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The cognitive benefits of play: Effects on the learning brain

© 2008 - 2014, Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Science supports many of our intuitions about the benefits of play. Playful behavior appears to have positive effects on the brain and on a child’s ability to learn. In fact, play may function as an important, if not crucial, mode for learning. Want specifics? Here are some examples. Animal experiments: Play improves memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex In 1964, Marion Diamond and her colleagues published an exciting paper about brain growth in rats. When researchers examined the rats’ brains, they discovered that the “enriched” rats had thicker cerebral cortices than did the “impoverished” rats (Diamond et al 1964). Subsequent research confirmed the results—rats raised stimulating environments had bigger brains. They were smarter, too--able to find their way through mazes more quickly (Greenough and Black 1992). Do these benefits of play extend to humans? BDNF is essential for the growth and maintenance of brain cells.

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Primary school shake-up to focus on ‘play-led’ learning Children at primary schools would not study traditional subjects until as late as 10 years of age, under proposals being considered by policymakers. Instead, there would be a much greater emphasis on creative play during the early years of primary school, and broader areas of learning in later years. The reforms are based loosely on some of the features of top-performing education systems in countries such as Finland, as well as new research on how children learn. The proposals, drafted by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), represent some of the biggest proposed changes to teaching and learning at primary level in more than two decades. They also seek to give teachers more flexibility and autonomy over the amount of time dedicated to key areas of learning.

What is play based learning Children learn so much through play. It allows them to explore, discover, negotiate, take risks, create meaning and solve problems – all the important foundations for developing literacy, numeracy and social skills. It is central to the Australian Government’s Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), and while it may sound simple and easy, play-based learning is a complex form of natural enquiry that requires an experienced educator who knows each child’s overall development, emerging strengths and interests. Through play-based learning, skilled educators can introduce and reinforce concepts we want children to learn in a way that engages each child’s interests. Play based learning capitalises on children’s natural sense of inquiry and discovery through hands-on exploration of the world around them.

Why Movement is Essential in Early Childhood With so few years under their belts, my 3- and 6-year-old daughters are still learning to inhabit their bodies. They are learning how to maneuver themselves physically, how to orient themselves in space. As Vanessa Durand, a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, says, freedom of movement is necessary for children to meet their developmental milestones: “Children learn by experiencing their world using all of their senses. The restriction of movement, especially at a young age, impedes the experiential learning process.”

21 of the Best Early Years Books for International Friendship Day We know that skills like empathy aren’t fully developed until later in a child’s life, which is why there are so many stories on friendship and how to treat people aimed at Early Years. International Friendship Day, then, is a great opportunity to share some of these amazing books with your children. It does, however, fall on Sunday 30 July. So celebrating on the day itself is going to be difficult, doubly so for Reception classes who are on summer holidays. Here are our picks for some top tales that touch on various aspects of friendship that kids will love. 1 | Bubble Trouble Deconstructing Role Play – Provide the Resources, Step Back and Watch Children’s Learning Flourish Hospital, vet’s surgery, post office, travel agent – themed role play areas are often seen as a must for an early years setting. They are often meticulously prepared to be aesthetically pleasing, covered in laminated words and pictures with the aim of enticing children in. But this is where I encountered a problem: in these areas, children are expected to come together to play out adult scenarios that are consistent with these themes.

Importance of play for babies & children Australian Government Department of Education and Training (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 19 June 2019 from Cole-Hamilton, I. (2011). Taking Playtime Seriously So part of encouraging play is pulling back on how much programmed goal-directed learning we expect from very young children, to leave them time for the fun of exploration, curiosity and, well, fun. But another important part may be creating environments that foster children’s play and parents’ participation and attention. Dr. Hirsh-Pasek, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, cited its Learning Landscapes Initiative, which aims to set up learning opportunities in public places where people will encounter them. One of these, the Urban Thinkscape project in Philadelphia, involves puzzle benches at bus stops, with puzzles designed to build STEM skills.

Symbolic play and language development Highlights Longitudinal indication for the link between simple symbolic action and symbolic development. Simple symbolic actions link to babbling and complex symbolic outputs. Frequency at initiation of babbling associated with initiation of complex symbolic behaviors. Results support a direct-path hypothesis and an indirect one, rather than a dual-path hypothesis. Mother's responsiveness is related to the production of symbolic play. This ‘Kindness Curriculum’ Is Free And Should Be Used In Every Classroom Imagine living in a world that valued kindness enough to teach it along with academics. Educators would teach kids to manage their emotions in addition to standard curriculum such as math and science. Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? Well, the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has created a free “kindness curriculum” for kids, designed to do just that.

FAQ: Raising Bilingual Children Why want bilingual children? There are many reasons, but the two most common are: 1) The parents speak different languages (say, an American woman and a Turkish man). 2) The parents speak the same language, but live in a community where most people speak something else (say, a Korean couple living in the USA). The Power (and Peril) of Praising Your Kids What do we make of a boy like Thomas? Thomas (his middle name) is a fifth-grader at the highly competitive P.S. 334, the Anderson School on West 84th. Slim as they get, Thomas recently had his long sandy-blond hair cut short to look like the new James Bond (he took a photo of Daniel Craig to the barber).

How young children learn English through play As we release Learning Time with Timmy – our first app for early-years learners of English – Danitza Villarroel, a teacher on our Learning Time with Shaun and Timmy course in Chile, explains the importance of learning through play, and offers a few tips for teachers new to this age group. Teaching English to pre-school children can be daunting for teachers new to this age group. Young children have shorter attention spans than older children and adults, and they're still learning their mother tongue. But teaching these learners can be enormously rewarding once you've taken a few basic principles on board. Does my toddler have a short attention span because she won’t sit still for a story? A: It is perfectly normal for toddlers to not sit still very long—period. Most don’t like to stay in one place for long now that they can explore in so many new ways—by running, jumping, and climbing. So, an adult’s idea of snuggling on the couch to hear a story may not be the same idea a toddler has for story-time. You may only be able to read or talk about a few pages in a book at a time.

Observation, Assessment and Planning - Early Years Matters The EYFS Profile summarises and describes children’s attainment at the end of the EYFS. It is based on on-going observation and assessment in the three prime and four specific areas of learning, and the three learning characteristics, set out below: The prime areas of learning:

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