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FORMS of PLAY in Childhood (cont)
Social P: The more children can play with others the more easily they can successfully move thru the different social stages of growing up.
How engaged they are and how they interact with other children can be observed, validated or corrected as needed. It includes activities listed in “Physical Play” (Part 1), like tumbling, play-fighting, making faces, doll tea parties, board games…
• Interacting in play settings teaches children social rules (principles, standards….) such as give and take, reciprocity, cooperation & sharing.
Also, playing with others who are at different social stages helps develop moral reasoning to form a mature sense of their own values.
From the simplest romp or wrestling of young animals to the most humorous and complex banter of close adult friends, social play is a key part of fun activities.
Rule-governed P: By age 5-6, children begin to prefer pretending and formal games that have rules. Piaget suggested this preference shows they are about to make the shift into the next stage of mental & practical functioning, which acquires an understanding of rules. These include Follow the Leader, Red Rover, Simon Says, baseball and soccer….
Most children progress from an self-centered view of the world to understanding the importance of social agreements & rules. The idea that ‘games have rules teaches that the game of life has rules (laws) that we all must follow to function productively.
Competitive P: A variation of all games, where children compete as well as co-operate (follow the rules), take turns & work as a team (Chutes and Ladders, little league….). This can be a lot of fun if the child wins, but will need help dealing with losing.
Recapitulative P: play that allows the child to explore ancestry, history, rituals, stories, rhymes, fire and darkness. Enables children to access play of earlier human evolutionary stages.
Transformative P (integrative): With lots of new experiences & a great variety of info, children learn that imagination (mulling over a problem, daydreaming, developing new art forms…) can transcend -improve, outgrow- the ordinary in life, & what is known so far in the world. This can form the seeds of new ideas & create a higher state of consciousness, like Einstein seeing himself happily riding on a sunbeam at the speed of light. Brain imaging technology tells us : Play + Science = Transformation.
NOTE – re. TIME: being aware of it, managing it, harnessing it – are not some of the skills Play is involved in or teaches. The whole point of play is that there are no time limits, no deadlines & getting so caught up in it that ‘time flies’!
> That’s why some adults say that their jobs don’t feel like work: it’s fun – for them, and so absorbing they lose track of time.
Early GENDER DIFFERENCES at play
• Culture – In some cultures, boys are separated from girls at a very early age. In others, there’s little concern for sex segregation, especially in Western Europe – until nursery school, where they play in same-sex groups (Fagot, 1994).
• Family / culture – male & female parents treat boys & girls differently, based on each society’s norms. Also, parents respond according to how much they ‘like’ each child – because of the child’s personality & how like or unlike they are to each parent (from parental narcissism)
• Nature – Preferences in types of play, by gender, can be seen at about age 2 – by their own choice. No matter the culture, male & female brains are wired differently in significant ways, which show up right from the start. EXP. of nature effecting a child’s perceptions: By age 4 children can tell the difference between the sexes but don’t yet know that gender is a constant. So if long hair = girl, & short hair = boys, then does a girl who gets her hair cut very short become a boy?
– are hard-wired to enjoy spatial-mechanical play, so need more physical space than girls, & will bounce off the walls when confined. They need to run, spread out their toys, & sprawl, love trucks, tools & weapons
– don’t hear as well as girls, and may require adults to speak loudly or tap an arm to get their attention. When an instruction is ignored, they can be asked to repeat it back to the adult
– need time to finish an activity before moving on to the next
– mock fighting is natural at this age, an early form of male bonding
– girls gravitate to dolls, stuffed animals & art materials. Higher levels of the hormone oxytocin (helps bond mothers & babies) already encourage girls to love & care for their dolls, while boys see them only as inanimate objects to be thrown around
– their verbal skills develop early, boys later
– tend to use all their senses, while boys rely mainly on visual cues
– may ‘flirt’ with dad – showing both a love for the father, as well as a healthy identification with the mother.
An excellent book about biological differences is:
“BRAIN SEX: The Real Difference Between Men and Women”
by Anne Moir & David Jessel, PhD
NEXT: Adults need for Play