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Cross-culture aspects of play and childhood development models

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Katie S.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Defining play
    1. Piaget's view
    2. Fein's view
  3. Cultural aspects of play: Do different cultures 'play' differently?
    1. Cultural differences in child play behavior
    2. Qualitative and quantitative review analysis of Whiting's 1963 study
    3. Analysis of study from LEGO Learning Institute
    4. The cultural differences regarding play in children
  4. The evolution of the concept of 'adult-centric' in Brazil
  5. Similarities in play in China and the U.S
  6. Cross-cultural aspects of play and its effects on early childhood development
  7. Social justice and cultural differences in play within the classroom
  8. Addressing cultural differences in an early childhood program?
  9. The social functions served by play
  10. Concluding remarks
  11. References

Piaget (1962) described play as imitating and practicing behaviors, oftentimes associated with symbolic . Play happens through the assimilation of facts, events or behaviors, or through the distortion of reality, in order to put reality back together. Sometimes child play involves the representation of an absent object or person, as if it, or they, were present, and can also include elements of ?higher play? such as games with rules and regulations. In many cultural groups, studies have shown that the earliest form of childhood play combines imitation and practice, whereby sensory and motor skills are developed within the first twenty-four months of age. It is easy to imagine an infant copying the movement and sounds of his mother, or of a pet, as the child begins to undertake the great task of ?fitting in? to his or her social and cultural surroundings.

Fein (1981) states that symbolic or ?pretending? tends to emerge in children around the age of two. From there, in most societies, children move on to social play, where they begin to interact with other children. Examples of social play include cooperative social pretend play such as ?sharing? a toy or a game. Howes (1985) states that the use of symbolic is one of the most powerful aspects of shared social play.

[...] In cultural situations where children had reduced play time, or where play was highly discouraged, there was a correlation of lower developments of social skills and relationship development tools. Studies also suggest that the absence of play can lead to increased emotional trauma and disturbances. Moreover, findings from research on children that were forced into work environments at an early age showed decreased brain activity for important neurological connections critical to learning and social behavior. This research contributes to the belief that regardless of cultural differences, play is not a trivial or purposeless behavior, but an imperative one for learning and social interactions. [...]


[...] Play serves many social functions, and works to satisfy the needs and development of social and emotional life skills. It is important that children be socialized, through play, as contributing members of their own culture. This must happen in early childhood education, regardless of the cultural composition of classrooms. Experts recommend that teachers familiarize themselves with play from other cultures, and slowly begin to integrate different models of play into the on-goings of a class. Numerous studies (Creasey, Jarvis, & Berk, 1998; Erikson, 1963; Goleman, 1995; Piaget, 1962; Rubin & Howe, 1986; Rubin, Maioni, & Hormung, 1976; Rubin, Watson, & Jambor, 1978; Sutton-Smith, 1997; Vygotsky, 1978) show that this form of cross-cultural play allows children the opportunity to model their behavior with others. [...]


[...] Many researchers in the field of childhood development, and play, consider the study of cultural differences in play to be of essential importance. When studying symbolic play, one must examine these differences in culture and class, in order to better understand the meaning behind the play. Singer, et. al. (1992) state that children in Thailand play with small, homemade tools fashioned in the shape of animals, as well as coconut shells and leaves for boats and houses and storage spaces. [...]

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