Child Care and Early Education Research Connections

Skip to main content

Can guidance during play enhance children’s learning and development in educational contexts? A systematic review and meta-analysis


This systematic review and meta-analysis considered evidence of guided play compared to direct instruction or free play to support children’s learning and development. Interventions from 39 studies were reviewed (published 1977-2020); 17 were included in meta-analysis (N total =3893; M childage = 1-8 years; M girls 49.8%; M ethnicity White 41%, African American/Black 28%, Hispanic 19%). Guided play had a greater positive effect than direct instruction on early math skills (g =0.40); and than free play on spatial vocabulary (g =0.93). Differences were not identified for other key outcomes. Narrative synthesis highlighted heterogeneity in the conceptualization and implementation of guided play across studies. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Literature Review

- You May Also Like

These resources share similarities with the current selection.

Prek-3rd: Next steps for state longitudinal data systems

Fact Sheets & Briefs

Early childhood education professional development: Adult education glossary


Long term impacts of compensatory preschool on health and behavior: Evidence from Head Start

Reports & Papers

Adult outcomes as a function of an early childhood educational program: An Abecedarian Project follow-up

Reports & Papers
Release: 'v1.25.0' | Built: 2023-02-16 16:36:50 EST