Early Childhood Education Journal

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 61–68 | Cite as

Links Between Preschool Children’s Social Skills and Observed Pretend Play in Outdoor Childcare Environments

Article

Abstract

As one of the most advanced play forms in childhood, pretend play often demonstrates positive associations with children’s development. However, results from research that examines the association between social skills and pretend play are mixed, especially when the complexity of pretend play is taken into account. Moreover, few studies on pretend play are conducted in outdoor environments; a setting which affords many opportunities for engagement in pretend play and unstructured social interactions. By observing children’s outdoor pretend play, the primary purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between different types of pretend play and children’s social skills. Twenty-eight children from high quality childcare centers in a southeast suburban area were observed during outdoor free play time. Using a reliable time sampling protocol, each child’s play was observed and recorded for a total of 45 min to an hour over a 2-week time period. Lead teachers rated children’s social skills in the areas of cooperation, self-control, and assertiveness. Results showed high amounts of pretend play behavior overall, and differential relationships between the type of pretend play children engaged in and children’s social skills. Surprisingly, these relationships were not associated with gender. Findings are discussed in light of the value of pretend play to promote social skill development and the potential for outdoor contexts specifically to encourage these play behaviors.

Keywords

Pretend play Social skills Outdoors Preschool 

References

  1. Änggård, E. (2011). Children’s gendered and non-gendered play in natural spaces. Children Youth and Environments, 21(2), 5–33.Google Scholar
  2. Bretherton, I. (1989). Pretense: The form and function of make-believe play. Developmental Review, 9(4), 383–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Connolly, J. (1988). Social pretend play and social interaction in preschoolers. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 9(3), 301–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Connolly, J. A., & Doyle, A. B. (1984). Relation of social fantasy play to social competence in preschoolers. Developmental Psychology, 20(5), 797–806.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. de Lorimier, S., Doyle, A.-B., & Tessier, O. (1995). Social coordination during pretend play: Comparisons with nonpretend play and effects on expressive content. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 41(4), 497–516.Google Scholar
  6. DeBord, K., Hestenes, L., Moore, R. C., Cosco, N. G., & McGinnis, J. R. (2005). Preschool outdoor environment measurement scale. Winston Salem, NC: Kaplan Early Learning Co.Google Scholar
  7. Derry, P. A., & Stone, G. L. (1979). Effects of cognitive-adjunct treatments on assertiveness. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 3(2), 213–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Doyle, A. B., & Connolly, J. (1989). Negotiation and enactment in social pretend play: Relations to social acceptance and social cognition. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 4(3), 289–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Doyle, A. B., Doehring, P., Tessier, O., de Lorimier, S., & Shapiro, S. (1992). Transitions in children’s play: A sequential analysis of states preceding and following social pretense. Developmental Psychology, 28(1), 137–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Early, D. M., Iruka, I. U., Ritchie, S., Barbarin, O. A., Winn, D.-M. C., Crawford, G. M., et al. (2010). How do pre-kindergarteners spend their time? Gender, ethnicity, and income as predictors of experiences in pre-kindergarten classrooms. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25(2), 177–193. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2009.10.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eisler, R. M., Frederiksen, L. W., & Peterson, G. L. (1978). The relationship of cognitive variables to the expression of assertiveness. Behavior Therapy, 9(3), 419–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fein, G. G. (1981). Pretend play in childhood: An integrative review. Child Development, 52(4), 1095–1118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Galyer, K. T., & Evans, I. M. (2001). Pretend play and the development of emotion regulation in preschool children. Early Child Development and Care, 166(1), 93–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gleason, T. R. (2005). Mothers’ and fathers’ attitudes regarding pretend play in the context of imaginary companions and of child gender. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 51(4), 412–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gray, P. (2011). The decline of play and the rise of psychopathology in children and adolescents. American Journal of Play, 3(4), 443–463.Google Scholar
  16. Gresham, F. M., & Elliott, S. N. (1990). Social skills rating system. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  17. Hoffmann, J., & Russ, S. (2012). Pretend play, creativity, and emotion regulation in children. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 6(2), 175–184. doi:10.1037/a0026299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Howes, C., Unger, O., & Matheson, C. C. (1992). The collaborative construction of pretend: Social pretend play functions. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  19. Johnson, J. E., & Ershler, J. (1981). Developmental trends in preschool play as a function of classroom program and child gender. Child Development, 52(3), 995–1004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jones, A., & Glenn, S. M. (1991). Gender differences in pretend play in a primary school group. Early Child Development and Care, 77(1), 127–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kendall, P. C., & Braswell, L. (1982). Cognitive-behavioral self-control therapy for children: A components analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 50(5), 672–689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kyttä, M. (2004). Children in outdoor contexts: Affordances and independent mobility in the assessment of environmental child friendliness. Helsinki University of Technology. Retrieved from http://lib.tkk.fi/Diss/2003/isbn9512268736/.
  23. Lillard, A. S., Pinkham, A., & Smith, E. D. (2011). Pretend play and cognitive development. In U. Goswami (Ed.), The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of childhood cognitive development (pp. 285–311). Chichester, England: Wiley.Google Scholar
  24. Lindsey, E. W., & Colwell, M. J. (2013). Pretend and physical play: Links to preschoolers’ affective social competence. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 59(3), 330–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Matthews, W. S. (1977). Modes of transformation in the initiation of fantasy play. Developmental Psychology, 13(3), 212–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McLoyd, V. C. (1980). Verbally expressed modes of transformation in the fantasy play of black preschool children. Child Development, 51(4), 1133–1139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mundy, P., Sigman, M., Ungerer, J., & Sherman, T. (1987). Nonverbal communication and play correlates of language development in autistic children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 17(3), 349–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pearson, B. L., Russ, S. W., & Spannagel, S. A. C. (2008). Pretend play and positive psychology: Natural companions. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 3(2), 110–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Piaget, J. (1962). Play, dreams and imitation in childhood. New York, NY: Norton.Google Scholar
  30. Rubin, K. H. (1982). Nonsocial play in preschoolers: Necessarily evil? Child Development, 53(3), 651–657. doi:10.2307/1129376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Russ, S. W., Robins, A. L., & Christiano, B. A. (1999). Pretend play: Longitudinal prediction of creativity and affect in fantasy in children. Creativity Research Journal, 12(2), 129–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Saracho, O. N., & Spodek, B. (1998). Multiple perspectives on play in early childhood education. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  33. Shim, S. K., Herwig, J. E., & Shelley, M. (2001). Preschoolers’ play behaviors with peers in classroom and playground settings. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 15(2), 149–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Söderström, M., Boldemann, C., Sahlin, U., Mårtensson, F., Raustorp, A., & Blennow, M. (2013). The quality of the outdoor environment influences children’s health—A cross-sectional study of preschools. Acta Paediatrica, 102(1), 83–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Susa, A. M., & Benedict, J. O. (1994). The effects of playground design on pretend play and divergent thinking. Environment and Behavior, 26(4), 560–579. doi:10.1177/001391659402600405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Swindells, D., & Stagnitti, K. (2006). Pretend play and parents’ view of social competence: The construct validity of the child-initiated pretend play assessment. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 53(4), 314–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Vagos, P., & Pereira, A. (2010). A proposal for evaluating cognition in assertiveness. Psychological Assessment, 22(3), 657–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Whitington, V., & Floyd, I. (2009). Creating intersubjectivity during socio-dramatic play at an Australian kindergarten. Early Child Development and Care, 179(2), 143–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesThe University of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA

Personalised recommendations