How do young children learn best? Do they need to rely on adults to engage them in drill and kill” (as we fondly refer to it) or are they already motivated to explore and learn important things about their world? Parents and caregivers, it turns out, are their children’s greatest resources – but not because they work at teaching children in a didactic way. Rather, parents and caregivers who read to their children and have conversations with them, and take them to mundane places like the grocery store and the doctor's office, are providing their children with the stimulation they will need to succeed in school and get along with peers. In our popular press, award-winning book "Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less" (Rodale, 2003 – translated into Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian and Portuguese), we describe how young children learn in a variety of domains and reassure parents that they don’t need to spend their hard-earned dollars on electronic toys and adult-structured classes.
Play = Learning: Yale Conference
In June 2005, we conducted (with Dorothy Singer) a conference on play at Yale University. People from around the country came to hear papers about the effects of play on children’s lives and how the shrinkage of playtime is a serious problem for today’s youth. The name for the conference, Play = Learning, is a slogan from our Einstein book. A book emerged from that conference entitled, "Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children’s Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth" (2006- Oxford University Press).
New Research on Play: What Does it Do for Kids?
Our interest in the effects of play has led to a new line of research. We are asking a range of questions about the benefits of play. For example, do parents and experts differ in their ideas on the value of play? Perhaps the precipitous decline observed in how much today’s children are playing is partially explained by parents’ changing definitions of play (Golinkoff, Hirsh-Pasek, & Singer, 2006). We have also evaluated how parents and children interact with console versus traditional books (Collins, Parish-Morris, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff, 2006) and what children at the ages 3 and 5 learn from them. Traditional books seem much better at promoting emergent literacy skills in young children. Another study focuses on how play with blocks enriches children’s vocabularies about shape and space. Yet another compares free play episodes with blocks to videos in offering children experiences that contribute to understanding spatial concepts. Yet another compares the influence of electronic toys versus ordinary toys on children’s knowledge of geometric shapes. As these papers become available we will offer them on this web site.