Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children's Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth

Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children's Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth

Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children's Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth

Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children's Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth


Why is it that the best and brightest of our children are arriving at college too burned out to profit from the smorgasbord of intellectual delights that they are offered? Why is it that some preschools and kindergartens have a majority of children struggling to master cognitive tasks that are inappropriate for their age? Why is playtime often considered to be time unproductively spent? In Play=Learning, top experts in child development and learning contend that the answers to thesequestions stem from a single source: in the rush to create a generation of Einsteins, our culture has forgotten about the importance of play for children's development. Presenting a powerful argument about the pervasive and long-term effects of play, Singer, Golinkoff, and Hirsh-Pasek urge researchers and practitioners to reconsider the ways play facilitates development across domains. Over forty years of developmental research indicates that play has enormous benefits to offer children, notthe least of which is physical activity in this era of obesity and hypertension. Play provides children with the opportunity to maximize their attention spans, learn to get along with peers, cultivate their creativity, work through their emotions, and gain the academic skills that are the foundation for later learning. Using a variety of methods and studying a wide range of populations, the contributors to this volume demonstrate the powerful effects of play in the intellectual, social, andemotional spheres. Play=Learning will be an important resource for students and researchers in developmental psychology. Its research-based policy recommendations will be valuable to teachers, counselors, and school psychologists in their quest to reintroduce play and joyful learning into our school rooms and living rooms.


Computers are useless. They only give you answers!

—Pablo Picasso

Imagine a world in which children are encouraged to parrot answers, to fill in the blanks, and to not go beyond the facts. Imagine a world in which one size fits all (as in today’s educational standards), and no size fits any. Madeleine L’Engle (1962) describes just such a world in her classic book, A Wrinkle in Time.

Below them the town was laid out in harsh angular patterns. The houses in the out
skirts were all exactly alike, small square boxes painted gray…. In front of all the
houses children were playing. Some were skipping ropes, some were bouncing balls.
Meg felt vaguely that something was wrong with their play….

“Look!” Charles Wallace said suddenly. “They’re skipping and bouncing in
rhythm! Everyone’s doing it at exactly the same moment.”

This was so. As the skipping rope hit the pavement, so did the ball. As the rope
curved over the head of the jumping child, the child with the ball caught the ball.
Down came the ropes. Down came the balls. Over and over again…. All in rhythm.
All identical. Like the houses. Like the paths. Like the flowers. (p. 103)

From the living room to the classroom, children are being increasingly programmed and structured—as are the teachers who teach them. There is little time for play; the focus is on memorization of the “facts.” Indeed, play is viewed as a waste of time when more important “work,” the work of memorizing and parroting, could be done. As the pressure on children in school increases, paradoxically their ability to relax and just have fun through play is being restricted.

Today, for example, many schools have reduced or eliminated recess time (see chapter 3). This is unfortunate, because during recess, children engage in roughand-tumble play (pouncing, chasing, and wrestling), which is distinct from aggression (Gordon, Kollack-Walker, Akil, & Panksepp, 2002). In Finland, recess is an important part of the schedule, and children return to classrooms refreshed . . .

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