Twenty-six studies point to more play for young children

It’s no secret that we at Improv 2 Improve are major advo­cates of play. So it is always excit­ing to see the ever-increas­ing moun­tain of stud­ies iden­ti­fy­ing the numer­ous ben­e­fits of play for young chil­dren. These ben­e­fits include increased joy, more pleas­ant class­rooms and hap­pi­er chil­dren — and so much more! 

The evi­dence of play as a ben­e­fi­cia­ry to learn­ing con­tin­ues to increase and we are over­joyed. Greg McK­e­own author of Essen­tial­ism, The Dis­ci­plined Pur­suit of Less says, “Play stim­u­lates the parts of the brain involved in both care­ful, log­i­cal rea­son­ing and care­free, unbound explo­ration.” Play not only boosts children’s moods; it boosts their ABIL­I­TY to learn, to absorb infor­ma­tion and to be suc­cess­ful. This is why i2i pro­motes play as a part­ner­ship to learn­ing. The fol­low­ing Hechinger Report iden­ti­fies twen­ty-six stud­ies that point to the impor­tance of play for young children.

What if one of the answers to reduc­ing inequal­i­ty and address­ing men­tal health con­cerns among young chil­dren is as sim­ple as pro­vid­ing more oppor­tu­ni­ties to play? A grow­ing body of research and sev­er­al experts are mak­ing the case for play to boost the well-being of young chil­dren as the pan­dem­ic drags on—even as con­cerns over lost learn­ing time and the pres­sure to catch kids up grow stronger.

Play is so pow­er­ful, accord­ing to a recent report by the LEGO Foun­da­tion, that it can be used as a pos­si­ble inter­ven­tion to close achieve­ment gaps between chil­dren ages 3 to 6. The report looked at 26 stud­ies of play from 18 coun­tries. It found that in dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties, includ­ing those in Bangladesh, Rwan­da and Ethiopia, chil­dren showed sig­nif­i­cant­ly greater learn­ing gains in lit­er­a­cy, motor and social-emo­tion­al devel­op­ment when attend­ing child care cen­ters that used a mix of instruc­tion and free and guid­ed play. That’s com­pared to chil­dren in cen­ters with few­er oppor­tu­ni­ties to play, espe­cial­ly in child-led activ­i­ties, or that placed a greater empha­sis on rote learn­ing. This is impor­tant, the report’s authors not­ed, as it shows free and guid­ed play oppor­tu­ni­ties are pos­si­ble even in set­tings where resources may be scarce…” 

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Lisa Poskanzer

Lisa Poskanzer

Lisa Poskanzer is the Director of Joy & Co-creator of Improv 2 Improve. Lisa finds joy walking on the beach and gardening.