Play Research

Preschool children learn through play. The history of developmental psychology attests to this message. Guided play advances cognitive skills like language and reading, as well as social skills like emotional regulation and peer cooperation. Despite overwhelming evidence for the power of play in development (Zigler et al., 2004; Singer et al., 2006), parents and educators worry that playtime takes children away from precious academic activities (Hirsh-Pasek & Golinkoff, 2003). Playtime has dropped precipitously from 40% in 1981 to 25% in 1997. Research in our laboratory explores how play sets the stage for academic and social learning in three general areas of study. First, we are examining how playful parent-child interactions stimulate rich verbal and physical expressions using different play media (e.g., construction blocks, electronic books). A second research area explores how different learning contexts, such as playful learning or memorization-based approaches, influence children’s ability to learn. Lastly, a third area of study examines parents’ beliefs about the nature and academic value of play, and how such beliefs relate to parenting practices. Click to the left to read more about our current studies and conference presentations! If you are interested in learning more about the role of play in child development, please see the presentation below for a general overview.

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