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The Science of Play: Playing Pretend/Free play with Solar Dough



It’s no secret that children learn from their play! How does playing pretend and free play or using imagination affect children’s development? The subject of play, specifically the positive impact it has on children has piqued the curiosity of parents and scientists alike.

Recent studies have proven what child psychologists and teachers have known all along, play is absolutely essential to development and leads to smarter kids. Wide-reaching benefits which can be attributed to play include a more developed brain, such as connection changes (neurons) in the front end of the brain (prefrontal cortex) which wire-up a young brain to better regulate emotions, make plans and solve problems. Most credit for these positive changes is given to free play, when kids are allowed to play as they please, free of rules.

When children are allowed to freely play together they embark on complex social interactions, negotiating and navigating activities on their own. Say, building with blocks or shaping Glow Dough, kids make up their own rules. This is the type of play which creates lasting beneficial changes in the brain. Skills learned from play can lead to better grades in school, it has even been shown in one study of about 300 children that those who had the best social skills in the 3rd grade performed the best academically in middle school!

From infancy to old age, learning from play continues to develop the brain teaching valuable thinking skills. So, get out there and boost your brain power by creative play!



Caprara, G. V., & Barbaranelli, C. (2000). Prosocial foundations of children’s academic achievement. Psychological Science (0956-7976), 11(4), 302. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00260

Lillard, A. S., Lerner, M. D., Hopkins, E. J., Dore, R. A., Smith, E. D., & Palmquist, C. M. (2013). The impact of pretend play on children’s development: A review of the evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 1-34. doi:10.1037/a0029321

Hamilton, J. (2014). Scientists say child’s play helps build a better brain. NPR. Retrieved from

Solar Dough is available in Qatar at Sensory Souk.

This article was published on  by Marcie Lyons.

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