Understanding the importance of the Role of Play to academic attainment for a child

The role of play in children‘s cognitive and motor skill capacity development cannot be overemphasized. Play is important for the child‘s development and learning. The early childhood educators have long recognized the power of play and its significant contribution to child development; its influence has not only been found as it is documented in child psychology, early education, and process of learning manuals, but also in the theoretical frameworks of education, recreation, and communications. According to Froebel‘s (1852), play is a serious and deeply significant activity for [a] young child.  Froebel viewed kindergartens as institutions where children instruct and educate themselves and where they develop and integrate all their abilities through play; the cognitive abilities of a child, which also involve developing an awareness of cognitive and emotional processes, as well as an expansion of policies to control and monitor them. It is now clearly established that children begin to develop this awareness and control very early in life. Important individual differences are quickly established which have long-lasting results for attainment and well-being; these abilities are learnt, can be taught, and the various types of play form a powerful context for their development should be the concern of both parent and guidance (Whitebread, 2010).

Play as it were, is a many-sided phenomenon; and its embedded complexity however, lies in many different ways in which children play. It is also a natural part of a child‘s life, with many opportunities to engage in play and work together with peers. Vygotsky (1978) also presented an insightful perspective on play, he believes that children develop an understanding of the world through play and that adults could encourage this development by appropriate intervention. He viewed play as a means for socially assisted learning and scaffolding. In scaffolding, the adult assists the child to perform at a higher level than would be possible without adult support. When the child is able to perform alone, the adult gradually withdraws and let the child act independently. This kind of adult intervention helps children expand their knowledge and learning during play.  There are many cognitive benefits that Play plays in the effective learning.

According to Gwen Dewar, “science supports many of our intuitions about the benefits and the role of play.” Playful behavior appears to have positive effects on the brain and on a child’s ability to learn. In fact, play should function as an important model for learning. According to him (Gwen Dewar), he gave many examples of the benefits of play in the academic performance of a child such as:

  • Play improves memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex.
  • Play and exploration trigger the secretion of BDNF, a substance essential for the growth of brain cells
  • Kids pay more attention to academic tasks when they are given frequent, brief opportunities for free play

Moreover, following the analysis of Edward Fisher, a psychologist, on the studies of the cognitive benefits of play, he found that “sociodramatic play”—what happens when kids pretend together— “results in improved performances in both cognitive-linguistic and social affective domains.” A study of British children, aged 1-6 years, measured kids’ capacity for symbolic play (Lewis et al 2000). Kids were asked to perform such symbolic tasks as substituting a teddy bear for an absent object. Researchers found that kids who scored higher on a test of symbolic play had better language skills—both receptive language (what a child understands) and expressive language (the words she speaks). These results remained significant even after controlling for the age of the child.

The Role of Play also provide an evidence for creative problem solving.

Psychologists have distinguish two types of problem: convergent and divergent. A convergent problem has a single correct solution or answer. A divergent problem yields itself to multiple solutions.

Some research suggests that the way kids play contributes to their ability to solve divergent problems. For instance, in one experiment, researchers presented preschoolers with two types of play materials (Pepler and Ross 1981). Some kids were given materials for convergent play (i.e., puzzle pieces), other kids were given materials for divergent play (blocks). Kids were given time to play and then were tested on their ability to solve problems. And it was found that kids given divergent play materials performed better on divergent problems. They also showed more creativity in their attempts to solve the problems (Pepler and Ross 1981).

The benefit and Role of play in developing Math skills

A longitudinal study measured the complexity of children’s block play at age 4 and then tracked their academic performance through high school (Wolfgang, Stannard, & Jones, 2001). Researchers found that the complexity of block play predicted kids’ mathematics achievements in high school. In particular, those who had used blocks in more sophisticated ways as preschoolers had better math grades and took more math courses (including honors’ courses) as teenagers.

Playful experiences are learning experiences

Most play involves exploration, and exploration is, by definition, an act of investigation. Play is self-motivated and fun. There is also empirical evidence that kids treat play as a tutorial for coping with real life challenges.

In conclusion, as highlighted above, the role of play in the academic performance is very germane. Play oftentimes gives room for the ability to internalized learning, hinder rote learning from occurring, which most times makes the children (learners) becomes bored of learning, and boost the interest of the children towards achieving great academic success, as they see it being fun.

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