Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pretend Play May Not Be as Crucial to Child Development as Believed, New Study Shows

29.08.2012
Pretend play can be fun for preschool children, but a new University of Virginia study, published in the current online edition of the journal Psychological Bulletin, finds that it is not as crucial to a child's development as currently believed.
Pretend play is any play a child engages in, alone, with playmates, or with adults, that involves uses of the imagination to create a fantasy world or situation, such as making toy cars go “vrrooooom” or making dolls talk.

Based on a number of key studies over four decades, pretend play is widely considered by psychologists – and teachers and parents – to be a vital contributor to the healthy development of children's intellect.

However, the new U.Va. study – a thorough review of more than 150 studies – looked for clearly delineated contributions of pretend play to children's mental development, and found little or no correlation.

Much of the previously presented "evidence" for the vitality of pretend play to development is derived from flawed methodology, according to Angeline Lillard, the new study's lead author and a U.Va. professor of psychology in the College of Arts & Sciences. She said testers might have been biased by knowledge that they were testing children who had engaged in adult-directed pretend play prior to testing.

“We found no good evidence that pretend play contributes to creativity, intelligence or problem-solving,” Lillard said. “However, we did find evidence that it just might be a factor contributing to language, storytelling, social development and self-regulation.”

She said it is often difficult for psychologists to separate whether children who engage in pretend play are already creative and imaginative, or if the pretend play, often encouraged by parents or teachers, actually promotes development.

“When you look at the research that has been done to test that, it comes up really short,” Lillard said. “It may be that we've been testing the wrong things; and it may well be that when a future experiment is really well done we may find something that pretend play does for development, but at this point these claims are all overheated. This is our conclusion from having really carefully read the studies.”

Lillard emphasized that various elements often present during pretend play – freedom to make choices and pursue one’s own interests, negotiation with peers and physical interaction with real objects – are valuable, especially with appropriate levels of adult guidance.

These conditions exist both in pretend play and in other playful preschool activities that encourage children to discover their own interests and talents, such as the method used in Montessori schools.

Pretend play is also important diagnostically for children between 18 months and 2 years old, Lillard said. A complete absence of pretend play among children of that narrow age range could indicate autism, and suggests that such children be evaluated for other signs of the neurological disorder.

A growing problem, she said, is a trend in schools toward intensively preparing children for tests – often supplanting organized and informal playtime, leading to a debate over whether early childhood curricula should include materials and time for pretend play.

“Playtime in school is important,” Lillard said. “We found evidence that – when a school day consists mostly of sitting at desks listening to teachers – recess restores attention and that physical exercise improves learning.”

Regarding pretend play, she said, “If adults enjoy doing it with children, it provides a happy context for positive adult-child interaction, a very important contributor to children’s healthy development.”

Stephen Hinshaw, editor of Psychological Bulletin and a professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, said, “The article by Lillard and colleagues is a game-changer – a paragon of carefully-reasoned evidence that will challenge the play-based domination of the early-childhood field for years to come.”

Lillard’s graduate student co-authors are Rebecca Dore, Emily Hopkins, Matthew Lerner, Carrie Palmquist and Eric Smith.

About the Author
Fariss Samarrai
Senior News Officer
U.Va. Media Relations
farisss@virginia.edu
(434) 924-3778

Media Contact:
Fariss Samarrai
Senior News Officer
U.Va. Media Relations
farisss@virginia.edu
(434) 924-3778

Fariss Samarrai | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.virginia.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Researchers simplify tiny structures' construction drip by drip
12.11.2018 | Princeton University, Engineering School

nachricht Mandibular movement monitoring may help improve oral sleep apnea devices
06.11.2018 | Elsevier

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>