Whether it’s being chased by a cowboy with a super soaker, playing hide and seek or simply being foolish, play is an essential part of childhood, which, despite clear academic evidence, is considered less important than other tasks such as school work.
Children aside, we can see the importance of play and novel exploration in even the smallest of animals.
In 1964, Marion Diamond and her colleagues published a paper about brain growth in rats. The neuroscientists had conducted a groundbreaking experiment, raising some rats in boring, solitary confinement and others in exciting, toy-filled colonies. When researchers examined the rats’ brains, they discovered that the “enriched” rats had thicker cerebral cortices than did the “impoverished”.
Even though we might possess brains with a far more complex design, empirical evidence suggests that play can have an overall positive impact on children. “The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain, And without play experience, those neurons aren’t changed,” says Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada.
“Whether it’s rough-and-tumble play or two kids deciding to build a sand castle together, the kids themselves have to negotiate, well, what are we going to do in this game? What are the rules we are going to follow?” Pellis says.
Despite the many benefits available from play and sociable interaction, time for free play has been markedly reduced for some children. In the US, many school districts responded to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, by reducing time committed to recess, the creative arts, and even physical education in an effort to focus on reading and mathematics.
While the idea of play might be under threat from traditional methods of education, one startup is hoping to use technology to help children play while advancing their cognitive abilities.
Papumba is a developer and publisher of educational games for mobile devices, which aim to help young children develop cognitive abilities while playing with quality educational, interactive applications.
They believe that play is the best method of child learning through the use of colorful and immersive experiences which encourage kids’ imaginations. Using Papumba apps, parents can share fun experiences with their children, while taking sanctuary in the knowledge that the play experience is designed by quality developers and early childhood experts.
According to Gonzalo Rodriguez, Co-founder of Papumba, “We wanted to create quality educational apps we’d feel comfortable with sharing with our sons and nephews, but also something that works globally”.
Now the innovative startup has featured on both Apple and Google Play with over 8 million downloads for their kids apps. As their games progress, hopefully the standard and importance of play will be adopted by other startups aimed at furthering child cognitive development, allowing for children to play and learn with passion and simplicity.