Children’s play

Children all around the world like to play. Most of us believe that it is important for children to play and provide them vast variety of toys.

Psychologists study children’s play and try to understand the purpose of the play. They classify children’s play in different ways. Pretend play is usually referred to children playing different social roles and social situations. For example, cooking, cleaning, ironing, going to the restaurant. It was noted that children as young as 12-15 month can be involved in a pretend play. Psychological research has found that younger children are able to pretend better with real or similar to real objects. Toy cookers, caps, plates, kettles are easy to find in almost any toy shop. Some of the toy shops even use classification of toys that was defined by psychologists. For example, Amazon uses classification of their toy products as pretend play and make-believe play. But how children’s play help children to develop?

Most psychologists agree that children’s play is important for their development but other social experiences are similar important for them. When children play social roles like pretending being a doctor, a firefighter or a builder they develop understanding of social roles in the society. Children’s play is important for developing social competence. Social competence might include understanding of the characteristics of the social partner, such as their age and gender, the ability to adjust their own behavior to different social situations, controlling their own behavior and emotions. Research has shown that children who involve in sociodramatic play are indeed appear to have higher level of social competence. However, it is difficult to say the exact amount of pretend play needed to develop social skills.

By playing different social roles children develop the kind of behavior and language that is used in a particular society. For example, when pretending the situation going to the restaurant children practice conversations that are usually used in the society: “I’d like to order fish and chips, please.” “Can I have a bill please?”. Children acquire understanding of shared meanings of the society and learn kinds of dialogues used in the society. However, if we consider dialogues that are used in fantasy play we can expect it to vary from one occasion to another.

Children’s play that is classified by psychologist to be a fantasy play seems to play slightly different role in child’s development. It is a play when children pretend to be a pirates, spiderman, monsters and so on. Some characters do not exist in the real life. Psychologists believe that fantasy play may play role in the development of imagination.

There are several factors that can affect children’s play:
• Parents can encourage play in their young children. Parents can show children an example of how to pretend. Several studies have shown that if parents model the pretend play children would engage in it more often.
• Schools can encourage pretend play by providing appropriate toys to children, such as dressing-up clothes, hospital props. They can also encourage by taking children to visit a farm or a factory.
• Some studies reported that social class affects children play and children from lower social class usually engage less in pretend play then children from higher social class. Such studies were highly criticized by other psychologists.
• There were noted sex differences in children’s play. Some of them might be due to social influences. However, boys do prefer rough-and-tumble play more then girls.