Play and cognitive development
Research with school age children (Bruner et al 1976) suggests that when they have had opportunities to play (explore and experiment freely) with materials, they are better able to solve tasks using those materials later. Although play with babies may be initiated by a familiar adult, once they have had some experience babies will begin playing spontaneously – this spontaneity is an essential characteristic of play. The other key aspect is that it is the baby, or child, who is in control and any adult involved needs to follow that lead. Stern’s (1977) research showed that parents who behave as if their interactions with their babies are a ‘dance’ in which the baby takes the lead are those who most effectively foster their children’s development and learning.
In Pridham et al’s (2000) research project, investigating the optimum conditions for children’s focused exploration of toys, they found that a care-giver’s ‘attention-directing behaviour had a
negative effect on infant exploration of toys. The more a mother directed and consequently, refocused her infant’s attention, the less focused exploration of toys the infant did’ (Pridham et al 2000:1445).
DfES Research Report Number 444: David, T., Goouch, K., Powell, S. and Abbott, L.
(2003) Birth to Three Matters: A Review of the Literature, Nottingham, Queen’s
Printer. Ps 96-112.
The Early Years Foundation Stage
Primary National Strategy