Exploring How Psychologists Study the Role of Play in Child Development

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Exploring How Psychologists Study the Role of Play in Child Development

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, New Edition, 1995 defines “play” as: “[Children] when children play, they do things that they enjoy, often together or with toys.” Play is one of the most powerful vehicles children have for trying out and mastering new social skills, concepts and experiences. Psychologists, such as Faulkner (1995), present evidence that play is seen as a mean of developing social skills and interpersonal relationships with others. The first section of the essay will present the different approaches psychologists use in the quest to learn about the role of children’s play and their related issues.
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Play significantly affects the development of the whole child. Within play’s natural learning environment, children develop cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically.

One dominant method use in the study of play is through naturalistic observations. In naturalistic research, the observer does not intervene at all. For all intents and purposes, the researcher is invisible and works hard to not interrupt the natural dynamics of the situation being investigated. In 1932, Mildred Parten observed nursery children of aged 2 to 5 years old in their social participation in play. Through these observations, she had identified with four categories of play that influence social development: solitary independent play, parallel activity, associative play and co-operative play. In solitary independent play, the toddler enjoys playing alone. At this age there is little play with other children of the same age, though they may walk around each other. Older toddlers, about the age of 2 1/2, will begin to relate to other children by touching and speaking to them. In parallel activity, children enjoy being with each other, but they do not interact very much. They will play side by side, watch, and listen to each other. They sometimes may fight over the same toy. During
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