According to Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Department of Psychology, Temple University, humans learn best when they are active and engaged. Playful learning works and it is one of the areas in which families engage in active, engaged, meaningful, and socially interactive learning where humans can grow important skills in and out of school. Dr. Hirsh-Pasek distinguishes the difference between free play and guided play as free play being when the child both initiates and directs the play whereas with guided play the adult initiates play and the child directs it.
An example of guided play would be a children’s museum where the exhibits are designed by adults and children come and play as they wish with the exhibits. In guided play the adult plans the play environment and plays with children. The adult also asks stimulating open-ended questions that build upon the discovery found in play. And adults also suggest ways to explore materials that children may not think of. Research shows that guided play can advance young children’s skills in: reading, language, mathematics, spatial learning, executive function, and social emotionally.
Hirsch-Pasek shared some ideas of how a community can be involved in guided play and park-based learning. She talked about the Ultimate Block Party they held in NYC’s Central Park where Legos were available for building all types of structures, 28 science experiment stations were set up for such discoveries as pouring and measuring water, and where they played the largest game of Simon Says which enhances executive function. She referenced Parkolopy which was currently being developed and will be a life-sized game board where participants move themselves through the game. Players roll life-sized die that have regular faces on them and faces expressed as fractions. And she told of Urban Think Scape where benches at bus stops had turning puzzles behind them and other benches that acted as scales lowering themselves as more people sat upon them. Another idea was that of using multi-colored street lights with cranks on them that allowed children to turn the light to whatever color they wanted and other street lights that had a moveable shadow-pattern that children could manipulate and see the show upon the ground as they turned the cranks on the light poles.
Dr. Hirsch-Pasek closed her presentation with a paraphrased quote from Carla Rinadi, President of Reggio Children, which reads, “It is unclear how play and learning were ever divorced from one another. They are like the wings of a butterfly—one play and one learning and without both the butterfly will never take flight.”
Featured image source: Extension CJ&J.jpg
LEANNE MANNING, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD
Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child
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