The Ultimate Block Party's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘play

Imagine that you walk into a preschool and see a toy you haven’t seen before.  The teacher walks in and says, “Hi there!  This is a new toy that we just got from the store.  I haven’t had the chance to play with it yet, but here, take a look and see what it can do.” What would you do with the toy?  Now imagine that she said this instead, “Hi there! This is a new toy that we just got from the store.  I really like it. Look at what it can do!” She then pushes a button on the toy to play music. Now what would you do with the toy?

How did your responses differ in the two scenarios? In the first example, the teacher was naïve and didn’t know what to do with the toy.  You would probably explore and play with the toy to see what fun things it could do, right? In the latter case, the teacher showed you what the toy did.  You would probably hit the button to play the music a number of times because this is what the toy does. Would you do anything else with the toy?

New research published in the journal Cognition explores how teaching influences children’s exploration, discovery, and learning. Similar to the example above, children were shown a brand new toy and an adult (a) directly and purposefully showed them one of four possible functions of a toy (explicit teaching), (b) accidentally discovered a function of the toy, or (c) did not show any functions of the toy.  Then, children were given as much time as they wanted to explore and play with the toy. Children who were explicitly taught spent less time exploring the toy, discovered fewer functions, and played for a shorter period of time compared to those who were not taught!

What does this tell us about how children learn?  Does it mean that we should never directly show our children anything so that they explore the world?  No!  On the one hand, this is great news because it means that our children learn when we try to teach them about new objects. BUT, when we directly show our children how something works, we also “constrain” how they see the object by zeroing in on one particular aspect. Remember, creative thinking begins with ‘flexible thinking’—and is grounded in exploration, discovery, and play. As the researchers state, this creates a ‘double-edged’ sword.  What can we do?

• Allow our children to explore an object first.  Let them experiment, turn it upside down, push, pull, and shake!  Then, after they explore, we can then show them what they haven’t yet discovered (if anything!).  This lets your child be creative, but also lets them benefit from your expertise.

• Prompt your child to keep exploring an object even after you showed them something about it. This way, they see an example of what a toy might be able to do, but you also encourage them to make their own discoveries!

• Choose what to teach and when. Some situations require direct instruction (e.g., tying a shoe), others may not (e.g., how to play with a toy) and some situations may require some initial, gentle guidance (e.g., creating a collage).

Remember, learning should be fun, creative, and enjoyable – for both you and your child!

This blog was written by Dr. Jennifer Zosh, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine.

Featured Article:

Bonawitz, E., Shafto, P., Gweon, H., Goodman, N. D., Spelke, E., & Schulz, L. (in press). The double-edged sword of pedagogy: Instruction limits spontaneous exploration and discovery. Cognition.

Interested in Learning More?

Csibra, G., & Gergely, G. (2009). Natural pedagogy. Trends in Cognitive Science, 13(4), 148-153.

 

Have you ever been stumped on a problem and later on you had the “aha!” moment when you are watching TV, playing around, or even taking a shower? What ignited that moment of insight?

According to an article in the  New York Times this week, new neuroscience research  shows positive mood may prep the mind for the “aha moment” when we are faced with a tough problem. How? The research suggests that a positive mood may increase attention, perhaps on a subconscious level, so that we can pick up  important details that are often overlooked. So before your next big project maybe you should watch a comedy show or tell a good joke!

Have you noticed that children are highly creative? Perhaps the positive mood  incurred from playful experiences may also promote creative problem solving. Evidence suggests that children who play generate more creative solutions on subsequent tasks compared to those who do not (Pepler & Ross, 1981; Smith & Dutton, 1979; for a review, see Hughes, 1999). Some theorists suggest that children and great innovators alike engage in “bricolage,” a playful attitude that allows them to openly tinker, explore, collaborate, make mistakes, and rebuild their way to discovery. It is this mindset, scholars suggest, that makes play a powerful informal learning experience, one that naturally engages processes of experimentation and imagination—and one that is necessary for  creative innovation in the ‘knowledge age’ (Brown, 2010; Papert, 1994).

 

Featured article:

Carey, B. (2010, December 7). Tracing the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving. New York Times.

Interested in learning more?

Brown, J. (2008, October). Tinkering as a mode of knowledge production in the digital age. Presentation at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Stanford, CA.

Hughes, F.P. (1999). Play, creativity, and problem-solving.

Papert, S. (1994). The children’s machine: rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Pepler, D.J. & Ross, H.S. (1981).  The effects of play on convergent and divergent problem solving. Child Development, 52, 1202-1210.

Smith P.K. & Dutton, S. (1979). Play and training in direct and innovative problem solving.  Child Development, 50, 830-836.

 

 

This blog was written by Dr. Kelly Fisher, Postdoctoral Fellow at Temple University.

“One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother told me ‘Superman’ did not exist…She thought I was crying because its like Santa Clause is not real. I was crying because no one was coming with enough power to save us,”

– Geoffrey Canada, Waiting for Superman

 

When America faces perilous times, children often wonder, “Where is Superman?” Day after day, they may sit, staring out their window, waiting for their superhero to come and save the day. The new documentary, Waiting for Superman, provides a telling account of America’s failing public education system and its detrimental effects on our children. Director David Guggenheim reveals a world of deteriorating schools, questionable teacher quality, and an educational infrastructure bound in red tape that sets many children on an inescapable path (e.g. the ‘dropout factories’).

So… where is Superman? For many, the documentary suggests, Superman resides in charter schools—and entry is only possible with a winning lottery ticket; however, the answer is much more complex. It is not just a matter of well-meaning, high quality teachers and longer school days, it is a matter of community (see Harlem Children Zone’s rebuilding a community perspective).

Our approach? Superman lives in all of us. We aim to start early and empower the parents, guardians, and children by putting the information in their hands. Children spend approximately 79% of their waking hours outside of school—suggesting you have an integral part of children’s learning and development—and you have the power for change.

 

This blog was written by Dr. Kelly Fisher, Postdoctoral Fellow at Temple University.

What do you see when you walk down an aisle in the grocery store? Across the walkway, a 2-year-old girl sits in the cart exploring broccoli, a 4-year-old boy exclaims “circle!” as he points to a shape on a cereal box, and a 3-year-old sits in the cart, quietly, playing with the iPhone. Yes. the iPhone! There are now numerous apps aimed directly at preschoolers,  with some directly marketed as having learning and educational value.

Developmental experts caution against the growing ‘iPhone toy’ trend in the recent New York Times article, iPhones for Toddlers. Children’s learning and brain development center on active experiences within the world. Through play and exploration, children link ideas to real-world-experiences, which becomes the basis for complex concepts and skills they learn later in life.

Evidence suggests young children have difficulty learning from screen media (e.g. television, video, computers)–particularly for the under 3 crowd. Although children are captivated by gadgets and technology, it does not necessarily mean that they are beneficial. Read more…

Interested in Learning More?

The Kaiser Family Foundation. The Effects of Electronic Media on Children Ages Zero to Six: A History of Research.

Resnick, M. (2004). Edutainment? No Thanks. I Prefer Playful Learning.

Linebarger, D. (2005). Infants’ and toddlers’ television viewing and language outcomes.

Schmidt, M.E. & Vandewater, E.W. (2008). Electronic media and learning and achievement. The Future of Children, 18, 63-86.

This blog was written by Dr. Kelly Fisher, Postdoctoral Fellow at Temple University.

What is the capital of Pennsylvania?  Who is the President of the United States?  What are mitochondria? Where are the everglades? These are all questions that our children face every day when they go into the classroom or talk with adults.  And it makes sense – we want our children to have knowledge about the facts of the world.  But does memorizing facts lead to children becoming doctors, engineers, or scientists?  The answer to this question may

Where goeth creative thinking?

surprise you!

“The Creativity Crisis” appeared in Newsweek over the summer and makes a strong case for emphasizing play and creativity over facts and IQ scores.  The authors of the article highlight the fact that children’s scores on tests of creativity have FALLEN over the past two decades even though they had been rising steadily for decades.  And these creativity scores do a much better job of predicting lifetime creative accomplishment than childhood IQ scores.  Our children are becoming less creative and less flexible – certainly a worry for today’s parents and for tomorrow’s future!

But don’t despair – creativity is not something that today’s kids just don’t have.  Instead, we can help foster creativity, ingenuity, flexibility, and a love of learning in children through play!  For instance, at the Ultimate Block Party, we will give your children the opportunity o problem-solve and work with new friends to create a new skyscraper or a block tower.  They will be able to create their own art and use everyday materials to create new structures.  They can practice how to express their feelings and emotions while pretending they are chefs or learning how to ‘clown around.’  The opportunities for your child to learn how to be creative are endless and the Ultimate Block Party aims to show you just a few ways that we can reverse this “Creativity Crisis.”  We look forward to seeing you soon!

This blog was written by Dr. Jennifer Zosh, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine.


No Time for Play?

How many children report having no time for play?  How many schools have NO recess?  In the last 20 years, how many HOURS of play per week have children lost?

The surprising (and disheartening!) answers to these questions are highlighted in this video on the Ultimate Block Party’s YouTube channel.  But don’t despair!  Not only will you and your child have a chance to play on October 3 in Central Park and explore the wonders and benefits of play with other families, friends, and experts, but the Ultimate Block Party is just the first step in a national and international movement to bring play back to childhood.  Take a look at our video to learn some surprising facts but also comment on this blog and answer the question our experts will be answering at the event – How did YOU play when you were young?  How did it shape who you became?

Knowledge is doubling every 2.5 years. That means that even if we learn every fact there is today — in just 2.5 years, we will know but 50% of information. In 5 years, we will be down to 25%! One thing is clear… memorizing facts is not enough. We must move beyond learning the basics to becoming  critical, innovative thinkers and problem solvers.

How do we adapt and reinvent education to meet these needs? What will it take to succeed? Scientists have some ideas. Hear what the voices of science can tell us about young children’s playful learning in the new video on the Ultimate Block Party’s YouTube channel —and  discover the answers to help your child succeed tomorrow!

Then join us at the Ultimate Block Party on October 3rd, 2010, in New York’s Central Park to see the science in action… as you and your children join in 25 fun playful learning activities! And remember, how you play is who you become!



  • Amanda Gambill: Playworks is so happy to have the Ultimate Block party here in Baltimore! The event is going to be amazing! We are also looked forward to being the mo
  • Shaping Youth » AHA & Nintendo: Tag-Teaming Innovation To Get Kids Moving (Pt2): [...] “fun and games” started taking on an electronic, screen-based focus and child’s play shifted from the ramp-n-rev of the recess bell to bra
  • Beth Kimberly: Absolutely! Recess is an invaluable part of the school day. I love that, as you point out, "there were NO negative impacts of recess." I find it awful
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