Making the case for playful learning
Golinkoff, R. M.
van Oers, B.
1245 - 1263
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International handbook of early childhood education
Springer international handbooks of education;
Play is one of the natural strengths of childhood through which children acquire and also practice critical language, cognitive, and socio-cognitive abilities. This long-standing belief has widely shaped curriculum in early childhood, mainly in the form allotting time and space for free play. However, lately the effectiveness of play for early childhood development and consequently its place in the early childhood curriculum are under attack especially in the USA. Policy makers are substituting playtime with didactic instruction aimed at imparting decoding skills that speak to a narrow set of literacy and school readiness skills. Their decision to make the early childhood classroom a more didactic, adult-directed teaching environment is seemingly supported with recent reviews of play research that show minimal or inconsistent effects. We propose that playful learning deserves careful consideration before we discard play as a learning and instruction strategy. In this chapter, we review some of the newly emerging evidence for the effectiveness of guided play, a form of play that is situated on a continuum between adult-directed didactic instruction and child-directed free play. In the light of reviewed evidence, we propose that playful learning should be implemented to target specific learning objectives such as numeracy, vocabulary, narrative competence, and knowledge of science concepts. We discuss the need for comprehensive playful learning programs that complement free play and didactic programs. Finally, we emphasize the need to share playful learning techniques with educators that will enable them to integrate curricular objects in playful learning activities.