Learning through play and imagination


I’d like to propose a Special Topic meeting on how children learn through play other imaginative activities:

It is well known that children learn through playing, hearing stories, and engaging in other imaginative activities. But how, exactly, does this process work? Which aspects of play sessions or fictional stories are particularly effective for children’s learning, and why? Which topics do children learn most readily through these kinds of activities? How do aspects of individual children’s temperaments or developmental environments impact this process? This workshop would examine these and other related questions, with the aim of identifying gaps in the literature and proposing evidence-based strategies for how play and imagination can best be used in early education.


I think it would be very valuable to have a discussion of 1) how different kinds of play (exploratory play, guided play) may contribute differently to different domains of learning and highlight both their limitations and benefits, and 2) how different cultural perspectives on the value of play influence the role that play and imagination have in children’s learning across cultures. I would also find it valuable to hear from people who have done research in remote non-western cultures where children are not regularly exposed to fictional stories and characters.


I would love to attend a workshop on play (or a topical meeting!). However, I would like to propose that the topic extend downwards to infant play, which can be exploratory, functional, and bouts of pretense, and how infants learn through discovery around objects and playful engagements in their environments. I think by covering play at different points in development, asking how play is defined, studied, and changes from infancy through adolescence, it would be a great focus of the meeting. However, it might also be a focused topic on early childhood and imagination, as stated here, although that might exclude people who study the early forms of play.