Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

February 11, 2013

Why Play Is Great for Kids

Filed under: Zoodles Blog — Erin @ 5:15 pm
By Rebecca Butler Global Content Manager

By Rebecca Butler
Global Content Manager

We at Zoodles are all about bringing fun and education together. Every day, we hear feedback from parents who are thrilled to see their kids happily playing while learning. Even so, Play tends to get a bad rap as something that eats into “real learning” time. So we thought we’d give Play some of the praise it deserves.

It Encourages Initiative and Intrinsic Motivation

We all tend to work harder and longer at something when we enjoy doing it, and it turns out that kids are no different. A classic study by psychologists Mark R. Lepper and David Green split preschoolers up into three groups: one group was told they’d get a reward after finishing a drawing activity, one group wasn’t told anything about a reward, and one group received a surprise reward after the activity. It turns out that the kids who were told they’d get a reward were much less likely to draw in the future than children who weren’t given a reward, or who were given a surprise reward. (You can read more about the results of the study here.)

The study showed that play initiated by children is more likely to support intrinsic motivation (doing something because you want to do it rather than doing something for outside rewards). Intrinsic motivation is linked to higher levels of satisfaction and longer periods of engagement – two qualities that help kids do well in school.

It Stimulates Creativity

Play blog pic

In another study discussed in the book Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, 4 and 5 year olds were tested on their ability to complete a simple task that seemed impossible: a piece of chalk, a jewel, or another little treasure was placed by researchers inside a box. The kids sat in chairs around the box and were asked to get the treasure out of the box without leaving their chairs, or even leaning forward. (The solution was to attach nearby sticks together in order to pull the box toward a chair.)

The kids were split into three groups: one group was given the solution right before trying to solve it, one group wasn’t given any instructions, and one group had free time to play with the sticks before the experiment started, but they weren’t given the solution. The results? The kids who had played with the sticks before the experiment started worked enthusiastically until they’d solved the problem. Kids in the other groups were much more likely to try briefly and then give up. It seems, the researchers decided, that play can help teach a concept before it’s formally introduced, and can help increase creativity and imagination.

It Helps Kids See the Wider World as a Place to Learn

Learning happens everywhere, not just inside the classroom. When a child in the supermarket plays an educational game on their parent’s phone, the child begins to see learning as something that can happen in many different forms and in many different places. Suddenly, school doesn’t have to be the place where you learn (or worse, “work”) and the outside world the place where you play. Both play and learning can happen together, and they can happen anywhere!

So next time you see your child “just playing,” no need to worry that they’re losing valuable learning time. Often, “just playing” has wonderful educational benefits for young kids.

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