SIG 28 - Play, Learning and Development

Coordinators

Valeska Grau Cárdenas

School of Psychology, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

Antonia Zachariou

Research Centre for Learning, Teaching and Human Development, School of Education, University of Roehampton

Pablo Torres

PEDAL Centre, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Mission statement

Interest in play and playfulness has rekindled with recent studies finding a wealth of benefits for children’s lives and learning (Whitebread, 2010; 2018). Evidence has emerged on play’s importance for a range of areas essential to human learning and thriving, such as language, creativity, social skills, self-regulation and well-being. Equally, recent research on play-based pedagogies has yielded promising findings of better concentration, greater enjoyment of challenging activities, and more progress in children’s linguistic, social, and motor skills compared with peers taught solely through direct instruction.

Despite these benefits, formal education settings across the globe offer few opportunities for children (and indeed adults) to learn in engaging ways that draw on how we naturally learn from the outset of life: through play and playful encounters with others and the world around us. Even in early education, where play is more well- accepted, international studies show a decrease in time allocated to play due to premature academic and performance pressures. A similar tendency is observed in family and community settings: for those affected by urban poverty, this usually implies a lack of access to parks and natural environments with play affordances, along with increased stress in parents, who in turn have less playful interactions with their children. In more affluent families, children are often overly-scheduled and - supervised, restricting their play opportunities. That lack of play opportunities has a detrimental effect on learning, development and well-being has been made abundantly clear by the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought a dramatic reduction in social interaction, physical activity, and play for everyone. Importantly, research suggests that play can potentially mitigate risks imposed by quarantine and isolation; and, where playful and engaging approaches were included in remote learning setups, children have reported a greater sense of belonging and sustained interest.

In spite of these many advances in the field, much work is needed to understand and promote the role of play across home, school, and in public spaces. Also, a better international representation in research is called for, since most studies are conducted in US and Europe, leaving Latin-american, African and Middle-east countries vastly underrepresented, with the risk of overlooking cultural-specific aspects critical to understanding and implementing play in local communities. Finally, play and playful approaches are rarely investigated within education settings serving primary school learners, youth and adults, including future care and education professionals. This is clearly problematic in terms of and play and playful learning being valued and supported by parents and educators.

 

Aims and scope

We propose a SIG with the goal of sharing interdisciplinary cutting-edge research on play and its relationship with human development, learning and well-being.

We would like to contribute in the following areas:

  1. Providing scientific evidence on the importance of play in its many forms, informing the design of interventions and guidance to be implemented in local contexts.
  2. Actively fostering international collaborations, connecting play researchers and professionals to create greater strategic impact.
  3. Promoting the advancement in the field through supporting early-career researchers.
  4. Disseminating research findings for academic and professional audiences.
  5. Nurturing the design of public policies related to play within families, communities, education and beyond.