The importance of play cannot be
overemphasized. In their work, Early Years
Study 2, Mustard and Shanker (p. 49) cite
several factors that make play essential to
learning. Their research shows the following:
• Play expands intelligence. As children explore
materials they learn properties, functions, and
associated vocabulary. They apply this knowledge
as they design and create.
• Play allows children to apply new language and
test the reasoning associated with literacy, math,
and science concepts. As children play with
others, they use language in various ways to plan,
direct, negotiate, clarify, influence, etc. Through
exploring materials at the water centre, for
example, they learn about the properties of water
– that it flows and takes the shape of containers –
and they use the skills of inquiry and language to
compare, predict, and draw conclusions.
• Play stimulates the imagination and encourages
creative problem- solving. For example, as
children freely explore the materials at the collage
centre to design their own creation, they use their
problem-solving skills to choose the appropriate
materials that will best meet their needs, and to
figure out how to fasten and join materials to
create the desired effect.
• Play develops confidence, self-esteem, a realization
of strengths and areas for improvement, and a
positive attitude toward learning. Having chosen
the construction material Marbleworks, two
children problem-solve together how to stabilize
the structure, how to construct the ramps so
the marble will follow a pathway, and how to
construct the pathways so the marble will travel
quickly. When others choose the same material
but struggle with their design, they offer to help
– “We’ll show you how.” They proudly share their
learning with the group.
• Play is a significant factor in brain and muscle
development. As children kick and throw balls
as part of their outdoor games, they develop
eye-hand coordination. As they use construction
materials to connect, balance, and place pieces,
they develop fine motor control.