Children today may be busier than ever, but Case Western Reserve University psychologists have found that their imagination hasn't suffered in fact, it appears to have increased.
Psychologists Jessica Dillon and Sandra Russ expected the opposite outcome when they analyzed 14 play studies that Russ conducted between 1985 and 2008. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQb95itdoCM).
But as they report in "Changes in Children's Play Over Two Decades," an article in the Creativity Research Journal, the data told a story contrary to common assumptions. First, children's use of imagination in play and their overall comfort and engagement with play activities actually increased over time. In addition, the results suggested that children today expressed less negative feelings in play. Finally, their capacity to express a wide range of positive emotions, to tell stories and to organize thoughts stayed consistent.
Dillon, a fifth-year doctoral student, and Russ, a professor in psychological sciences at Case Western Reserve, decided to revisit the play data after a 2007 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics showed children played less.
They set out to see if having less time for unstructured play affected the processes in play that influence cognition and emotional development, a focus of the play research.
The pretend play studies focused on children between the ages of 6 and 10. The children's play was measured for comfort, imagination, the range and amount of positive to negative emotions used and expressed, and the quality of storytelling by using Russ' Affect in Play Scale (APS).
The APS is a five-minute, unstructured play session. Children are asked to play freely with three wooden blocks and two human hand puppets. The play is videotaped, and later reviewed and scored for imagination, expression of emotions, actions and sto
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Case Western Reserve University