Cognitive & Social Play

Cognitive & Social Play

How children develop through play

By: Candace Hutchins

Everyone knows that children love to play. But many people don’t realize the benefits and the developmental stages of play. Play helps children develop both cognitively and socially with their peers.

Types of Cognitive Play:

Nonsocial play: unoccupied, on-looker behavior and solitary play
Parallel play: limited form of social participation, child plays near other children with similar materials but does not try to influence or interact with other children
Associative play: children engage in separate activities but exchange toys and comments on one another’s behavior; limited interaction
Cooperative play: more advanced interactive play, children engage in a common goal such as acting out a make-believe theme; playing together with common goals

During early childhood, peer interactions increases as children move from nonsocial activity to parallel play and then to associative and cooperative play. As the frequency of associative and cooperative play increase, the frequency of solitary and parallel play remains constant. Gains in sociodramatic play affect many aspects of emotional and social development. It is especially important for children to make gains in sociodramatic, play in societies, such as the United States, where child and adult worlds are distinct.

Types of Social Play:

During the first 2 years, it is especially common for children to engage in functional play. Functional play is simple, repetitive motor movements with or without objects. Examples of functional play include running around the room, rolling a car back and forth or kneading clay without creating anything specific. Between the ages of 3-6 years, constructive play is especially common. Constructive play is when the child is creating or constructing something. For example constructive play would be when a child is making a house out of toy blocks, drawing a picture or putting together a puzzle. Finally make-believe play is especially common between ages 2-6 years as children act out everyday and imaginary roles. Children make believe play by playing house, school or police officer or act out storybook characters.

Preschool-aged children view friendship in concrete, activity-based terms. Their interactions with friends are especially positive and cooperative. Their friends serve as effective sources of social support as they enter kindergarten. Conflicts with peers offer children occasions from social problem solving which improves over the preschool and early school years. By kindergarten to 2nd grade, each of the information-solving components of social problem solving improves peer relations and psychological adjustment.

Parents influence early peer relations both directly through attempts to influence their child’s peer relations and indirectly through their child-rearing practices. Secure attachment, emotionally positive parent-child conversations and cooperative parent-child play are linked to favorable peer interaction.

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