by Melanie Takefman
Research by Concordia education graduate Bronwen Lloyd and Professor Nina
Howe indicates that solitary play can enhance a childs imagination
Their findings have piqued the interest of the education community and
the national media because solitude is often considered detrimental to
a childs social skills. Similarly, preschool curricula emphasize
peer interaction and group activities.
In research that began as a masters thesis for Concordias
child studies program, Lloyd found that four- and five-year-old children
who engage in dramatic play (make-believe) alone scored higher in assessments
of divergent thinking skills.
Divergent thinking denotes flexibility and finding solutions to problems
that can be open-ended,
such as painting to create a picture. Convergent thinking is linked to
problem-solving and logic, such as mathematics.
In Lloyds research, 72 children were observed in standardized tests
for both types of thinking skills.
Spaces for solitary play allow children to remove themselves from
the hustle and bustle around them a place to think and daydream,
Lloyd told the National Post in an article dated April 20. Lloyd
and Howes findings were recently published in Early Childhood
Lloyd conducted her fieldwork in six Halifax child care centres and then
collaborated with Howe, her thesis supervisor, in analyzing and publishing
their findings. Since the article was published, Lloyd has been featured
on several CBC radio shows as well as in The Globe and Mail.
Both Lloyd and Howe hope that preschool teachers will appreciate the value
of solitary play and also provide more materials for open-ended activities
like sand and art supplies, that promote divergent thinking.
Children need private space, Howe said. They dont
always have to be part of the big community. While too much solitary
activity is not healthy, Howe said that finding a balance between individual
and group activities is a matter of knowing the individual child.
Lloyd added that teachers should allow children not to share their toys
from time to time. In our research, the rethinking of the cognitive
value of solitary play is warranted, specifically in facilitating creativity,
she wrote in an email from Halifax. If we accept solitary play as
a developmentally appropriate mode of play across the preschool years,
then we need to encourage it in play environments.
Lloyd earned her masters degree from Concordia in 1997 and currently
works as an early childhood development officer with the Nova Scotia Department
of Community Services Childrens Unit in Halifax.
Her job consists of licensing child care centres and integrating children
with special needs into the system.
Nina Howe is currently on sabbatical. She is trained as a developmental
psychologist and teacher. Her research focuses on childrens social