Cognitive Science: An Introduction/Psychology of Play

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Psychology of Play[edit]

Play is an activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation instead of for strictly utilitarian purposes. Play consists of amusing activities that are often beneficial to the development of the child’s cognitive growth, self-regulation, and general psychological welfare.[1] Play has shown to help stimulate a child’s social, physical, and emotional development.[2] Through play, children express their feelings, interpretations of events, and imagination. One important aspect of play is the development of children’s physical and social skills.[3]

The physical activity of play can help to stimulate children's brains. The resulting cognitive growth of play can help enhance children's anticipatory thinking and general intelligence.[4][5]

Research in the field of child psychology has demonstrated the advantages of play for a range of improved psychological outcomes, including learning[6], emotional development[7], and social skills.[8]

The Role of Play in Child Development[edit]

The functional role of play has been linked to various benefits in the psychological development of children. Research has demonstrated the significance of socially interactive play in relation to different styles, such as physical, symbolic, pretend, and others.

Physical play has been speculated to be among the earliest to evolve in human children. Children's physical play can include climbing, jumping, dancing, simulated combat, and other activities. A recent review[9] summarized evidence that indicated a generally positive effects of moderately unsafe outdoor play among children aged 3-12 years. It revealed an interaction between physical play and playful combat for improved levels of social skills.

Symbolic Play can generally be seen to emerge in children after 12 months of age as they begin using sounds to deliberately convey meaning. In early childhood, this style of play becomes important to children’s play as they learn to speak, gesture, and understand their surroundings. A recent qualitative analysis indicates that children between 9-11 years almost universally suffuse their writing and speech with symbolic play.[10]

Pretend play involves an imaginative style of play in which children assign deliberately fictitious roles to objects or individuals. This exercise in mental simulation has been linked to the development in children’s anticipatory thinking. Pretend play has also been linked to the development of learning and reasoning skills, and executive functioning.[11] Further, it has shown to improve children’s grasp of their environment as well as their creative use of environmental resources. [12]

Neuroscience of Play[edit]

Neuroscience can help to inform our understanding of the structure and growth of the brain and nervous system during childhood development.[13] Neuroscientific research has investigated how playful experiences can support children's learning. Such features may lead to the capacity of children to observe, perceive, and benefit from interactions from a neurobiological perspective.[14]

Active engagement is linked to numerous networks involved in controlled, goal-driven behavior and reward. These processes include memory, cognitive flexibility, and adaptive learning.[15]

References[edit]

  1. Thibodeau, R. B., Gilpin, A. T., Brown, M. M., & Meyer, B. A. (2016). The effects of fantastical pretend-play on the development of executive functions: An intervention study. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 145, 120–138. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2016.01.001
  2. Fehr, K., & Russ, S. (2016). Pretend play and creativity in preschool-age children: Associations and brief intervention. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 10(3), 296–308
  3. Shonkoff, J.P., Phillips, D.A. (2000) From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. eric.ed.gov. National Academy of Sciences Press: Washington DC. Accessed on May 8, 2015.
  4. Shonkoff, J.P., Phillips, D.A. (2000) From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. eric.ed.gov. National Academy of Sciences Press: Washington DC. Accessed on May 8, 2015.
  5. Salcuni, Silvia, Claudia, and Claudia. “Editorial: The Role of Play in Child Assessment and Intervention.” Frontiers. Frontiers, June 13, 2017. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01098/full.
  6. Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness. New York, NY: Free Press
  7. Cheah, C. S. L., Nelson, L. J., & Rubin, K. H. (2001). Nonsocial play as a risk factor in social and emotional development. In A. Göncü & E. L. Klein (Eds.), Children in play, story, and school (p. 39–71). Guilford Press
  8. Pellis, S. M., Pellis, V. C., Himmler, B. T., Modlińska, K., Stryjek, R., Kolb, B., & Pisula, W. (2019). Domestication and the role of social play on the development of socio-cognitive skills in rats. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 32.
  9. Brussoni, M., Gibbons, R., Gray, C., Ishikawa, T., Sandseter, E. B. H., Bienenstock, A., ... & Pickett, W. (2015). What is the relationship between risky outdoor play and health in children? A systematic review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 12(6), 6423-6454
  10. Burrell, A., & Beard, R. (2016). Playing with words: investigating the use of language play in the persuasive writing of 9–11-year-olds. Education 3-13, 1–16
  11. Thibodeau, R. B., Gilpin, A. T., Brown, M. M., & Meyer, B. A. (2016). The effects of fantastical pretend-play on the development of executive functions: An intervention study. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 145, 120–138. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2016.01.001
  12. Hoffmann, J. D., & Russ, S. W. (2016). Fostering pretend play skills and creativity in elementary school girls: A group play intervention. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 10(1), 114–125.
  13. Nelson, C.A. & Bloom, F.E. (1997), Child Development and Neuroscience. Child Development, 68: 970-987. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.1997.tb01974.x
  14. Liu, C., Solis, S. L., Jensen, H., Hopkins, E. J., Neale, D., Zosh, J. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Whitebread, D. (2017). Neuroscience and learning through play: a review of the evidence (research summary). UK.
  15. Panksepp, J., Knutson, B., Burgdorf, J, (2002). The role of brain emotional systems in addictions: a neuro-evolutionary perspective and new ‘selfreport’ animal model. Addiction 97, 459–469