Bryn Mawr College Joins Effort to Promote Children’s Play

Posted September 18th, 2013 at 2:34 pm.

Bryn Mawr’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, Phebe Anna Thorne School, and Child Study Institute are among the organizations sponsoring a conference on Saturday, Sept. 21, in Thomas Great Hall that brings leaders in the field of child development to campus as part of a three-day event being offered by the organization The Philadelphia Declaration of Play.

“Research has confirmed what we as social work practitioners (and our most effective elementary schoolteachers) with children and families have known all along: the process of play is of critical importance to the actual development of a child’s brain and therefore greatly impacts a child’s future abilities to be an engaged and contributing citizen,” says Darlyne Bailey, dean of the GSSWSR and special assistant to the president for community partnerships. Bailey is developing a 360° with Carola Hein of Growth and Structure of Cities and Jody Cohen of Education entitled “Play and the City.”

“Play is important because it fosters vocabulary and narrative skills, creativity, planning, persistence, flexible problem-solving, collaboration, and negotiation – and is something people do for fun,” adds Professor of Psychology Leslie Rescorla, who is also director of the Child Study Institute.

Marilyn Henkleman ’71, who has been the director of the Thorne School since 1985 and led the effort to bring this conference to Bryn Mawr, notes that play has always been a central component of the Thorne School’s curriculum and is captured by its motto, “Learning to Play, Playing to Learn.”

The conference morning keynote session features Susan Linn, director, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, Joan Almon, co-founder of the Alliance for Childhood, London-based playworker Penny Wilson, and Temple University Professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek.  In the afternoon, local experts and advocates will lead break-out sessions where participants will learn more about integrating ideas into meaningful social action.

Tri-Co students interested in the topic of play may be able to attend the conference for free if seating is available. Those hoping to attend should email for information.

Bryn Mawr students can also pursue their interests in the role of play in childhood development at the Thorne School, where scores of undergraduates have gained real-world experience as volunteers and paid assistants. The Thorne School offers programs for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners. In addition to its programs for typically developing children, Thorne has programs for young children with special needs, including language delays and autism spectrum disorders. Students working as assistants in these early intervention programs learn ways to help children who struggle with using language to express play ideas, engaging in pretend play, and cooperating with peers in play. For more information about opportunities at Thorne, contact Henkelman.

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