Tangrams for kids: Educational tips and a printable template

child's hands manipulating tangrams - by G. Dewar 2018

© 2009 – 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Tangrams for kids: A learning tool for building STEM skills Like building blocks, tangrams can teach kids about spatial relationships. They may help kids learn geometric terms, and develop stronger problem solving abilities. They might even help children perform better on tests of basic arithmetic. Read More »

Cooperative board games for kids

© 2017-2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Cooperative board games have a lot in common with competitive board games. There’s a board. There are game pieces. Individual players take turns. But cooperative games differ in one key respect: Everyone is on the same team, working toward the same goal. What’s the point of this? Read More »

The benefits of fantasy fiction and imaginative play

Fantasy young girl feeding a gigantic lizard-like dragon. Credit: Max Pixel

© 2019 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Fantasy has ancient roots, but it gets a bad rap. Some worry that fantasy fiction may confuse young children. Others dismiss fantasy as silly or frivolous. Should children steer clear of fantasy play and fantasy entertainment? Is reading fantasy fiction a waste of time? Studies suggest the Read More »

Violent video games : What are the effects?

© 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Do violent video games have negative effects on kids? The question has been debated for decades, and it’s still controversial. One of the central problems is establishing causation in the absence of randomized, controlled experiments that track long-term outcomes. We simply don’t have that kind of information. Read More »

12 benefits of outdoor play (and tips for helping kids reap these benefits)

Two happy young children, a girl and boy, running and playing outside by Lars Plougmann

© 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What are the benefits of outdoor play for a child’s development? Research tells us there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on what kids actually do when they’re outside. It also depends on where kids play. But overall, children can reap many benefits when they play outdoors, Read More »

Why toy blocks rock: The science of construction play

Scene built from toy blocks: Lego house by minecraft_2115

© 2008-2018 Gwen Dewar, PH.D., all rights reserved Toy blocks, also called “building blocks,” are solid shapes used for construction play. Some are simple planks made of wood. Others are fancy, like the interlocking bricks of plastic made by Lego and MegaBlox. But whatever form they take, blocks can function as powerful learning tools. Studies Read More »

The effects of video games on school achievement

two young boys playing video game by Sharif Salama

© 2018 Gwen Dewar, PH.D., all rights reserved What are the effects of video games on school achievement? Are we doing kids a disservice by letting them play on a daily basis? Or does gaming actually help sharpen a child’s mental faculties, and perform better in school? We need more research to answer these questions Read More »

Can Lego bricks and other construction toys boost your child’s STEM skills?

Why structured block play is a good bet for cognitive development © 2013 – 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Construction toys — like wooden blocks, Lego bricks®, and Mega Bloks® — present kids with exciting opportunities to tinker and create. This play is beneficial for development. As I explain elsewhere, block play may foster Read More »

Can preschool board games boost mathematics skills?

Studies suggest the answer is yes…if the game has these particular features. © 2008 – 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved You might not expect much from a preschool board game. Players roll dice, or spin a spinner, and move their game tokens around a board.  But when a young child plays a number-based Read More »

Educational games and toys for kids: Are they truly effective?

© 2010 – 2015 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Developmental toys and educational games for kids are relatively recent inventions. Do they work? Throughout most of human history, children got little or no formal instruction. Instead, they learned by imitation, and by honing new skills through pretend play (Lancy 2008). Today, we know that Read More »

The effects of video games: A guide for the science-minded

© 2010 – 2014, Gwen Dewar, all rights reserved What are the effects of video games? Video games are highly interactive and adaptive, and often induce a sense of psychological “flow” in players — that sense of effortless concentration that makes time fly. Such features make for compelling entertainment, and promising educational applications. But they Read More »