The importance of play

I was reading a paper today, published back in 2012, by Dr David Whitebread from the University of Cambridge. The paper is entitled “The Importance of Play” and it is a review of evidence surrounding children’s need for play.

It is interesting to read this report at a time when headlines over the first part of this year have been suggesting that we seem to be heading for earlier and earlier formalised learning and less space for play, as children are not ready when they start primary school.

Dr Whitebread’s report opens “‘Play’ is sometimes contrasted with ‘work’ and characterised as a type of activity which is essentially unimportant, trivial and lacking in any serious purpose.”, however he goes on to state the importance of play and the the value of it for both adults and children.  If ever you were worried that your children were “just playing” consider Percy Spencer, the inventor of the microwave.  He noticed the radar equipment his company built melted his chocolate bar and so he played around with melting and heating other things (on one occasion exploding an egg in the face of a colleague!) and discovered the power of magnetrons to cook and invented the microwave.  Or James Dyson who played with cyclonic separation  in order to create his ground breaking bagless vacuum cleaner.

The “just playing” of scientists and engineers tends to be called experimenting, but just like the way our children use everyday items in a variety of ways or disappear into their own imaginations, it is looking at things in a different way, thinking outside the box and transferring skills from one discipline to another.

One of the central tenets in our view of tuition is that whether helping GCSE students prepare for exams, improving primary children’s grasp of phonics or simply expanding your breadth of study in a subject, the sessions will always be fun and we will use playful strategies to reinforce skills and cement knowledge.  We ensure both group and individual sessions have a fun and interactive element.

As Dr Whitebread notes, “Play in all its rich variety is one of the highest achievements of the human species, alongside language, culture and technology. Indeed, without play, none of these other achievements would be possible. The value of play is increasingly recognised, by researchers and within the policy arena, for adults as well as children, as the evidence mounts of its relationship with intellectual achievement and emotional well-being.”

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