Children learn through play

I’m still waiting for my own copy of “Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning”, but in the meantime I have borrowed a colleagues copy. Flipping through it I found this gem on page 55:

With only a few “nerdy” exceptions – chess, go, strategy games, Dungeons and Dragons – our games were generally devoid of any great importance, meaning, or learning. In other words, they were trivial. … Learning from games , if there was any, was mostly limited to trivia.

Now consider how much learning is involved in playing Monopoly – arithmetic from counting the money, strategy (which properties should I buy?), physical and verbal social interaction and lots more. Playing snakes’n’ladders? Rudimentary arithmetic, physical and verbal social interaction, first hand experience with real world physics (look at that dice roll!), turn-taking. Playing with toy figures? Playing snap or other simple card games?

These all have real learning potential. It is one thing to big up the learning achieved in digital games, but to say that non-digital games had no (or next to no) learning involved is frankly ridiculous. I haven’t read it myself, and developmental psychology is not my native research area, but a quick web search located this interesting looking book on learning and play.

3 thoughts on “Children learn through play

  1. Bea

    Some more examples of really useful games…spillikins – hand-eye coordination, understanding pressure, balance, consequences, external influence (like the wonky floorboard that you could press to make the whole thing unbalance while looking like you weren’t cheating at all…); cowboys and indians (or whoever and whoever) – narrative, strategy, negotiation, dialogue and making the distinction between real life and in-game emotions and reactions.

    Also, the emphasis in this section seems to be that the only way that a game can have “importance” or “meaning” is if it adds to cognitive learning/understanding. Surely physical outcomes are equally important in a child’s development – not just the “run around and don’t get fat” argument, but things like muscle memory and vital survival skills like being able to judge how fast objects are moving and how fast you personally can move in relation to them.

  2. Kim Flintoff

    Play is essential for learning in the early years and preferable for the rest of our lives.

    The meaning making capacity is an important consideration in school and other formal contexts for learning.

    Physical and emotional outcomes are of course important in many contexts; the physical outcomes include many forms of sensory acuity that are essential to living comfortably.

    I think it sage to remember that because emphasis or focus is given to something other things can still exist. I see no problem with cognitive focus of this entry… its just one entry in a massive blogosphere… after all, who reads (or writes) only one blog in the course of their day?

  3. Online games for free

    Nice to meet peoples who have same opinion as me. Recently, not many peoples realize the importance of educating games. I control what my children play. I tell them that playing games is not just about fun, but also learning and educating.


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