Why do children develop through play? - Director's Blog



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Why do children develop through play?


CRN began hosting the ECEC Research Conference this fiscal year. ECEC may not a familiar acronym to many, but it stands for Early Childhood Education & Care. In terms of content, it refers to something similar to "child care." You may wonder why we did not use the Japanese term for "child care" and call it the Child Care Research Conference in Japanese. Let's just say for now that the Japanese term for "child care" differs somewhat from what we had in mind at the conference.

The second ECEC Research Conference was held on October 26 and 27, 2013, at the Mita campus of Keio University with the theme "playful pedagogy."

Why "playful pedagogy"?

Why did the ECEC Research Conference chose "playful pedagogy" for its theme? I myself was involved in choosing the theme, and in my personal opinion, there were two main reasons for the choice.

First, while child care and child care policy in kindergarten education are based on child care through spontaneous play, I could not really understand why this constituted good child care. The literature by child care specialists explains that this is "because intrinsically, play is a fundamental activity for children. But if that is the case, it is difficult to explain why play is not given the same weight in kindergarten education in China and Taiwan. When child care professionals and kindergarten teachers from China and Taiwan visit preschools and kindergartens in Japan, they wonder why children are allowed to just play and if that is acceptable.

Second, I read an article in Mind, Brain and Education, an American journal whose articles are sometimes featured on the CRN website. I will soon introduce the particular article that I read in CRN's "Brain and Education" section. It basically argues that children's abilities (language, understanding of mathematical concepts) and social aptitude are primarily developed through guided play, not direct instruction. The authors categorize activities in preschool and kindergartens as (1) direct instruction, (2) directed play, (3) guided play, or (4) free play. They also compare the results of each method and conclude that guided play is the most effective.

Play is valued not because it is something intrinsic to children's activities, but because it is the best way to learn

In other words, child care based on play is valued not because play is something intrinsic to children's activities, but because it is the best way to learn. While some may disapprove of considering play a means to an end, for me, I was heartened to learn that there is the scientific reason that child care based on play constitutes good child care.

For more information on ECEC Research Conference, please refer to "CRN Events"on the CRN website.

Sakakihara_Yoichi.bmp Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before assuming current post.