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Version 1.2 – Updated June 2023

Play programs


  • Influence: Play programs
  • Domain: Curricula
  • Sub-Domain: Other curricula programs
  • Potential to Accelerate Student Achievement: Potential to accelerate
  • Influence Definition: Play is a generic term applied to a wide range of activities and behaviors that are satisfying to the child, creative for the child, and freely chosen by the child. Play programs attempt to foster resilience, health, and well-being through the use of play.


  • Number of meta-analyses: 6
  • Number of studies: 137
  • Number of students: 9,699
  • Number of effects: 151
  • Weighted mean effect size: 0.52
  • Robustness index: 3


Journal Title Author First Author's Country Article Name Year Published Variable Number of Studies Number of Students Number of Effects Effect Size
Conference paper Spies USA Play, problem solving, and creativity in young children 1987 Impact of play on achievement 24 2,491 24 0.26
Child Development Skene, O'Farrelly, Byrne, Kirby, Stevens, & Ramchandani UK Can guidance during play enhance children's learning and development in educational contexts? A systematic review and meta-analysis 2022 Guided play vs. DI and free play 17 3,893 31 0.21
Dissertation Kim USA Pretend play and language development among preschool children: A meta-analysis. 2012 Pretend play on language development 25 750 25 0.54
Journal of Early Childhood Literacy Roskos, Christie, Widman, & Holding USA Three decades in: Priming for meta-analysis in play-literacy research 2010 Play on literacy outcomes for 3-7 year olds 19 0 19 0.62
Psychology in the Schools Ray, Armstrong, Balkin, & Jayne USA Child-centered play therapy in the schools: Review and meta-analysis 2015 Play therapy on achievement 6 0 6 0.36
Play and Culture Fisher USA The impact of play on development: A meta-analysis. 1992 Impact of play on achievement 46 2,565 46 0.74
TOTAL/AVERAGE 137 9,699 151 0.45
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