A meta-analysis study by Skene et al. aimed to examine the effectiveness of guided play on children’s learning progress, especially in Early Childhood Education (ECE). It also studied how guided play is being conceptualized and implemented in experimental studies.
Guided play is a type of play-based learning that requires adults to provide guidance during children’s playing while still honoring children’s autonomy and choice. This meta-analysis reviewed 39 studies, of which 17 studies were included. In these studies, children aged from 1 to 8 years were included regardless of their gender, race, and other factors such as socioeconomic status. The studies included randomized controlled trials, in which participants were assigned randomly into control groups, and non-randomized controlled trials.
Results suggested that guided play had positive effects on math and some executive functions such as task switching. There was no strong evidence to suggest that guided play could benefit children’s literacy skills or socioemotional outcomes. The study also pointed out that there was not much difference between guided play and free play on literacy skills, since literacy skills involved a certain level of guidance. However, the authors pointed out that there are single studies that identified positive effects on children’s vocabulary, math, and other outcomes. Thus, more research is needed to determine for whom and under what conditions the effects of guided play are beneficial.
Skene, K., O’Garrelly, C. M., Byrne, E. M., Kirby, N., Stevens, E. C., & Ramchandani, P. G. (2022). Can guidance during play enhance children’s learning and development in educational contexts? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Child Development, Early View. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13730