Play and Exploration in Children and Animals

By Thomas G. Power | Go to book overview

Preface

Since the 1930s, children's play has been the focus of intensive empirical research. Although the specific topics examined have varied with the theories and perspectives of the day, the underlying premise has been that play is a "special" context in which unique opportunities for learning occur. In contrast to the learning in more structured situations (e.g., the classroom), learning during play results from children's active attempts to manipulate, replicate, and experiment with their social and nonsocial environments.

Empirical studies of children's play peaked in the 1970s. As described in Rubin, Fein, and Vandenberg's ( 1983) frequently cited review, researchers during that period had significant optimism about the importance of play for child development. By the 1980s, however, researchers had become more skeptical about the importance of play, and raised many questions about the meaning of previous findings. This skepticism has continued into the 1990s, and research activity has waned.

The study of animal play has a shorter history. Although biologists have long acknowledged that many young animals play (e.g., Groos, 1898), it wasn't until the 1960s that much empirical research was devoted to this topic. Since then a small but growing empirical literature on animal play has emerged. In 1981, Fagen wrote a book entitled Animal Play Behavior, which summarized the empirical research in the area and provided a detailed natural history of animal play based on naturalists' observations of young animals in various settings. He also set the agenda for the next two decades of research. Much of the research published since the Fagen volume is reviewed in an excellent book edited by Marc Bekoff and John Byers ( 1998), entitled Animal Play: Evolutionary, Comparative, and Ecological Approaches.

An issue of considerable debate among play researchers has been the relevance of the animal research for understanding the play of humans. Does it help answer important questions about the nature and functions of human play, or is play in animals simply an area of interest in its own right with only tangential relevance? Smith ( 1982) published one of the

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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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