It is difficult, if not impossible, to shed any bias when the word “play” in relation to children comes up. We played as children and that conjures some of our best childhood memories. We cannot fathom a world where children are not allowed to play. Nor should we.
However, the question raised these days on Twitter is not whether play is important to children, but to what extend it aids development and learning, and whether play-based pedagogies are justified in early years.
For that reason, I won’t discuss play through anthropological, historical or cultural lens. I am linking David Whitebread’s paper (The Importance of Play) and invite you to read it. Play is “ubiquitous among humans, both as children and as adults, and children’s play is consistently supported by adults in all societies and cultures. Cultural attitudes, transmitted to the children predominantly through the behavior of their parents, affect how much play is encouraged and supported, to what age individuals are regarded as children who are expected to play, and the extent to which adults play with children.”
I will focus on a review by Lillard et al that was published two years ago (2012) –The Impact of Pretend Play on Children’s Development: A Review of the Evidence. I chose this one because the findings are in dissonance with what most people believe(d). We all hear how play is “crucial” for the development of creativity, for instance. Well, according to the evidence, it is not.