Research Says

"Play can help children reduce..fear and sense of vulnerability. For instance, children can play with miniature toys, reducing the overwhelming world of adults to a manageable size."

  • activities can help children develop their self-esteem and sense of empowerment by allowing them mastery of objects. Gradually, as they play, children go beyond control of objects to mastery of social interactions with their peers (Hughes, 1999).
  • ..Piaget's theory of play focuses on play as a means of facilitating learning by exposing "a child to new experiences and new possibilities of physical and mental activities for dealing with the world" Hughes (1999).
  • ..By exercising their minds through different play behaviors, children become capable of using high-level mental functions (i.e., abstract thinking) to manipulate and monitor thoughts and ideas without direct and immediate reference to the real world. Therefore, play can be an important educational strategy for

    facilitating children's development in cognitive, social/emotional, motor, and language areas (Bodrova & Leong, 1996).

  • Play also provides a base for building language (Caplan & Caplan, 1973). A number of studies support strong correlations between symbolic play and language. Saltz and Brodie (1982) indicate that teaching young children to be involved in thematic pretend and socio-dramatic play can improve their vocabulary abilities.
  • Flannery reports that dramatic play is positively related to peer acceptance and social skills.
  • Social play (i.e., dramatic/ pretend play) encourages children to focus on the play episode so as to build appropriate social relationships with peers. This type of play also facilitates children's integration into their peer group (Hughes, 1999).
  • Two- to 7-year-old children typically are not able to utilize their logical thinking processes and skills well enough to cope with all of the demands of daily life. Therefore, they deliberately create a make-believe play world for themselves in which they can experience a sense of freedom, control, and mastery; they create a world in which they can manipulate reality and feel empowered (Caplan & Caplan, 1973).
  • Play is involved in the development of personality. It encourages interpersonal relations, stimulates creativity, adds to the joy of living, and advances learning (Caplan & Caplan, 1973).
  • Play is a means by which a teacher may attract children's attention to new ideas and concepts. Educators often think of learning as accompanied by adult guidance and expectations. Play is voluntary activity that is dependent upon and respectful of individual children's learning pace, and children at play are intrinsically motivated to learn.
  • Play reveals not only what children know, but also what children are curious about. Being aware of children's pretend play makes it possible to build units of study that reflect their concerns and interests (Trawick-Smith, 1994).
  • Research studies show that dramatic play accounts for 10 to 17 percent of preschoolers' play and about 33 percent of kindergartners' play (Fein, 1992)
  • Planning for play to be included in the early childhood curriculum is critical. Research demonstrates that encouraging children to learn through play facilitates healthy development in all areas, including cognition, language, social/emotional behavior, and problem-solving skills. So, why not allow children to play?

From: How much do we know about the importance of play in child development?

Publication: Childhood Education

Publication Date: 06/22/2002

Author: Tsao, Ling-Ling

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