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Youth Educational Resources

Education Research

  • All
  • Abuse or Neglect
  • BDNF
  • Executive Control Center
  • Free Play
  • Passionate Learning
  • Play Duration
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Recess

The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children

American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report: Guidance for the Clinician in Rendering Pediatric Care (2018)
Authors: Yogman, Garner, Hutchinson, Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff


  • Play is: an activity that is intrinsically motivated, entails active engagement,  results in joyful discovery, is voluntary, is fun and spontaneous. [pg. 2]
  • "Children are often seen actively engaged in and passionately engrossed in play; this builds executive functioning skills and contributes to school readiness (bored children will not learn well). [pg. 2]
  • "Play leads to changes at the molecular (epigenetic), cellular (neuronal connectivity), and behavioral levels (socioemotional and executive functioning skills) that promote learning and adaptive and/or prosocial behavior." [pg. 5]
  • "Gene expression analyses indicate that the activities of approximately one-third of the 1200 genes in the frontal and posterior cortical regions were significantly modified by play within an hour after a 30-minutes play session." [pg. 5]
  • "Play usually enhances curiosity, which facilitates memory and learning." [pg. 6]
  • "Children who were in active play for 1 hour per day were better able to think creatively and multitask. Randomized trials of physical play in 7- to 9-year-olds revealed enhanced attentional inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and brain functioning that were indicative of enhanced executive control [sic]." [pg. 6]
  • "Children have been shown to discover causal mechanisms more quickly when they drive their learning as opposed to when adults display solutions for them." [pg. 7]
Yogman, Michael, et al. "The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children." Pediatrics, vol. 142, no. 3, 3 Sept. 2018, p. 1.,

The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds

Author(s): Kenneth Ginsburg


  • "Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play also offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children. Despite the benefits derived from play for both children and parents, time for free play has been markedly reduced for some children. This report addresses a variety of factors that have reduced play, including a hurried lifestyle, changes in family structure, and increased attention to academics and enrichment activities at the expense of recess or free child-centered play."


Ginsburg, Kenneth R. “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds.” American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Jan. 2007,

The cognitive benefits of play: Effects on the learning brain

Author(s): Gwen Dewar, Ph.D.


  • Play improves memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex
  • Play and exploration trigger the secretion of BDNF, a substance essential for the growth of brain cells
  • Kids pay more attention to academic tasks when they are given frequent, brief opportunities for free play (P.E. is not an adequate substitute for free play)
  • Play is linked with better language skills
  • Play promotes creative problem-solving
Dewar, Gwen. "The Cognitive Benefits of Play: Effects on the Learning Brain.” Parenting Science" The Science of Child-Rearing and Child Development, Parenting Science, 2014,

Self-Directed Education as the Pursuit of Passions

Author(s): Peter Gray, Ph.D.


Passion for learning is thwarted by:

  • Requiring everyone to do the same things at the same time. It’s not possible for all the children in a room to be passionately interested in the same thing at the same time.
  • Replacing intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivators, such as grades and trophies. To pursue a passion you have to focus on what YOU want to do, not try to impress others or win honors.
  • Threatening students with failure or embarrassment, which generates fear. Fear freezes the mind into rigid ways of thinking and negates the possibility of passionate interest.
  • Teaching that there is one right answer to every question, or one right way to do what you are supposed to do. That’s a surefire way to nip any possible emerging interest in the bud.
  • Teaching children that learning is work and that play, at best, is just a break from learning. But anyone involved in a passionate interest knows that play and learning and work are one and the same.
Gray, Peter. “How Schools Thwart Passions.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 25 Nov. 2018,
NPR_Berkeley Adventure Playground

Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build A Better Brain

NPR Morning Edition, Jon Hamilton


  • "The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain, [sic] And without play experience, those neurons aren't changed." It is those changes in the prefrontal cortex during childhood that help wire up the brain's executive control center [sic]. But to produce this sort of brain development, children need to engage in plenty of so-called free play [sic]. No coaches, no umpires, no rule book.
  • "Countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."
Hamilton, Jon. "Scientists Say Child's Play Helps Build A Better Brain." NPR, NPR, 6 Aug. 2014,
Harvard Center on the Developing Child

Learning Through Play: Using games and play coaching to improve executive function


  • "The ingredients of play are precisely the ones that fuel learning: in addition to promoting a state of low anxiety, play provides opportunities for novel experiences, active engagement, and learning from peers and adults."
  • Teachers who implemented more games per week saw significant improvement in student executive function skills


"Early Childhood Innovation Spotlight: Learning Through Play." Learning Through Play, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 1 June 2018,