Before You Go - August 2013
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Grounds for Play

New Resource Supports Peer-Reviewed Research on Free Play

The National Institute for Play, with support from the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA), has published the first round of academic research surrounding the benefits of free play on the newly created Encyclopedia of Play Science. The Encyclopedia establishes the field of play science and is free and open to the public, providing valuable resources for those interested in the science behind the free play movement. Free play is the state in which children combine creative, imaginative and social play in an unstructured environment as in nature or at a local playground.

The Encyclopedia is live on Scholarpedia, a wiki-based online encyclopedia housing peer-reviewed academic articles. It is the first-known database of scientific, academic research that demonstrates the scientifically proven benefits of play.

"The purpose of the Encyclopedia is to, through the prodigious scholarship of multidisciplinary play experts, define the boundaries of Play Science. This compendium of new information provides researchers, policy makers and the public the ability to effectively implement the credible benefits that are inherent in our intricate play natures," said Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play.

Per Scholarpedia's policy, all articles listed on the Encyclopedia have been peer-reviewed by at least two editors prior to publication. Currently, 11 articles have been published, with six more in development, including:

  • Technology and Play: reveals the integration of technology and play, as well as both benefits and critiques of play with technology, and ways to promote learning via technology.
  • ADHD and Play: focused on how long-term provision of more opportunities for physical play may be an effective, non-medicinal therapy for reducing some of the disruptive behaviors or ADHD and facilitating brain development in children diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Evolution of American Playgrounds: learn more about the evolution of American playgrounds beginning in the 19th century, including influences of European innovations on the gestalt of modern American playgrounds.
  • The Benefits of Recess in Primary School: reviews empirical research surrounding the benefits of recess for primary school children and argues against the current trend of reducing or eliminating recess.
  • Consequences of Play Deprivation: groundbreaking research on the potential serious negative consequences individually and culturally for those who do not experience play.

The NIFP, led by Dr. Brown, has worked with a team of Stanford University faculty and staff to develop the online tool. The Encyclopedia of Play Science cites dozens of individual, highly praised scientific findings in a diverse range of academic and scientific disciplines, including: evolutionary biology, neuroscience, developmental and cognitive psychology, anthropology and play-related clinically and observationally based projects. The database provides a clearinghouse for findings that, when viewed together, create a cohesive picture about the proven benefits of play.

"It is our long-term goal to expand society's perception and activation of the myriad of benefits play provides for all ages," said Tom Norquist, co-leader of the project and former IPEMA president.

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