The role of the child and young person’s nurse has continually evolved since the mid-19th century; it was from the Minister of Health’s publication of the Platt report that it was first recognised and formerly endorsed that children should have the right to be cared for by fully trained and qualified nurses. This was the first of many reports and policies which was specifically aimed at the welfare of children. Although the Platt report was aimed at lessening the psychological effects on children during a hospital stay, it also made clear recommendations that play should be provided in the hospital setting in order to maintain the emotional, physical and social development of a child. In the wake of the Platt report and with the support of the National Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital (NAWCH) and Save the Children, there has been a slow and steady progress across hospitals in the United Kingdom, with the emphasis on play being essential and that there should be a daily programme of play within hospitals. Based on these finding’s this essay will explore child development and its importance in the role of the child and young person’s nurse; the function of normal play; the importance of play for children in hospital; and how the child and young person’s nurse can integrate play into their practice. For the purpose of this essay the term child is used as defined by the Children’s Act (2004) as those under the age of eighteen.
Before considering the importance and purpose of pay, developing an understanding of child development will provide a greater understanding of the relationship between play and cognitive, social, psychological and emotional development. There have been a number of theorists associated with child development; Jean Piaget (1927) in particular developed his theory based around cognitive development. Piaget believed that children were active learners; and that their thinking passed through four stages; he identified the first stage as being the sensory motor stage which consisted of six sub-stages, he suggested that children were able to use their actions, sensations and movement to explore their environment. Piaget regarded the next two stages as a crucial period of transition, the second stage he categorised as the preoperational stage which was from the age of two years to around seven years, he argued that children within this stage were egocentric, where they assumed that everyone around them thought, felt and heard exactly as they did. He also suggest within this stage children can mentally represent events and objects and can therefore engage in symbolic play. Piaget perceived the next stage to be characterised by children becoming operational which he classed as the concrete operational stage, which was from the age of seven to about eleven years. He considered this to be the turning point in a child’s cognitive development as this was the stage where a child was beginning to have logical or operational thoughts. Piaget used the term ‘formal operational’ for his final stage; which begins about the age of twelve and onwards. He regarded children as now having the skills to think in an abstract manner, and that they had the ability to combine and class items in a more complex manner, suggesting that this stage was in preparation for adolescence. It is vital for a child and young person’s nurse to be familiar with these theories and have a sound knowledge of normal development before they can appreciate the deviations in any aspect of development, as well as provide play resources that support children’s development for their age group. This will enable them to enjoy, encourage and appreciate age-appropriate play behaviours in children and young people.
Children are inadvertently taking part in various types of play without realising, depending on the age and stage of development. Play is fundamentally the language of children and all types of play have an...
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