One of the world’s biggest toy companies has commissioned new research on the science of play. Mattel announced recently that it would fund four university research projects focused on the impact of play in children’s early development through Mattel’s Philanthropy Programs. Play-centered topics for the studies will include: the impact of play on creative thinking, problem solving and the development of language, social and cognitive skills.
The first four inaugural grants were awarded to noted play experts:
- Anna Shusterman, Ph.D
- Hilary Barth, Ph.D and Emily Slusser of Wesleyan University
- Ted Hutman, Ph.D, University of California Los Angeles
- Susan Menkes, M.A., Claremont Graduate University
- Kathy hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D, Kelly R. Fisher, Ph.D. and Kuba Glazek, Ph.D. Candidate, all of Temple University
- Roberta M. Golinkoff, Ph.D., University of Delaware
Learning more about how play benefits a child’s development is fascinating on a number of levels. The individual studies described below may sound highfalutin but I think you’ll get the gist and understand what they are attempting to uncover.
As a mom, I watched my own sons playing with toys or engaged in imaginative play–whether in dress-up costumes or immersed in their own pretend world. The look on their faces told me that they were happy, satisfied and relaxed; I often wondered how these special moments would later affect their development and creativity.
The results of the Mattel-commissioned studies have the potential to help us learn more about child development and how toys can help to foster learning, creativity, problem solving, socialization and much more.
Following is a synopsis of the forthcoming studies:
Wesleyan University: Understanding the Power of Play. This study will focus on assessing the cognitive benefits of independent, self-directed play with toys.
University of CA Los Angeles: Mother-Child Play Interactions With and Without Toys, and the Impact of Toys on the Development of Language, Social and Cognitive Skills. This study will examine the benefits of toy play and will identify mechanisms of change in mother-child interactions during each critical stage of development.
Claremont Graduate University: The Influence of Play Platform, Age, and Executive Functioning Skills. This study will investigate the impact of playing with emerging play platforms on children’s comprehension of material, as well as the extent to which executive functioning skills contribute to children’s’ comprehension.
Temple University: Exploring Contextual and Play Material Constraints on Creative Thinking and Problem Solving in Early Childhood. This study will explore the impact of play-based (free play, guided play) and didactic instructional approaches on children’s’ problem-solving and creativity, as well as how toy structure during free play influences children’s’ play behaviors and creative problem-solving.
Do you remember any special “play moments” from your kid’s childhood?