept through play are:

1. Play with the child cuddle, hug, engage in rough and tumble play

2. Call the child by his or her name

3. Respond positively to what the child says

4. Acknowledge and encourage the childs efforts during play

5. Allow the child to make his or her own choices (e.g., what to play with)

6. Listen to the child and help to provide words and language for clear
communication during play

7. Provide opportunities during play for the child to try things out and to
explore, and compliment him or her for his or her efforts

8. Allow the child to experience and enjoy small successes so that he or she
may develop self-confidence and feel a sense of accomplishment
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These strategies can be carried out in various ways and places by adults or principal
caregivers during play situations. Caring adults will be mindful of their interactions
with young children and provide age-appropriate tasks in play situations so that
the children can develop a positive self-concept through a sense of pride and
accomplishment. A positive self-concept lays the foundation for the healthy social
and emotional development of a child. He or she will then grow to be confident,
be willing to learn and try new things, and have better relationships with others.

Activity 4.4

Watch the Sesame Street video at https://www.youtube.com/


watch?v=cyVzjoj96vs. Sing the song in the video together with
your friends. How useful is this song in teaching children that they
are special?

As mentioned earlier, emotional maturity depends on a childs self-concept. Another


aspect of emotional maturity is the ability to cope with stress. Next, we will discuss
how play can help a child to cope with stress and in so doing, be able to enhance
his or her emotional maturity.

Stress and coping mechanisms


As children grow up, they will encounter various situations which will cause them
to feel scared, anxious, worried or nervous. Such situations cause stress in children.
Research has found that play can help children to cope with stress (Marcelo and
Yates 2014; Nader and Reif 2016).

In their study, Pretend Play, Coping and Subjective Well-being in Children, Fiorelli
and Russ (2012) found that children who are more organised and more imaginative
in play are more effective at coping skills. Fiorelli and Russ (2012) also reported that
children who are able to express both positive and negative emotions in their play
generally feel happier, more energetic and more cheerful than children who are
more constricted in their play. They concluded that pretend play has an important
role in child development.

The use of play for emotional regulation has been documented in various research
studies (Johnson et al. 2005, cited in White 2012; Hoffman and Russ 2012; Hagman
2014). For young children, play provides an outlet for stress, giving them the
opportunity to handle situations that may evoke difficult emotions. For example,
pretend play may be used to enable children to revisit situations that cause negative
emotions and work out strategies with the help of adults to address those situations
(Capurso and Pazzagli 2016; Nabors and Bartz 2013).
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Development of emotional maturity during play

Activity 4.5

Watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?


v=QUmVxHYtsNg. Try to understand how the adults in the video
help young children to cope with their emotions. Discuss the use
of the four-step Stop, Look, Listen and Reflect (SLLR) technique
with your classmates.

The following are ways to help children cope with stressful situations:

1. Comforting them

2. Talking and listening to them

3. Acknowledging how they are feeling

4. Talking about strategies to calm them

5. Discussing how they can cope by thinking aloud

6. Demonstrating ways to cope

7. Reminding them how well they have coped previously

8. Making them feel good about themselves to encourage positivity

Figure 4.3 Children need to be taught that it is natural and acceptable to have negative
emotions; they also need to be comforted when they are feeling stressed
Source: Unsplash
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Web Reference

For advice on helping impatient children to develop self-control,


refer to the article by Kathleen M. Reilly at:

http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/
behavioral/coping-skills-for-your-impatient-child/

Activity 4.6

Wa t c h t h e v i d e o a t h t t p s : / / w w w. y o u t u b e . c o m /
watch?v=5XcVfKEJAyA. This video is about the emotions that
children feel when they start school. It also discusses coping skills
for children. Try to remember your first day in preschool when you
were a young child. How did you feel? Did you feel the same way as
the children in the video did? Would the strategies suggested in the
video have helped you to cope with your fears and worries? Share
your thoughts on this with your classmates.

So far, we have discussed how play enhances emotional maturity by building self-
concept and stress-coping mechanisms. Next, we will discuss the expression of
emotions during play the healthy unleashing of emotions. A person who can express
his or her emotions in acceptable ways is a person who has emotional maturity.

Expression of emotions during play


Young children have to deal with many of the same emotions that adults have to
handle. Unfortunately, unlike adults, young children usually do not know how to
express their emotions in appropriate ways. They may act out their emotions in ways
that may be inappropriate, such as by throwing away or hitting a toy when they feel
angry or frustrated. They also have a limited vocabulary to talk about their emotions.

So what can we do to help young children express their emotions? We turn to play.
Play can be used by young children to express their emotions in a more acceptable
way (Figure 4.4). Play allows for a healthier, more socially acceptable way of
expressing ones feelings and opinions. Children are able to express their emotions
through play, which will in turn reduce aggression (NCHPAD 2013). Play is not
only a healthier and socially acceptable channel for the expression of emotions; it
also provides pleasure, which reduces stress in children.
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Development of emotional maturity during play

Figure 4.4 Pretend play helps children to act out their fears, anxieties and worries in
a safe and protected environment. Here, an older child is seen helping, encouraging
and supporting a younger child who does not seem to look confident.
Source: Unsplash

The following are some of the ways that play can be used to help young children of
preschool age (5 to 6 years old) express their emotions. The materials for the play
activities can be prepared by adults:

1. Playing games that teach words related to emotions

We can help young children to understand and express their emotions by


teaching them the words that they need to talk about emotions. We can
then encourage them to share their experiences, focusing on how they feel.
Dr. Laura Hutchison (2017) suggests several fun ways to go about this:

a. Feeling cards game

Make a deck of cards (Figure 4.5) with faces that show different emotions
(e.g., happy, sad, angry, scared). Make two cards of each face and then
play at matching the emotions. Have the children spread the cards face
down and take turns to find a match. When a match is found, the child
that finds the match will talk about a time he or she felt that way or make
a face that shows that emotion.

Figure 4.5 Examples of feelings cards


Source: https://store.cfchildren.org
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b. Ants in the Pants

This is a commercially-available tabletop game for children but we can


make the ants by using cardboard. Drawn on cardboard, the ants are
then cut out to be used in the game. The ants are coloured and each
colour represents a specific emotion; for example, the red ant is angry,
the blue ant is sad and the green ant is happy. All the ants are put
into a pocket cut out from a pair of old pants. The pocket full of ants
is passed from child to child. When a child gets the pocket, he or she
pulls an ant from the pocket. Then he or she has to talk about a time
he or she felt the emotion represented by the colour of the ant or give
an example of an event that caused others to have that emotion.

c. Jenga tower

Jenga is a commercially-available game that uses coloured blocks (Figure


4.6). We assign an emotional state to each colour. The blocks are then
used to build a tower. The game is played by asking each child to pull a
block from the tower. The child is then asked to share a time he or she
felt the emotion represented by the colour of the block selected.

Figure 4.6 A Jenga tower


Source: Pixabay

d. Candyland

Candyland is a commercially-available board game. Each coloured space


on the Candyland board is assigned a particular emotion. When a child
lands on a space, he or she needs to talk about a time when he or she felt
the emotion represented by the colour of the space.

e. Smiley-face poster

Make a large poster that has faces displaying various emotions. Stick the
poster on a wall. Children then take turns to throw a sticky ball onto
the poster. Each child will have to talk about a time when he or she felt
the emotion shown by the face that is closest to where the ball landed
on the poster.
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f. Catch the beach ball

A beach ball has many coloured strips; each colour is assigned a particular
emotion. The ball is then thrown towards a child. When the child catches
the ball, the colour of the strip on which the right thumb rests represents
the emotion that he or she has to talk about (Figure 4.7).

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license.

Figure 4.7 Catching a beach ball; here the right thumb is on the yellow strip
Source: Richard Giles (2005)

2. Playing guess my feeling

Make a face expressing a particular emotion. Ask a child to guess what


emotion your face is expressing. Next, ask the child to make a face for you
to guess the emotion that he or she wants to express (Figure 4.8). This game
can also be played between two or more children.

Figure 4.8 Children playing guess my feeling


Source: Pixabay
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3. Playing mirror, mirror ... what do I see?

Stand in front of a mirror and say, Mirror, mirror, what do I see? Then
make a face showing a particular emotion. Name the emotion by saying,
I see a sad daddy looking at me! Ask the child to do the same in front of
the mirror.

4. Messy play

Young children love to play with wet sand, mud and water (Figure 4.9). This
type of play never fails to elicit joy from children. It is also a good way for
them to express their feelings, especially when they are distressed or upset.

Figure 4.9 Children playing with wet sand


Source: Pixabay

5. Role play

Let children play with puppets or dolls or play dress-up and act out emotions.

6. Outdoor play

Take children outdoors, such as to a playground, park or any open area to


run and roam (Figure 4.10). This is a great way for children to let out their
emotions.
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Development of emotional maturity during play

Figure 4.10 Children in outdoor play


Source: Connor Ashleigh (2013)

7. Music play

Let children move, jump about or dance to music. They can shout as they
jump and move (Figure 4.11).

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license.

Figure 4.11 Music and movement can be spontaneous as these children show
Source: Rapid City Public Library (2010)
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8. Art play

Give children paper as well as crayons, colour pencils, brushes and paint.
Encourage them to use these materials to draw and paint whatever they like
(Figure 4.12).

Figure 4.12 Children playing with paints


Source: Pixabay

9. Other ways

a. Using literature talk to children about the feelings expressed by the


characters in a childrens story and encourage them to express their
opinions by asking questions such as: What do you think the character in
the story is feeling? What makes you say that? Have you felt like this
before? What is the best thing for him or her to do? Why?

b. Emotion book let children have fun making their own emotion book
and fill it with drawings of things that make them feel a particular way.
For example, get children to make a Happy Book that is filled with
things that make them happy (Figure 4.13).

Figure 4.13 An example of an emotion book for children


Source: http://lanieslittlelearners.blogspot.my/2013/07/preschool-feelings-
theme.html
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Adults can also help children to deal with emotions by teaching them ways to calm
down. Children should be taught to take deep breaths when they are feeling angry,
seek help from adults to settle quarrels or fights, and look for a place to calm down
when they are feeling frustrated, sad or angry.

Adults should use age-appropriate strategies in helping young children to gain the
ability to manage and regulate emotions. As young children grow and development
takes its course, their social development and cognitive development do not occur
independently but are affected by other aspects. For example, advances in cognitive
development will help a child to understand his or her own emotions as well as the
emotions of other people. When that happens, the child will be able to respond
accordingly in a social situation with an adults guidance. It is at this point that play
is often used by adults as one of the strategies for the development of emotional
maturity because through play a child develops in a safe and socially acceptable way.

While play has an important role in helping children handle their emotions, the
importance of the adults role must also be understood and emphasised. Adults have
to guide children and help them achieve emotional maturity. Such support and care
will assist children in their development of emotional competence.

Activity 4.7

Watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?


v=lQGnWqbuf4U. This video shows a preschool teacher guiding
a small group of children to learn emotions by playing a game. In
this game, children listen to music and then try to match the music
to the emotions shown by the faces on the cards which they hold.
How would you adapt this game for your own preschool class?

Web Reference

Visit the following website for ideas and free downloads of creative
games that are related to emotions:

http://www.emotionalresources4kids.com/

Self-test 4.2

Play is used to help children deal and cope with emotions. Suggest
some interesting and fun activities that a preschool teacher can use
to help children cope with negative emotions.
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4.3 Play as Therapy


What is play therapy?
As mentioned earlier in this unit, play is a childs natural medium of expression.
Children communicate their experiences through play. We also know that children
can use play to express their emotions. In fact, children express their emotions more
easily through play than by using words. For this reason, play is used as a way to
help young children, particularly children who are limited in their language skills,
to express themselves by playing out their emotions and in so doing, resolve their
problems (Landreth 2002).

Play is used as a therapeutic approach to resolving psychosocial difficulties that


children may have. This use of play is called play therapy. Research on the
therapeutic effects of play has found that play therapy under the care of a trained
professional called a play therapist is an effective way of dealing with the emotional
problems of children (Myrick and Green 2012; Desmond et al. 2015; Yung and
Bratton 2015; Evidence-Based Child Therapy website 2016).

Play therapy is a form of counselling that uses play as a tool to reach out to children
in order to get them to express themselves through play instead of just relying on
verbal expression. In so doing, a play therapist can gain a better understanding of
a childs psychological difficulties and help him or her to resolve those difficulties.
Play therapy is therefore useful for the optimal social and emotional development
of a child.

The American Association for Play Therapy (APT) defines play therapy as the
systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein
trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent
or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development
(APT 2016). According to APT, there are two types of play therapy: non-directive
and directive.

In non-directive play therapy, children are given opportunities to play freely. The
play is unstructured, which means that it does not require an adults directions or
instructions. This kind of therapy is based on the view that children can work out
their problems themselves during play, much like a self-help facility. Directive play
therapy, on the other hand, is structured play usually conducted with the guidance
of a therapist.

How play therapy works


Landreth (2002) stated that in play therapy, toys are like the child's words and
play is the child's language. Play therapy is different from regular play in that play
therapy is guided by a therapist. Children who have emotional and psychosocial
problems are the ones who will benefit the most from play therapy. This is because
a play therapist will guide such a child to resolve his or her problems using play. It
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usually requires about 20 sessions to resolve a childs problems, although it may take
a little longer or shorter depending on how serious the problems are. Play therapy
sessions normally last from half an hour to an hour and are carried out weekly
(Carmichael 2006; Landreth 2002; APT 2016).

Activity 4.8

Watch the following video on play therapy: https://www.youtube.


com/watch?v=_4ovwAdxCs0&list=PLEI0l6zilfClotFXPn0htBua
unRfSptLy.

As you watch the video, try to relate it to the phrase: Toys are like
the childs words and play is the childs language (Landreth 2002).

A common technique used in play therapy is sand play therapy, which uses sand in a
tray and miniature figurines (Figure 4.14). It can be carried out as non-directive play,
in which case a child is allowed to freely play with the sand and miniature figurines.
The childs choice of figurines and how the child places them and plays with them
are observed by the therapist. The therapist does not provide much instruction to
the child but instead allows the child to express his or her inner self through the
sand play. In this kind of play therapy, the expression of the unconscious is used as
a healing process. The therapist can also gain some insight into the childs problems
by observing how the sand play is carried out.

Figure 4.14 Sand play therapy


Source: Kristina Walter (2008)
UNIT 4 23
Development of emotional maturity during play

Sand play therapy can also be conducted as directive play by the therapist. In
directive sand play, the therapist engages directly with the child during play. The
therapist may encourage the child to talk about the figurines that are chosen and
their arrangement in the sand (e.g., why is a particular figurine chosen, what does
it represent). Apart from this, the child is given the freedom to express himself or
herself using the materials provided in the sand play (Figure 4.15). Directive play
therapy is sometimes preferred over lengthy non-directive therapy sessions because
of its shorter healing time.

Figure 4.15 Examples of figurines that can be used in sand play therapy
Source: Pixabay

Another way that play is used as therapy for young children is to combine cognitive
behavioural therapy with play. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of
treatment that helps people to change their thoughts and feelings (usually negative)
in order to influence their behaviours. For example, if a person has a phobia, the
treatment involves helping him or her to understand that his or her problematic and
destructive thoughts and beliefs are the keys to dealing with the phobia. Cognitive
behavioural play therapy (CBPT) is the combination of cognitive behavioural
therapy with play therapy.

CBPT was pioneered by Roger Phillips in the early 1980s. In CBPT, toys such
as puppets, soft animals and dolls are used to support cognitive strategies such as
thinking through and problem solving. This kind of therapy is useful for young
children who are limited in their verbalisations (Accredited Counsellors, Coaches,
Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists 2015).
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Working with young children and helping them to cope with their emotional
problems can be very challenging to teachers and caregivers. If we rely only on
verbal communication, we may not be able to help a child effectively as the child
may be unable to express himself or herself verbally due to limited vocabulary and
language skills. Hence, adults and caregivers are increasingly resorting to play as a
medium for better communication with children. Play should be seriously considered
as a tool for helping children in their emotional development (Whitebread 2012;
Lawrence 2011).

Self-test 4.3

Explain the rationale of using play as a therapy to help children deal


with their psychosocial problems.
UNIT 4 25
Development of emotional maturity during play

Summary of Unit 4

Summary

1. Infants are able to express basic emotions such as happiness,


sadness, anger and surprise early in life.

2. Later, when they develop self-awareness, new emotions such as


embarrassment, envy and empathy emerge.

3. Emotional regulation is a process that develops as a child grows.


By the time the child is five to six years of age (i.e., in the
preschool years), he or she will have learned some ways to
regulate his or her emotions.

4. Emotional maturity is the stage of maturity in which a person


is able to control and modify his or her emotions. It refers to
our ability to regulate emotions and not let emotions control
us.

5. The development of emotional maturity is closely related to


social development. Relationships with others, whether it
is among children or between children and adults, help in the
recognition and regulation of emotions.

6. Generally, children who are highly emotionally mature are


confident, pro-social in their behaviours, and have high self-
esteem as well as self-concept.

7. The following are ways to enhance the development of a childs


self-concept:

a. Play with the child cuddle, hug, engage in rough and


tumble play

b. Call the child by his or her name

c. Respond positively to what he or she says

d. Acknowledge and encourage the childs efforts in play


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e. Allow the child to make his or her own choices (e.g., what
to play with)

f. Listen to the child and help to provide the words and


language for clear communication during play

g. Provide opportunities during play for the child to try things


out and to explore, and compliment him or her for his or
her efforts

h. Allow the child to experience and enjoy little successes so


that he or she may develop self-confidence and feel a sense
of accomplishment

8. Research has found that play can help children to cope with
stress.

9. Children who are able to express both positive and negative


emotions in their play generally feel happier, more energetic,
and more cheerful than children who are more constricted in
their play.

10. For young children, play provides an outlet for stress, giving
them the opportunity to work through situations that may evoke
difficult emotions.

11. Play is not only a channel for the expression of emotions that
is healthier and socially acceptable; it also provides a child with
pleasure, which reduces stress.

12. Play is used as a way to help young children, particularly children


who are limited in their language skills, to express themselves by
playing out their emotions and in so doing, resolve their
problems.

13. Play therapy is the systematic use of a theoretical model to


establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists
use the therapeutic powers of play to help children prevent or
resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and
development.
UNIT 4 27
Development of emotional maturity during play

14. A common technique used in play therapy is sand play therapy,


which uses sand in a tray and miniature figurines.

15. Sand play can be non-directive play, in which case the child
is allowed to freely play with the sand and miniature figurines
in the sand tray. The choice of miniatures and how the child
places them and plays with them within the sand tray are
observed by the therapist.

16. Sand play therapy can also be conducted as directive play by


the therapist, who engages in the play with the child.

17. Adults and caregivers are increasingly resorting to play as a


medium for better communication with children and as a way
to resolve their emotional problems.
28 WAWASAN OPEN UNIVERSITY
EEC 003/03 Development and Play in Early Childhood Education
UNIT 4 29
Development of emotional maturity during play

Suggested Answers to Self-tests

Feedback

Self-test 4.1

Emotional maturity is the stage of maturity in which we are able to


control and modify our emotions. It refers to our ability to regulate
emotions and not let emotions control us. Emotional maturity is
closely related to emotional development and evolves from the
expression of basic emotions during infancy. It continues to develop
until a child reaches adulthood. The development of emotional
maturity is also closely related to social development.

Self-test 4.2

The following activities are adapted from the Gift of Curiosity


website (http://www.giftofcuriosity.com/4-activities-for-teaching-
kids-about-feelings/)

1. Acting out with puppets

Get books for children to read about feelings (the Gift of


Curiosity website provides recommendations). After they read
the books, get them to make stick puppets that have faces that
show emotions. Get them to act out situations in which a puppet
is feeling the emotion that its face expresses.

2. Sorting feelings cards game

Pictures showing emotions can be downloaded from the Internet


and cards made out of their printouts. Children can play with the
cards by matching and sorting them according to the emotion
shown on each card. You can impose rules to make the game
more interesting and fun. For example, ask the children to get
a set of five different emotion cards or a set of cards that show
identical emotions (e.g., a set of cards that show anger).

3. Feelings charades

In this game, children take turns to select a feeling card from


the pack of feelings cards made earlier (in the sorting feelings
cards game) and then acting out the emotion shown on the
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card. The rest of the children then try to guess the emotion
being acted out (as in a game of charades).

4. Feelings balloons

Children are given play dough and balloons to make feelings


balloons. The play dough is stuffed into the balloons. An
alternative way is to use rice grains to fill up the balloons.
The children then draw faces that show different emotions
(e.g., angry, worried, surprised, happy, excited and sad) on the
balloons with a marker pen. Once this is done, the children are
asked to sit in a circle and to pass one of the balloons around as
music is played, similar to the passing the parcel game. When
the music stops, the child holding the balloon has to identify
the emotion shown on it and act out the emotion.

Self-test 4.3

Play is a childs natural medium of expression. It is easier for


children to communicate their experiences and emotions through
play and their toys than by using words. This is because children
have a limited vocabulary and are not proficient in expressing their
emotions verbally. Thus, play is used as a way to help young children,
particularly children who have limited language skills, to express
themselves by playing out their emotions and by so doing, resolve
their emotional problems.
UNIT 4 31
Development of emotional maturity during play

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