Play may seem like fun and games, but specific kinds of play are actually associated with development of particular cognitive skills, researchers said.
"Our findings show that spatial play specifically is related to children's spatial reasoning skills," said psychological scientist and lead researcher Jamie Jirout of Rhodes College.
Being able to reason about space, and how to manipulate objects in space, is a critical part of everyday life, helping us to navigate a busy street, put together a piece of "some assembly required" furniture, researchers said.
When the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI), a commonly used test of cognitive ability, was revised and standardised, it provided Jirout and co-author Nora Newcombe of Temple University an opportunity to study children's spatial play and spatial thinking.

Children who played with puzzles, blocks, and board games often (more than six times per week) had higher block design scores than did children who played with them sometimes (three to five times per week), or rarely/never.
None of the other types of play (eg, drawing, playing with noise-making toys, and riding a bicycle, skateboard, or scooter) or the parent-child activities (eg, teaching number skills, teaching shapes, playing math games, telling stories) included in the survey data were associated with children's spatial ability.
The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.


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