Social Object, Social Pretend, and Parent-Child Play
Although the vast majority of social play interactions in nonhuman animals take the forms of play-fighting and locomotor play, in his natural history Fagen ( 1981) identifies several less common types. In rodents and ungulates these include playful mounting and "riding," playful "crawling on," and playful nosing and sniffing. Some canids and primates have been observed to engage in social play with objects. Their actions include playful struggles over objects and the ensuing chases (canids and primates -- Aldis, 1975; Pedersen et al., 1990; Starin, 1990; van Lawick-Goodall, 1968), object tug-of-war (group-hunting canids -- Aldis, 1975; Biben, 1982a, 1983; Fox, 1969; Pedersen et al., 1990); and playfully waving or shaking objects at another (primates -- Starin, 1990; van Lawick-Goodall, 1968).
Although human children engage in play-fighting, play-chasing, and some of the rarer forms of social play seen in other animals (with the exception of mounting and sniffing), much of children's social play is devoted to activities that, at least on the surface, share few commonalities with the behavior of other species. The sociodramatic play and rule-governed games of early and middle childhood reflect children's developing cognitive and communicative abilities, and as such appear uniquely human. Moreover, although parent-offspring play is observed in many species (see introduction to chap. 9), the forms observed in humans differ considerably from those observed in other animals. These differences also appear to be due to the cognitive and communicative competence of human parents as play partners. Therefore, the next two chapters focus primarily on the play of humans, although occasional references to other animals are made when appropriate.