I was raised on a dairy farm where my dad was employed as the hired hand. My family didn't have a lot of extra money, and I certainly didn't have but one or two store-bought toys. There was one thing, however, I had a lot of and that was opportunities for discovery, play and access to plenty of books through the community Bookmobile.
A school in Texas has just increased its recess time, and is already seeing positive results. Actually, considering the well documented benefits of play for the development of a young child's mind, that shouldn't be too surprising. In fact, we've known how important play is since the early 20th century, when psychologist Lev Vygotsky observed that play was the vehicle by which young children learn, and through play their brains are actually able to preform at cognitively higher levels than without it. We hear all the time that we need to expect more from our children at earlier and earlier ages, it seems counter intuitive to suggest that the way to accomplish this is to introduce more play into the curriculum, but it's true! If you really want to encourage some heavy duty brain building, you need to get kid's imaginations, bodies, social skills, emotions, and creativity in play all at once, in other words--they need to play!
Here are 5 reasons why increasing play increases learning:
Play Stimulates Thinking:
Play will stimulate children's minds and promote advanced intellectual development! It also is a great way for children to expand experiences through reenacting events. These reenactments allow experiences to make more sense and have more meaning, paving the way for future academic success.
Play Defines Social Roles:
Dramatic play helps children learn social roles and rules, and offers time to practice such social morays as sharing, taking turn, communicating to inform or persuade, and resolving conflicts, and cooperation.
Play Inspires Creativity and Imagination:
When children are engaged in dramatic play, they can be anyone that they want to be and can even do the impossible! This type of play encourages children to use their imagination and to be creative, as there are no limits. This creative ability will aide students throughout their lives as they become creative and learn to solve problems.
Play Builds Emotional Strength:
Young children have a hard time understanding and controlling feelings. By engaging in creative play, children can learn to manage and understand certain feelings by re-enacting episodes. Dramatic play can also enhance children's ability to empathize with other people.
Play Develops Language:
Dramatic play encourages expressive language. Children are motivated to convey their wishes to others and speak from the perspective of their pretend roles. In fact, it is often through dramatic play that shy or withdrawn children first begin to express themselves through language.
For more information on the subject. Check these out:
NPR on play
Miami University on play
Scientific American on play