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Imaginative Play During Childhood: Required for Reaching Full Potential

by Karen Stephens
March/April 2009
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Article Link: http://exchangepress.com/article/imaginative-play-during-childhood-required-for-reaching-full-potential/5018653/

At a brisk pace, research findings focused on children’s play are finally reaching the light of day in popular media. No longer left sitting in archives of academic journals, the benefits of play to lifelong success have been touted in radio, television, magazines, and newspapers. It gives early childhood professionals a powerful, credible advocacy tool to use with parents and community leaders as we strive to put children’s play back into the heart of early childhood curriculum.

In A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool: Presenting the Evidence, (Hirsh-Pasek, et al.) a review of research confirms that children’s self-initiated play nurtures overall development, not just cognitive development (such as learning to name colors, numbers, or shapes). In fact, research builds a very strong case that childhood play is a required experience in order to become a civilized, fully-realized human being.

The following points are upheld by research about important play outcomes. Put another way, these are skills, knowledge, and dispositions that children are at risk of not developing if deprived of enough free time, space, and opportunity for creative play:

• abstract and symbolic thinking, decision-making, creative problem solving and goal setting;
• complex language development and ability to ‘self-talk’ through learning ...

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