Play and Exploration in Children and Animals

By Thomas G. Power | Go to book overview

8
Social Object and Sociodramatic Play in Children

The major nonphysical forms of social play observed in children (e.g., sociodramatic play, games with rules, language play) are a consequence of our well-developed symbolic and communicative abilities (especially language abilities), and as such appear to be uniquely human. Given the recency of the evolution of language in the genus Homo (most scholars estimate that conventional language emerged about .25 million years ago -- see Bickerton , 1990; Dunbar, 1993; Liberman, 1991), the forms of play dependent on language have a much shorter evolutionary history than other types, such as play-fighting and locomotor play. This does not mean, however, that these forms have not been influenced by natural selection. Language was probably incorporated into children's play as language evolved, and may even have influenced the evolution of play. Moreover, given the importance of language in enculturation, play forms that incorporated language may have had a significant role in cultural evolution as well. For example, anthropologists have illustrated how various culturally transmitted children's games serve important enculturation functions (e.g., Sutton-Smith, 1977).

If play is seen as structurally modified functional behaviors taken out of context, then much of sociodramatic play certainly meets this definition. As is seen in the discussion that follows, much of role-taking play involves children acting out adult roles in a pretend context. Given the altricial nature of humans, young children in numerous cultures spend limited time in functional contexts, and considerable time involved in exploration and play. Because this is a crucial time for enculturation, role playing may be one way in which young children develop the skills necessary for their integration into the culture, and therefore may indirectly influence their subsequent reproductive success.

When compared to play-fighting and locomotor play, nonphysical social play in humans is much less risky. Because there is no fighting involved

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Play and Exploration in Children and Animals
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • I - Solitary Object Exploration and Play 15
  • 3 Solitary Object Exploration and Play in Children 55
  • II - Physical Activity Play 109
  • 4 - Play-Fighting in Animals 111
  • 5 - Play-Fighting in Children 163
  • 6 - Locomotor Play in Animals 191
  • 7 - Locomotor Play in Children 203
  • III - Social Object, Social Pretend, and Parent-Child Play 213
  • 8 - Social Object and Sociodramatic Play in Children 215
  • 9 - Parent-Child Play 295
  • 10 - Conclusions 389
  • References 397
  • Author Index 475
  • Subject Index 495
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