Positive Psychology Competences of Pre-School Teachers as a Tool for Understanding and Nurturing Children's Play

Positive Psychology Competences of Pre-School Teachers as a Tool for Understanding and Nurturing Children's Play

Sanja Tatalović Vorkapić (University of Rijeka, Croatia) and Petra Prović (Kindergarten “Play”, Croatia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3068-8.ch009


The Positive Psychology frame and definition present a natural environment for understanding and researching children's play in the context of nurturing overall positive characteristics in children's development. Therefore, this article presents a structured review of the common ground between the basic principles of positive psychology and children's play in the context of early and preschool institutions. Also, it demonstrates the implementation of positive psychology principles in children's play and the methods by which positive psychology could be promoted through children's play in kindergartens. Within that frame, the importance is given to the needed preschool teachers' competences in this area. In this context, various activities are presented that reflect a common ground of positive psychology and children's play. Finally, some significant guidelines for future research and practice enhancement are presented.
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Children’s play is crucial for their happiness, well-being, learning opportunities and healthy development in general. Gleave & Cole-Hamilton, (2012, p. 2) stated: If children’s opportunities for play are restricted there are likely to be profound effects on their life experience in general and more specifically on their physical and mental health. For example, obesity, rickets and attention deficit disorder are just some of the growing problems experienced by children that health experts have recently linked to a lack of particular forms of play.” It presents a complex human activity and has been in the focus of many scientific fields such as psychology, pedagogy, sociology, ethnography, etc. (Bodrova, 2013; San Chee, 2014; Tatalović Vorkapić & Katić, 2015). Because of its complexity, children’s play should be analyzed and understood through the application of holistic and multidisciplinary ideas (Kamenov, 2006). Schousboe and Winter-Lindqvist (2013) emphasized that it is impossible to separate children’s play from their learning and development. “All children and young people need to play. The impulse to play is innate. Play is a biological, psychological and social necessity, and is fundamental to the healthy development and well-being of individuals and communities” (Gleave & Cole-Hamilton, 2012, p.4). Therefore, having in mind the whole frame of children’ play, it is clearly observable that it presents the essence of positive psychology. Pearson, Russ and Spannagel (2008) demonstrated that pretend play and positive psychology are natural companions in presenting research on pretend play that fits under the umbrella of the positive psychology movement, and that is closely linked to the adaptive and optimal functioning in children within various environments. Even though these authors have reviewed five areas of positive psychology in relation to pretend play (creativity, coping, emotion regulation, empathy/emotional understanding, and hope), there are also other areas worth mentioning. Therefore, in this article, we present examples of proposed activities for nurturing positive emotions, thinking, traits and relationships with others.

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