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Play = Learning

Stats and Sound Bites and References, Oh My!


Play = Learning

How Play Motivates and Enhances Children’s Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth


Edited by:

Dorothy Singer

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek



The editors and contributors to this work read like a virtual who’s who in the field of early childhood educational research.  And they are, in actuality, the scientists and researchers who are doing the heavy lifting.  They are the ones conducting the studies and writing the follow up reports that support what we are out there trying to put into practice.  Instead of defending their work (the duplication of their studies with continued similar results have already “proved” their positions) let us collectively show our gratitude by putting their findings into practice.  Additionally, all of you should (I am, once again, shoulding on you) should be familiar with them. If you are not, then you have even more homework!  But I digress…


This book is a collection of writings essays, summaries and reports.  Each chapter could be read independently on its own.  Or, if you are more like me, you can read the entire volume, from cover to cover, in order, and, probably also like me, dry out two highlighters while you are at it.  Regardless of how you tackle this book, you will discover a plethora of information ready to fuel your fire and serve as tools for your virtual tool belt.



Chapter Titles:


* Why play = learning: a challenge for parents and educators

* The cognitive vs. the whole child: lessons from 40 years of Head Start

* The role of recess in primary school

* Standards, science and the role of play in early literacy education

* Make-believe play: wellspring for development of self regulation

?  My magic story car: video based play intervention to strengthen emergent literacy of at-risk preschoolers

* Narrative play and emergent literacy: story telling and story acting meet journal writing

* Mathematical play and playful mathematics

? # Media use by infants and toddlers: a potential for play

? # Computers as paintbrush: technology, play and the creative society

# Pretend play and emotion.  Learning in traumatized mothers and children

# Play and autism: facilitating symbolic understanding

* Epilogue: learning to play and learning through play


Symbol Key:

* = found these chapters especially informative

? = found it a challenge to read these chapters with an open mind (but I did)

# = chapters that I didn’t find especially applicable to my current work, but were still informative


This book rocked right from the beginning.  I gleaned information in the first chapter that I was immediately able to use in my workshops.  Specifically some new resources to compliment my oft quoted Rebecca Marcon study and the report released in 2003 entitled “A Good Beginning.”  It was exciting for me to uncover recent reports and studies that support the importance of a play-based early childhood experience.  Data is good.  Recent data is more relevant and often considered more credible.


Some page by page highlights and comments (opinions) generated here for your reference via Lisa Murphy “free association”….


Page 19 provides a historical perspective of when, how and why “play” came under attack.  This would make a good ECE trivia question:  “What happened in 1957 to cause play as a vehicle for children’s learning to come under attack?”


Page 23:  “The current attack on play contradicts sound developmental theory.”


Page 26 provides a good definition of “curriculum”


Page 29:  The conclusion to chapter 2 was worth the cost of the book alone.  A teaser:  “Four decades of research and practice offer unequivocal evidence for the critical importance of play for children’s development… the current attack on play defies the evidence and is misguided.”


On page 68 they offer “The New 3 R’s”  Reflect, Resist, Re-center.


Chapter 8 provided information about the use of “everyday mathematics” and a sound explanation as to why our counting system is too abstract for young children to be expected to master because it doesn’t “make sense” within the rest of our “base 10” framework.  (pg. 160)


Chapter 8 also prompted me to re-read my copy of Experience in Education (Dewey)


Chapter 12, “Play and Autism,” will be quite timely and relevant for many of you as you tackle the obvious dichotomy (schism) (split) between our platform of increasing social skills and the struggle of children with ASD to be able to do so.


The final chapter ties everything together and points to the current trend in our culture to eliminate play in favor of formalized instruction.  The subheading titles include “Learning Through Play” and “Learning To Play” and he closes by addressing data emerging from Yale University which surround the concept of successful intelligence. Which although in a very early stage of study and development is indicating that “abstract intellectual skill, although undoubtedly important, has limited predictive value in areas of effective human functioning beyond school grades.”


The book started with a challenge that children’s play might not be relevant for development. The chapters contained within contradict that implication.  This book will assist you in standing your ground and fighting, as we say, the good fight.




© Ooey Gooey Inc.

Lisa Murphy

September 5, 2010



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