I've recently discovered an excellent article on the value of play. It's from the University of California: Berkley's science magazine "Greater Good". The article was written by a psychologist called David Elkind, and is well worth a full read. However, I'll summarise some key points below:
Written in 2008 this article talks about the decrease in the amount that children play, and the decrease in the amount they move about too.
David Elkind talks clearly about the importance and benefits of play
Decades of research has shown that play is crucial to physical, intellectual, and social- emotional development at all ages. This is especially true of the purest form of play: the unstructured, self-motivated, imaginative, independent kind, where children initiate their own games and even invent their own rules.
There is a lot of information in the article about the benefits of play including:
gross motor skills
interpersonal and friendship skills
exploration of identity (eg through role play)
and even research regarding its positive effects on IQ
which all support our philosophy of learning through play. In fact there's even some research cited that compared "academic" preschools and "play-orientated" pre schools and found:
no advantage in reading and math achievement for children attending the academic preschools. But there was evidence that those children had higher levels of test anxiety, were less creative, and had more negative attitudes toward school than did the children attending the play preschools.
Which is very interesting. If there's no benefit to a sit-down education at preschool age, and so much evidence supporting a play-based approach then the choice is obvious.
He talks about the introduction of technologies, and advocates balance in their use - making sure that time spent off devices is embedded in recreational expectations, and ends discussing the need for adults to play too.
the time has come for us to recognize why play is worth defending: It is essential to leading a happy and healthy life.
It's a worthwhile read, and very interesting take a look here: