A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool: Applying the Scientific Evidence

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We are robbing young children of play time at home and school in an effort to give them a head start on academic skills like reading and mathematics. Yet the scientific evidence suggests that eliminating play from the lives of children is taking preschool education in the wrong direction. This brief but compelling book provides a strong counterargument to the rising tide of didactic instruction on preschool classrooms. The authors present scientific evidence in support of three points: 1) children need both unstructured free time and playful learning under the gentle guidance of adults to best prepare for entrance into formal school; 2) academic and social development are inextricably intertwined, so academic learning must not trump attention to social development; and 3) learning and play are not incompatible. Rather, playful learning captivates children's minds in ways that support better academic and social outcomes as well as strategies for lifelong learning. Written in clear and expressive language, this book offers a comprehensive review of research supporting playful learning along with succinct policy and practice recommendations that derive from this research. A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool is a must read for teachers, policy makers, and parents interested in educating a generation of life-long learners who are ready for school and ready to compete in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This brief, convincing book is a valuable read for several audiences...Teacher educators and trainers as well as curriculum developers will find strong support for bringing play back to the classrooms. Lastly, parents will find it an eye-opener to the value of play and the critical role that make-believe play has in developing a child's competencies, both academic and social-emotional."—Preschool Matters

"Amid the increasing emphasis on standards and assessment in preschool education, are policymakers losing sight of the value of play? This book, by four distinguished investigators in the field, suggests that they are. After reviewing decades of research, the authors conclude that 'children need both unstructured free play and playful learning under the gentle guidance of adults to best prepare them for entrance into formal school.'"—Fairfax Futures

"A Mandate for Playful Learning in the Preschool: Presenting the Evidence offers strong new ammunition desperately needed to halt the forces that devalue play...the fact that this book gets right to the points that it so compellingly makes may, in itself, attract busy readers as well as give believers resource material for framing their own approaches...I highly recommend this book. It articulates the beliefs of play specialists and scholars beautifully in an evidence-based context."—Karen VanderVen as reviewed in American Journal of Play

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195382716
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/16/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 1,010,091
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Executive Summary 3

1 What Happened to Playful Learning in Preschool? 5

How did we get here? 6

Sacrificing good pedagogy for curricular goals: The false dichotomy between play and learning 9

Beyond the classroom: Preschool pressure at home 11

Turning back the tide 14

2 The Evidence for Playful Learning in Preschool 17

Two extreme views of children's development 18

Why consider a whole-child approach with playful preschool pedagogy? 20

A working definition of play and play-based learning 23

What is "playful learning" or "guided play"? 27

The evidence

Part 1 - Playful learning promotes academic gain 29

Part 2 - Play advances social development 38

Intervention studies: Training children to play 40

Direct instruction compared with active, developmentally appropriate learning 43

Playful learning: Combining the best of teacher-guided and developmentally appropriate pedagogy 51

A call for developmentally appropriate preschool pedagogy 52

3 Epilogue 57

4 Recommendations for Policy and Practice 67

Notes 75

Bibliography 85

Author Index 109

Subject Index 115

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