Children's Play Preferences and Acadmic Success Study in American Journal of Play

American Journal of Play News Release
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY 14607 585-263-2700

March 21, 2013

For Immediate Release

Contact: Susan Trien, 585-410-6359,
Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365,

Children’s Play Preferences and Academic Success
Subject of Study in the American Journal of Play

ROCHESTER, New York—There is an apparent link between children’s thinking styles, the types of play activities they prefer, and their academic achievements according to a recent study by Robin M. Holmes of Monmouth University and colleagues Sharon Liden and Lisa Shines in the American Journal of Play, a scholarly journal of The Strong in Rochester, New York.

Holmes and colleagues studied 74 middle school students (45 boys and 29 girls, ages 10 to 15) of mostly Filipino and part Hawaiian heritages to assess the relationship between the children’s thinking styles, play preferences, and school performance as measured by state mandated test scores and grade point average. Two standard assessment tests were administered to determine the students’ personality traits and students were asked to provide written responses to three questions about themselves and their favorite playful activities to help categorize them as field dependent (gravitating towards social situations and interactions) or field independent (preferring to avoid social contact and set their own standards for thinking and behaving).

The authors’ subsequent analysis revealed that the students’ preferences for sports related to their scores on state-mandated tests for language and math; children who preferred unstructured play activities tended to achieve academic success; and cultural values (i.e., the collective, community-oriented culture of this particular community) were correlated to thinking style. 

According to the authors, this study has applied value for educators because it relates children’s play preferences to other aspects of their life experiences, which can help school policy makers: “Understanding how children’s intellectual styles relate to their school success and playful pursuits will inform school policy makers about which extracurricular activities they should offer to develop particular academic and cognitive skills that their students may need to improve."

Also in this issue of the Journal:    
"Play and the Avant-Garde: Aren’t We All a Little Dada?” by Phillip Prager, lecturer in Digital Play and Aesthetics at the IT University of Copenhagen. The author examines Dada, the exuberant art movement that burst into prominence in the 1910s and 1920s and revolutionized traditional notions of art and aesthetics. While most art historians see Dada as a nihilistic expression of World War I trauma and disillusionment, Prager suggests that it should be viewed through the lens of today’s psychology and play research as a joyful expression of creative, playful impulses.

"The Use of Play Materials in Early Intervention: The Dilemma of Poverty” by Eva Nwokah, associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication and Learning Disorders, Our Lady of the Lake University and Hope Gulker, clinical associate professor at Purdue University. The author investigates the attitudes, practices, and concerns of 320 early-intervention providers concerning their use of toys in their work and worries about poor youngsters without such playthings.   

“Playful Learning and Montessori Education” by Angeline S. Lillard, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. In her essay, Lillard observes that didactic educational practices are migrating into the preschool setting, presumably in an effort to better prepare children for state testing mandated under No Child Left Behind. She discusses why Montessori education includes elements of playful learning while simultaneously eschewing fantasy and clarifies the ways in which Montessori education is and is not an example of playful learning.
“The Why, How, and What of a Museum of Play” an interview with George Rollie Adams, The Strong’s president and CEO. Adams talks about why and how The Strong evolved into the first collections-based museum anywhere devoted solely to the role of play in learning and human development and the ways in which play illuminates cultural history. He also describes how the institution carries out its educational mission.

The entire issue of the American Journal of Play can be accessed freely online at