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A Prescription for Play: Why play fosters social and cognitive development

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Yale Professor Ed Zeigler wrote that “play is under siege.” In 1981 40% of a child’s discretionary time was spent in play. By 1997 that time had already decreased to 25%. In the last two decades children have lost eight hours of free play per week and thousands of schools in the United States have eliminated playtime to make time for more lessons. Ironically, children have not profited from this extra ‘educational’ time, nor from the so-called educational toys and educational apps. Recent international tests of 15-year-olds suggest that children from Great Britain join their American peers by testing in the middle of the middle third in reading, maths and science.

This talk evaluates the evidence for the importance of free play and guided play as a catalyst for learning in social and cognitive development. Using science as a base, Prof Hirsh-Pasek argues that play – in and out of school – might offer an important context for supporting children’s academic, social and physical well-being. She will explore why play, particularly guided play, might offer a successful midway position between the warring factions of playful and didactic approaches to early childhood education. Play and learning are not incompatible. It is possible to have strong curricular goals that are presented to children within a playful pedagogy. Kathy proposes a prescription to reinstate play as an important part of children’s everyday life.

About Professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek

Kathy is the Stanley and Deborah Lefkowitz Professor of Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, where she directs the Temple University Infant Language Laboratory. Much of her work is aimed at bridging the gap between developmental and educational research, as well as research and application. Kathy’s team in the Infant Language Laboratory is trying to better understand the link between play and learning by researching both free and guided play. Based on their findings, Kathy advocates for more time for both free and guided play in order for children to thrive academically.

This talk is part of the PEDAL - Research Centre for Play in Education, Development & Learning series.

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