Why more playtime makes kids smarter
EXCLUSIVE: If our kids want to have better jobs and be smarter in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, they need more play.
That's what a game-changing $3.2 million, five-year study by researchers at Monash University is hoping to prove.
News Corp Australia can today unveil the Australia-first project called the Conceptual PlayLab - which is a five-year investigation into how play-based education can deliver essential cognitive and learning outcomes for infants, toddlers and preschoolers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The research will include a purpose-built app which supports teachers and parents to create a play-based world that helps children form ideas and use their imagination to solve problems.
It will follow 130 infants nationally across the first five years of their life and more than 3000 early childhood teachers and aims to prove that imaginary play helps foster a greater understanding of STEM subjects later in schooling.
Education Minister Dan Tehan said the project would provide a better way forward in teaching STEM to Australian children.
"Our government understands that our children will need strong STEM knowledge to
succeed in the jobs of the future and we are keeping the economy strong by investing in the
skills of our future workforce," Mr Tehan said.
The Conceptual PlayLab is funded through the Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship awarded to Professor Marilyn Fleer from Monash University's Faculty of Education.
"The school-style curriculum is making its way into preschools which is not a good thing,"
Professor Fleer, who has worked in the sector for more than 30-years, told News Corp.
"Early childhood education is at a point in history where the teaching and learning of STEM concepts are needed, but where large-scale research of how to teach these concepts in Australian play-based settings has not yet been undertaken."
One in five Australian children are starting school behind according to the Australian Early Development Census and experts are worried without significant focus on early learning our international rankings will only slip further.
Chief executive of Early Childhood Australia, Sam Page, said the research by Monash was "vital" and would benefit all Australians and their children.
'This research is vital to helping educators and parents understand how conceptual learning happens best through fun, play based activities that children can embrace. It's critical that we don't push down curriculum and pedagogy meant for older children."
Executive Director of The Parenthood Alys Gagnon said Australia desperately needed to turn the tide on our plummeting academic performance.
"We've seen over last five years Australia slipping in international rankings in terms of school performance and we need to map a way forward based on evidence, which this research will provide," Ms Gagnon said.
John Cherry from Goodstart - the largest provider of early childhood services in the country - said play-based early learning was vital to success for a child's overall schooling life.
"Quality play based early learning sets children up for later schooling and life by developing the foundational skills they will need to be successful learners," Mr Cherry said.
"The first five years are when most a child's brain development occurs for giving children lots of opportunities to solve problems and learn new skills."
Labor's early childhood spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth said the party had a National Preschool and Kindy Program in stark contrast to the Morrison government.
"There is no funding for preschool after this year (in the budget)," Ms Rishworth said.