Jan de Lange – The Power of Play

Jan de Lange – The Power of Play


With a table full of toys and some inspirational movies of children who quickly learn scientific concepts through play, Jan de Lange demonstrates the power of letting kids use their innate curiosity and creativity. He shows us the power of play and how to harness it for the benefit of our children in three logical steps: exploration, doing and thinking, and reflection!

When Jan de Lange enters the stage, he is accompanied by a multitude of toys. The former director of the Freudenthal Institute is now director of the TalentPower project (TalentenKracht), a program researching how to best stimulate scientific reasoning competencies in young children. Within this project, he is involved in the study of talents and competencies of young children, aged 3-5 years old, in a wide range of scientific reasoning skills, using a very interdisciplinary approach. “Education starts with kids,” he says. And to show us how true this statement is, he next shows us a movie of a boy enthusiastic about a little toy made of two syringes bought at a drugstore connected by a short piece of hose bought at an aquarium shop. After a moment, you see a very moving and inspiring conversation between the boy and his teacher, through which the boy learns the physics behind how pneumatics work. The sparkling amazement and curiosity of the child, who is literally able to play with physics, is amazing and Jan de Lange explains what it does to the development of language and reasoning.

He promotes the power of play, not only with his words but also his body language and enthusiasm. When he talks about his work, Jan tries to get you to realise the need for serious play and its benefits for children’s development. He invites parents to go and play with their kids. Because a curious mind is stimulated during serious play and this type of play can create an understanding of very complex scientific concepts.

After showing us more toys that teach the same physics concepts as the syringes and hose, he plays the next movie in which he shows a brilliant 7 year old girl. She is presented with a strange looking wooden toy, with a few marbles sitting on top. Before she is able to play with it, the teacher asks her to explain how this toy works. Within 5 minutes, she is able to tell him exactly how it will works – something that a Nobel laureate could not do when asked the same question previously. She gives the toy a name, a ‘marble organ’, which is certainly a much more appealing one for what is really a model of a camshaft. The little girl then says that it was no surprise that it worked like that, but that it’s very nice to look at. With this movie, Jan de Lange again shows us what kids can learn about maths and physics from toys. He warns us that we are killing children’s curiosity, both at home and at school, by not stimulating children through play. Young, curious brains offer so many great opportunities for learning! By selecting the right toys for serious play and asking appropriate questions while children play with them, not only will kid’s brains develop better, but their self-esteem will also get a huge boost. What’s more, parents will get a chance to see their children from a completely new perspective.

When Jan de Lange shows us a ‘balloon car’, he gives us a look into Newton’s laws – why not let our children learn about them through play too? In four great words he sums it all up:  Exploring, doing, thinking and reflection!

Photography © Kerry Reinking www.kerryreinking.nl

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