Monday, April 4, 2011

For Children, Play=Learning

'Play is the work of the child' - Maria Montessori

'Play is a child's work' -Jean Piaget

Two very famous quotations, at least in my field of work, and both very true. However, I recently came across another quotation that I think does a fantastic job of elaborating upon what Montessori and Piaget meant:

'Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play, children learn how to learn.' -Fred Donaldson

Fascinating, isn't it? And so true. The research tells us it's true and you as parents know it's true from watching your children discover things about the world every day while playing. The grass is wet in the morning. That's called dew. If I stack the blocks too high, they will probably fall over. The dog doesn't like it when I pull on her tail.

But did you know that how toys are presented to your child can affect how they explore and learn about them?

Just last week I read an article that tackled the issue of whether children learned more when toys were presented in a playful way or a 'teaching' way. 

Researchers took a toy to different classrooms with 4 year-olds. The toy had various attributes- it squeaked if you pulled a tube, played music if you pushed a button, had a hidden mirror, etc. For some children, the researcher presented a toy in a 'teaching' way- she said "Look! I have this toy. If you pull here, it squeaks." For other kids, the researcher presented the toy in a playful way- they said "Look! I found this toy! I wonder how it works?" She then pretended to discover the how to make the toy squeak and acted surprised when she figured it out.

So who learned more about the toy? 

Kids who were presented the toy in a playful way were much more likely to discover the other fun things the toy did than kids who were shown the toy in a 'teaching' way. But why?

I had the good fortune of getting to hear the researchers of this study speak recently, and they speculate that, when children this young are instructed directly, they assume that the person instructing will tell them everything they need to know. That is, kids may have thought that if there was something else cool about the toy, the 'teaching' researcher would have told them.

So what does this mean for play?  

Well, that it's important. That children really do seem to learn through true play. That it's okay (and good) to let your child discover toys on their own and at their own place. 


Post a Comment

Copyright 2009 Parenting | Singleparent Blog. Powered by Blogger
Blogger Templates created by Deluxe Templates
Wordpress by Wpthemesfree