The Exploratory Problem-Solving Play and Growth Mindset for Young Children in the Light of Dweck’s Theory

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Type of Academic Paper – Assignment

Academic Subject – Childhood Development

Word Count – 3243 words



Playing has always been contributed as a main cognitive component for developing a young child’s brain and intellect. Through various research conducted, it has been identified that children obtain facts experimentally by actively engaging themselves in different types of play, examination, experimentation, and discovery (Whitebread et al., 2009). It can also be acknowledged that children’s mindset is quite similar to the initial stage of dough, which requires being formed based on well-defined structures to lead them to the prosperous development of the mind in the future. According to Bodrova, Germeroth and Leong (2013), many psychologists have proven that a young child mainly tends to be involved in various play activities, which are probably the best learning process for recurrent brain activities. Children in the early stages of their childhood can identify risk-taking attitudes, explore the unknown world around them and more importantly, they can absorb a wider range of fundamental knowledge.

The essential dimensions of play have remained a major focus for psychologists, as the enjoyable and continuous response stimuli may help in the child’s brain’s internal development to imbibe excellent growth mindset opportunities. The concept of a growth mindset in young children refers to a child’s capability to withstand challenges that come along in life (Ladd and Dinella, 2009). Such a young child who has experienced how to strive in life is more likely to persist in the face of challenges than one who has not been exposed to the outside world (Dweck, 2002). This paper aims to determine the importance of play experiences as an appropriate form to promote a young child’s growth mindset. The following essay will focus on a young child’s behaviours about embracing the structure of a growth mindset through play experiences and discussing different argumentative gestures regarding some exposition of the data that will help interpret the overall scenario.

Literature Review

The Exploratory Problem Solving Play

The research undertaken by Lubienski (2000, p.454) explained exploratory problem-solving play as the play in an environment where children can be provided with the broader horizon to play with bits and pieces in loose parts’ model. The research further professed that this kind of problem-solving play poses questions of how and why things are being done and fit together into desired certain items. Therefore, Fyfe, Rittle-Johnson and DeCaro (2012, p.1094) stated that exploratory play is regarded as the investigative play undertaken with objects’ help.

It has also been identified that these play types are associated with children’s curiosity about what is not being completely understood or novel by nature. However, Landry, Smith and Swank (2006, p.627) argued that exploratory play sometimes shares the same characteristics and overlap with another type of play called sensorimotor play. It has raised an important issue. Brown and Chandrasekaran (2014) stated that play, by definition, can be regarded as a privileging position of means over ends and when the child is provided with the objects to explore they often do so by keeping the end in mind. Therefore, an exploratory play can provide the notion of ends to means where the result will be the child’s focus and ability to solve problems effectively.

The Role Play

According to the study conducted by Liu, Cheng and Huang (2011, p.1097) roleplay are also known as imitation play which is regarded as an effective way of letting the children explore their own identities as their own personalities and as a general idea. However, Rumelhart (2017, p.17) argued that role play might involve e facts and pertinacious scenarios that can be far from reality. On the other hand, the study undertaken by Ramani and Brownell (2014, p.92) showed that role play is one that includes imitations of accents, traits, race, culture and even gender. However, some studies, such as one undertaken by VanHoorn et al. (2014) showed a significant relationship between pretend role play and mind theory. However, the study has further revealed that sometimes during role-play, children often make an imaginary companion.

Consequently, the study conducted by Brooker (2017, p.14) found that when a child has made an imaginary friend, it often results in the representation of the mental state of the companion. There might be a positive impact on a role play on a child’s cognitive thinking perspective. It has been identified in the study of Hwang, Hung and Chen (2014, p.129) that regardless of causation in correlation in social pretend and cognitive perspective thinking, it is also purported that children who have been engaged in creating imaginary friends through role-playing often have an advanced comprehension of the mind and other factors which can promote cognitive thinking.

Difference between Role Play and Exploratory Play

According to Bodrova, Germeroth and Leong (2013, p.111), exploratory problem-solving play involves blocks and bits and pieces which children are given to assemble to create something new out of their own experience. In other words, it is often associated with the novelty of the situation where a child’s curiosity plays a crucial role. On the other hand, Ladd and Dinella (2009, p.190) identified that role play is more of an individual play where children explore their own personalities by discovering alternative personalities. However, the pioneers of exploratory problem play argue that role play might create problems in developing a child’s mindset. The study conducted by Fyfe, Rittle-Johnson, and DeCaro (2012, p.1094) showed that exploratory problem-solving play is different from role play in the situations of reality and non-reality.

In this way, Landry, Smith, and Swank (2006, p.627) opined that in exploratory play children are more inclined to explore how and why of the situation which is often lacking in role-play scenarios. However, it has been argued by Hwang, Hung, and Chen (2014, p.129) that exploratory problem-solving play might not provide overall satisfaction to the children. The study has further revealed that when children are given physical pieces of objects to solve the puzzle, they often create a picture in their mind that they want to achieve. However, the issue might arise when their achievements do not match their expectations. Nevertheless, teachers’ exploratory and role play are two different scenarios to help children for a growth mindset.

Dweck’s Theory of a Growth Mindset

According to Ladd and Dinella (2009, p.190), Dweck’s theory of growth mindset has been regarded as one of the implicit theories which profess that people have certain nature and motivation through which they learn and practice. While researching the earlier stage, Dweck had identified the theories of “incremental and entity. Lubienski (2000, p.454) stated that these theories were based on whether the individuals gain more success and achieve more knowledge through the tasks that require high-level intelligence and can put their intelligence into practice. Concerning this, Fyfe, Rittle-Johnson, and DeCaro (2012, p.1094) stated that Dweck’s proposed mindset theory; the study further showed that the main reason behind proposing the theory had been the integration of ideas into one platform. Dweck (2002) stated that a growth mindset is defined as particular attributes to learn the unlearned to succeed. The researcher also professed that people with a growth mindset are not terrified or scared of failures; instead, they consider failures as a need further to pay attention to the hidden attributes of their personality.

According to Dweck (2002), individuals with growth mindsets take every failure or mistake as an opportunity to learn. However, Landry, Smith, and Swank (2006, p.627) argued that each individual has their own competencies which develop over time so if it can be stated that a growth mindset can collide with a fixed mindset cannot be wrong. Dweck proposed that motivation has been regarded as one factor through which a fixed mindset can be turned into a growth mindset. However, there has been an ongoing debate on this notion. As it has been explained by Ramani and Brownell (2014, p.94) that praising ability and intelligence cannot be regarded as an element for achieving self-esteem, it would rather jeopardize success. On the other hand, Hwang, Hung, and Chen (2014, p.129) stated that the basic encouragement should not be just praising the child for their efforts but actual guidance of what can be further done.

Exploratory Problem Solving Play in the Light of Dweck’s Theory

The study conducted by Dweck (2017) showed that exploratory problem play could be regarded as an effective method to drive curiosity in children. In the light of Dweck’s theory growth can be achieved by providing various problem-solving initiatives in children and praising them every step of the way. However, Hochanadel and Finamore (2015, p.47) argued that children have different natures and therefore, different mindsets. The study further stated that teachers might motivate young children with a fixed mindset throughout the exploratory play. The main reason behind this might be the expectation of fixed results.

Nevertheless, Dweck explained that children with a growth mindset and fixed mindset could be provided with different opportunities following their mindset and approach to the problem. However, Yeager et al. (2016, p.374) stated that exploratory play could purport the children to be more open to new opportunities and new knowledge horizons. According to Dweck, the exploratory play works better for children with a growth mindset who consider that intelligence is malleable. However, an argument has been made by Boaler (2013, p.143) that if exploratory play can be more effective for children with a growth mindset then what should be done for fixed mindsets who think that intelligence is unchangeable and fixed.

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The main exposition of data/evidence

Data Collection Method

This paper’s main aim has been to determine the importance of exploratory play experiences as an appropriate form of a growth mindset for young children. Two main data collection methods are primary and secondary (Taylor, Bogdan and DeVault, 2015). Due to the qualitative nature of the research, the second method of data collection has been chosen to achieve the paper’s aim. The secondary sources of data collection include journals, books and various articles. These sources have helped in the critical understanding of the phenomenon concerning Dweck’s theory. The collected information from secondary sources would be analysed with the help of data exposition and interpretation. This has involved various themes, each evaluating, assessing and providing a critical analysis of the data collected. It has been done to address the topic and an in-depth understanding of concepts and theories related to the area of the study.

Themes for Exposition and Interpretation of Data

Problem Solving Play and Growth Mindset

The accumulated literature findings have shown that problem-solving plays are regarded as methods through which young children can be engaged in exploratory tasks. The literature findings have also shown that a growth mindset and exploratory play can be highly interrelated (Ladd and Dinella, 2009, p.190). However, a major argument against Dweck’s theory of mindset has been that exploratory problem-solving play can create high-level expectations in children, resulting in the low morale of children with a fixed mindset (Brown and Chandrasekaran, 2014). Therefore, it might imply that children with a fixed mindset might face difficulties with problem-solving play, whereas it could be highly beneficial for children with a growth mindset.

For instance, to make a rhythm if, through the exploration of a music box, children might have a target to achieve in terms of sound. Therefore, children with a growth mindset would feel less awkward and exaggerated if the rhythm does not follow what they have previously expected. Another argument given in the literature has been associated with the child’s motivation to undertake the task through praise for their efforts. However, Boaler (2013, p.143) argued that praising could not result in higher self-esteem. Therefore, it might imply that throughout the exploratory problem-solving play, children should be provided with the appraisal and be encouraged to do better in the future.

Leaving Children with Problem Solving Play Enhance their Growth Mindset

The literature findings have shown that children with a growth mindset would be encouraged to be engaged in problem-solving play. For instance, Dweck (2017) stated that children with a growth mindset are prone to the situations which can provide them with a broader thinking horizon through which they can build something out of their own knowledge. It might also imply that children with a growth mindset can work better with little knowledge because they are afraid to take chances and learn through their own experiences.

However, leaving children alone might cause them to believe that even the achieved results are not according to their expectations, it still can be considered right. That kind of mindset might lead to the problems of wrong self-evaluation in future. Nevertheless, the literature findings also revealed that children with a growth mindset are often associated with team-based learning (Dweck (2002). This might imply that in problem-solving play, growth mindsets are encouraged to work more appropriately. It might also be because children with growth mindsets are open to a new set of knowledge that can drive curiosity and question their existing knowledge horizons, leading to enhancing their growth mindset.

The Adults’ Intervention in Play to Promote Child’s Growth Mindset

Through the literature review, it has been identified that children with a growth mindset would prefer adult intervention while being engaged in exploratory problem-solving play. The findings have shown that this adult intervention might be the motivation of a child’s efforts throughout the play (Dweck, 2002). However, only motivation might not serve as a factor for encouraging growth mindsets during exploratory problem-solving play. Chandrasekaran’s (2014) literature findings professed that problem-solving play provides bits and pieces through which children can create something new out of their knowledge.

This prospect’s implications provide that even growth mindsets can be encouraged to explore new things and require adult intervention to some extent. It might be encouraging children to do better in the future or providing them with a starting point for any given problem-solving play. Therefore, about adult intervention in any exploratory problem-solving play, children with a growth mindset would prefer to have both prospects in their learning process; one where they are allowed to explore opportunities on their own without thinking about mistakes and another is an adult’s intervention in terms of motivation and encouragement in any given play.


This paper’s main aim was to determine the importance of play experiences as an appropriate form to promote a growth mindset for a young child. It has been identified in the main findings that children’s mindset requires to be formed based on well-defined structures and knowledge to reach towards the enhancement and development of mindset in the future. The findings also found that young children with a growth mindset have risk-taking behaviour through which they prefer to explore the unknown. These children have the ability to see failure as another opportunity to do better in the future. It has also been identified in light of intelligence theory that growth mindsets are more inclined to face challenges than fixed mindsets.


Regarding my personal experience with carrying out the work, I learned major dimensions of Dweck’s theory and how exploratory problem-solving play can enhance the growth mindset. During data collection, I found several authentic journals and articles for conducting the paper. Throughout the work, I learned that children with a growth mindset could be provided with great opportunities to achieve results. I also realised that I learned about children’s development through exploratory problem-solving play throughout the learning process. This implied I could apply theory in practice and have a better understanding of the child’s mindset on a practical level.


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