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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Child's play is learning

Playing -- especially child-directed play outside with friends -- is how kids learn, writes Jackie Mader on the Hechinger Report. Playing games on a screen isn't the same.

"Studies of children have also shown play’s benefits, including improved language skills, problem solving skills and math skills," she writes. "Certain types of imaginative play have been found to improve perseverance. Play can even be used to close achievement gaps between young children, some experts argue."

Schools should provide a mix of free and "guided play," advises Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a Temple psychology professor.

For instance, to teach engineering concepts, adults might tell children to build a sturdy skyscraper, then ask the children open-ended questions about their efforts. To foster the development of mathematical concepts and skills, adults might draw a number line on the ground, ask children to jump, and then compare their distances.

Fairfax County, Virginia schools have added a daily 15-minute recess for middle schoolers, reports Christina A. Samuels, also on Hechinger. Students can play sports, board games or just talk with friends.

Nine-year-olds average three hours of "moderate to vigorous activity" per day, according to a 2008 study, but that falls with adolescence, Samuels writes. Fifteen-year-olds average 49 active minutes on weekdays, 35 minutes on weekends.

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