Pretend play may not be as crucial to child development as believed, new study shows
(Medical Xpress)—Pretend play can be fun for preschool children, but a new University of Virginia study, published in a recent online edition of the journal Psychological Bulletin, finds that it is not as crucial to a child's development as currently believed. Pretend play is any play a child engages in, alone, with playmates, or with adults, that involves uses of the imagination to create a fantasy world or situation, such as making toy cars go "vrrooooom" or making dolls talk.
Based on a number of key studies over four decades, pretend play is widely considered by psychologists – and teachers and parents – to be a vital contributor to the healthy development of children's intellect.
However, the new U.Va. study – a thorough review of more than 150 studies – looked for clearly delineated contributions of pretend play to children's mental development, and found little or no correlation.
Much of the previously presented "evidence" for the vitality of pretend play to development is derived from flawed methodology, according to Angeline Lillard, the new study's lead author and a U.Va. professor of psychology in the College of Arts & Sciences. She said testers might have been biased by knowledge that they were testing children who had engaged in adult-directed pretend play prior to testing.
"We found no good evidence that pretend play contributes to creativity, intelligence or problem-solving," Lillard said. "However, we did find evidence that it just might be a factor contributing to language, storytelling, social development and self-regulation."
She said it is often difficult for psychologists to separate whether children who engage in pretend play are already creative and imaginative, or if the pretend play, often encouraged by parents or teachers, actually promotes development.
"When you look at the research that has been done to test that, it comes up really short," Lillard said. "It may be that we've been testing the wrong things; and it may well be that when a future experiment is really well done we may find something that pretend play does for development, but at this point these claims are all overheated. This is our conclusion from having really carefully read the studies."
Lillard emphasized that various elements often present during pretend play – freedom to make choices and pursue one's own interests, negotiation with peers and physical interaction with real objects – are valuable, especially with appropriate levels of adult guidance.
These conditions exist both in pretend play and in other playful preschool activities that encourage children to discover their own interests and talents, such as the method used in Montessori schools.
Pretend play is also important diagnostically for children between 18 months and 2 years old, Lillard said. A complete absence of pretend play among children of that narrow age range could indicate autism, and suggests that such children be evaluated for other signs of the neurological disorder.
A growing problem, she said, is a trend in schools toward intensively preparing children for tests – often supplanting organized and informal playtime, leading to a debate over whether early childhood curricula should include materials and time for pretend play.
"Playtime in school is important," Lillard said. "We found evidence that – when a school day consists mostly of sitting at desks listening to teachers – recess restores attention and that physical exercise improves learning."
Regarding pretend play, she said, "If adults enjoy doing it with children, it provides a happy context for positive adult-child interaction, a very important contributor to children's healthy development."
Stephen Hinshaw, editor of Psychological Bulletin and a professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, said, "The article by Lillard and colleagues is a game-changer – a paragon of carefully-reasoned evidence that will challenge the play-based domination of the early-childhood field for years to come."
Journal reference: Psychological Bulletin
Provided by University of Virginia
- Tots separate fact, fiction early Nov 17, 2006 | not rated yet | 0
- Age-appropriate toys are the best choice, says expert Dec 18, 2007 | not rated yet | 0
- Despite less play, children's use of imagination increases over two decades May 30, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Fast-paced, fantastical television shows may compromise learning, behavior of young children Sep 12, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- All work and no play makes for troubling trend in early education Feb 12, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Why is zone 1 in liver more prone to ischemic injury?
May 23, 2013 Hi, Is it because around central vein, there is only deoxygenated blood from the vein where as in the periphery there is hepatic artery. Also why...
How can there be villous adenoma in colon, if there are no villi there
May 22, 2013 As title suggest. Thanks :smile:
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
May 21, 2013 Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
(HealthDay)—We've all seen them: the surfers who race to the beach when a hurricane hits, the guy who decides to ride out the storm in his overmatched boat, the tornado chasers who fearlessly steer their ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 23 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Women at a particular stage in their monthly menstrual cycle may be more vulnerable to some of the psychological side-effects associated with stressful experiences, according to a study from UCL.
Psychology & Psychiatry May 24, 2013 | 4 / 5 (4) | 4 |
Ernie Pyle – an iconic war correspondent in World War II – reportedly said "There are no atheists in foxholes." A new joint study between two brothers at Cornell and Virginia Wesleyan found that only ...
Psychology & Psychiatry May 24, 2013 | 2.5 / 5 (4) | 2
(Medical Xpress)—Research by Stanford scholar Emma Seppala at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education found that post-traumatic stress disorder decreased in veterans who participated ...
Psychology & Psychiatry May 24, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 1
(Medical Xpress)—Patients with diabetes who are depressed are much more likely to develop episodes of dangerously low blood sugars, or hypoglycemia, than are those who are not depressed, a new study has ...
Psychology & Psychiatry May 24, 2013 | not rated yet | 0 |
Coenzyme Q10 decreases all cause mortality by half, according to the results of a multicentre randomised double blind trial presented today at Heart Failure 2013 congress. It is the first drug to improve heart failure mortality ...
5 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 4
Heart failure accelerates the aging process and brings on early andropausal syndrome (AS), according to research presented today at the Heart Failure Congress 2013. AS, also referred to as male 'menopause', was four times ...
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 1
Mortality and length of stay are highest in heart failure patients admitted in January, on Friday, and overnight, according to research presented today at the Heart Failure Congress 2013. The analysis of nearly 1 million ...
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(AP)—Department of Justice lawyers have again asked a federal appeals court in New York to delay lifting age restrictions and prescription requirements on an emergency contraceptive popularly known as the morning-after ...
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Two mutations central to the development of infantile myofibromatosis (IM)—a disorder characterized by multiple tumors involving the skin, bone, and soft tissue—may provide new therapeutic targets, according to researchers ...
21 hours ago | 3 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Talking on a hands-free device while behind the wheel can lead to a sharp increase in errors that could imperil other drivers on the road, according to new research from the University of Alberta.
21 hours ago | not rated yet | 0