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an activity of children, usually involving imitation of the life around them, primarily the actions and interrelations of adults.
Children’s games are social in origin and nature and, therefore, in content. Many have a national folk character and are handed down from generation to generation. They demonstrate the child’s need to know and influence the world, develop his intellectual, moral, volitional, and physical qualities, and form his personality as a whole. Games are the chief activity of preschool children and occupy an important place in the upbringing and training of schoolchildren of all ages. As M. Gorky pointed out, a game is the way that children get to know the world in which they live and which they are called upon to change. In Soviet pedagogy, games are regarded as one of the means of communist upbringing, self-education, and the training of children.
Pedagogical literature usually distinguishes the following types of games: manipulative games for children up to three years old, games with a plot (role-playing, director games, and dramatization games), outdoor games, and educational games.
Toddlers begin with manipulative games, in which the child usually plays alone and is emotionally animated. In the process of manipulation, adults teach the children how to handle an object, acquaint them with its form, color, and purpose, and teach them to play side by side.
Plot games for preschoolers begin with role games, in which children take on the active roles of an adult, an animal, or a machine and assign the passive roles to toys. A characteristic of such games is their dual symbolic character—for example, a boy playing is simultaneously a “pilot in flight” and a child on a chair. Children construct a play situation and simultaneously imitate the life of adults. They take the real situation, the only one in which they can act, into account, as well as the real objects they use in the game. The toys, everyday objects, and materials included in the game become symbols for objects from the adult world. It is the dual character of the play situation that creates a climate in which children can acquire information about the aspects of reality in which they are not yet able to function. That same duality—the divergence and connection of the plane being imitiated (the world of adults) and the plane of real playing actions—is an important condition for the development of the child’s thought, imagination, and creative potential.
The plots of the games are enriched as the children’s knowledge about life broadens: at first, the environment and productive and social themes are reflected in the games. Children are likewise drawn to the plots of literary works, films, and television and radio. The content of the game also changes: the child moves from manipulating play objects, which are the basis of any plot game at the early stages, to imitating the activity and relationships of adults and the formation of a new game role situation in which the child identifies himself with the person being imitated (thus the child uses play props symbolizing the role). The role-playing game, the most developed form of the plot game, is retained until children reach the teen years.
In director games, children usually do not take roles for themselves, but distribute them among their toys and act for them. As a rule, the plot—everyday life, social, or literary—is developed through the action of figures that play passive roles. Children create a setting for their plot games with toys, play building materials, and natural materials.
In dramatization games, children of older preschool and younger school age reproduce literary works in dramatized form. Roles are distributed among children and toys; puppets are also used. During such games, artistic abilities and an interest in participating in amateur artistic performances are developed.
Outdoor games among toddlers and younger preschool children are imitative—either movements to nursery songs and adult songs or games with toys. Many preschool outdoor games are close to dramatization. Some of these games have a plot and rules (“geese and swans”); others have only rules (tag and hide-and-seek). From the age of four or five, children, while playing, compete in running, jumping, throwing, and other activities. Outdoor games among five- to six-year-olds begin to assume an athletic character. Outdoor games and sports are particulary important in the physical upbringing of schoolchildren.
Educational games are an effective means of furthering intellectual development, especially for preschoolers. They are designed to give the child new information about objects and their classification, purposes, and properties and about types of work, natural phenomena, and other subjects. Educational games are used in teaching children to count and read and often are played with toys, boards (for example, lotto, dominoes, and quiz games), and natural materials. Word games played without toys are also common—for instance, riddles, charades, and crossword puzzles. The rules of educational games, like those of many outdoor games, are created by adults, but they are usually enriched and modified by children. The games are often cognitive-training game-exercises and game-competitions.
Making toys and other articles is important because it encourages creativity. Adults teach children how to play in groups and to use games to fulfill the desire to participate in the adult activities that are beyond them. Adults enrich the content and plots of the games: help children acquire knowledge, habits, and skills in the process of playing; and create the conditions for the game.
The game, according to N. K. Krupskaia, is the school of organization. Games are effective in developing creative activity, initiative, collectivism, organizational skills, and habits among children, and they are widely used in children’s collectives. Game elements are introduced not only into various children’s holidays and competitions, but also into work and other socially useful activities. A number of games have all-Union scope: the military-patriotic game “Summer Lightning,” competitions for the “Leather Ball” and “Golden Puck” prizes, “Spartakiada” sports competitions for schoolchildren, and radio and television quiz shows and contests.
A network of game rooms has been created in schools and other cultural educational institutions to better organize children’s games on a pedagogical basis.
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