Monkeys play. Dogs play. Rats play. Even octopuses play. And without any prompting, children in all cultures of the world, invent and reinvent play in every generation using the tools and technology available to them. Decades of research suggest that play is integral to evolution and development in humans and their animal pals. In particular, free play and guided play— known as playful learning—are tools through which children can learn in joyful and conceptually rich ways, ways that help this learning to stick and be scaffolded to learn and try new things.
A growing body of behavioral research establishes relationships between children’s play and development in several areas, including language executive functions, mathematics and spatial skills, scientific thinking, and social and emotional development. One reason that play might be such a valuable pedagogical tool is that it features the precise contexts that facilitate learning.
An amalgamated research field called the science of learning has identified four key ingredients of successful learning: learning occurs best when children are mentally active (not passive), engaged (not distracted), socially interactive (with peers or adults), and building meaningful connections to their lives. SciGround uses this research to underpin how we design our guided STEM play, as we believe that when children are having fun, exploring and being challenged, this is where the best learning happens.