Playful learning creates multigenerational opportunities with intergenerational impacts

Play is a crucial a part of kids’s studying and improvement. Whereas it typically evokes an image of a small baby operating, leaping, and shouting, the advantages that play gives in selling early improvement and higher well being outcomes lengthen far past childhood. In reality, playful studying—an space of analysis that examines how kids study greatest by playful exchanges—shares most of the same core foundations because the research of intergenerational studying—a physique of analysis involving older and youthful generations coming collectively within the service of mutually-beneficial studying experiences.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic launched new layers to our understanding of the significance of social connection for a variety of outcomes, researchers have a possibility to look to the way forward for the playful studying and intergenerational studying actions collectively—what they share and the way they are often leveraged collectively to assist social interactions that foster well-being all through life.

Playful Studying Landscapes assist enriching interactions and promote studying

As a pure medium for fostering wealthy interactions, play creates alternatives for youngsters to develop language skills, interact in collaboration, test theories about how the world works, and even develop higher self-regulation. Youngster improvement consultants, recreation and play professionals, and educators have lengthy examined the connection between play and studying—and, extra not too long ago, how the sorts of enriching interactions that happen throughout play could be fostered by the constructed setting.

Enter Playful Learning Landscapes: a rising motion of community-based analysis partnerships throughout a number of cities in the U.S. and overseas, together with in Brazil, Israel, and South Africa, that morph public areas in locations that foster interplay, studying, and pleasure (see illustrative picture under). By reimagining on a regular basis environments in ways in which encourage play whereas embedding a focused studying aim, the motion fosters a studying mannequin generally known as playful learning, by which kids construct content material information whereas concurrently taking part in freely. Playful studying analysis has not solely generated enhancements to kids’s language and literacy, numeracy, spatial reasoning, and executive functioning—all expertise that set the foundation for later improvement and college readiness—but additionally sturdy civic engagement, elevated possession of communal areas, enriched interactions between kids and their caregivers, and a deeper understanding amongst caregivers of the function of play of their kids’s studying.


This PLL set up, which is situated in Philadelphia, is named City Thinkscape.
Photographer credit score: Sahar Coston-Hardy Pictures.

However the advantages usually are not for youngsters alone—playful interactions will also be a boon for older adults, supporting higher well being and social engagement, staving off cognitive decline, and creating multigenerational studying alternatives with intergenerational impacts.

Intergenerational analysis showcases advantages to, and contributions of, older adults

A century in the past, a number of generations lived, labored, and performed collectively. At the moment, a lot of our society treats younger kids and older adults as essentially completely different from each other—and, extra possible than not, we live apart, generally an excellent distance, from even the closest generations of our personal households. We now every belong to a separate “named generation” that reinforces generational variations, which can contribute to the persistent and widespread problem of ageism, that has well-documented negative effects on bodily and psychological well being, financial well-being, and entry to essential assist providers. Although the developmental literature acknowledges that lots of our wants evolve as we age, the advantages we expertise from wealthy social connections, studying alternatives that assist cognitive operate, and exercise that promotes bodily well being stay fixed all through life.

The intergenerational movement, which has emerged over the previous a number of many years and gained momentum lately, emphasizes the advantages of enriching interactions in mitigating social isolation—which grew to become all of the extra essential in durations of isolation through the COVID-19 pandemic—creating well being and studying alternatives for older adults, and selling highly effective group connections. Social service leaders, tutorial researchers, public officers, and others demonstrated that there are reciprocal benefits to kids and older adults as a product of interacting and fascinating with each other. In a 2021 review of intergenerational programs, Generations United and the RRF Basis for Getting older recognized advantages of intergenerational applications for youngsters at a number of completely different developmental durations, dad and mom, and older adults—even these aged 100 and older.

Among the many many constructive outcomes, researchers discovered that kids in preschool partnered with older grownup volunteers present higher socio-emotional outcomes (e.g., empathy and acceptance); elementary faculty kids partnered with older adults present elevated studying, studying comprehension, and enchancment in writing; and older adults report less social isolation and a sense of connectedness and community when engaged with kids and youth. This connectedness is a essential part for supporting each bodily and psychological well being and well-being in older adults and for staving off some age-related declines in cognitive functioning.

Play is not only for the children: Intergenerational studying has lifelong advantages

By bringing these two areas of research collectively—one primarily based in an extended historical past of intergenerational analysis, the opposite in a wealthy and rising playful studying motion—researchers and advocates can combine and construct on alternatives to have interaction adults and kids of their day-to-day environments in ways in which promote enriching and mutually-beneficial studying and well being outcomes. This might embrace, for instance, puzzles embedded in bus stops or at native parks, that includes iconic references from a grandparent’s era that may promote each form language that helps foundational math expertise and storytelling that helps enhance wealthy language interactions and provides older adults a possibility to share their experiences. It may appear like grocery retailer video games, the place older adults are prompted to debate favourite meals and recipes from their childhood, or it may appear like story fragments printed on the sidewalk exterior of an aged house that prompts older adults and younger kids to take it in turns to construct out narratives collectively. Redesigning playful studying areas with an intergenerational framework in thoughts can facilitate these sorts of wealthy interactions between younger and outdated and result in enhancements of their respective well-being, bridge generational divides on the earliest levels of kids’s lives, and strengthen group resilience throughout the lifespan.

Photographer credit score for canopy picture: Saxum.

The authors thank Sarah Lyttle, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, and Jennifer Vey for his or her opinions of this weblog.

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