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Definition

Cooperative play is where play finally becomes an interaction between children, with cooperation, joint attention and action. Children are now interested in both the children they are playing with as well as the activity they are engaged in. This stage of play development usually appears in girls around the age of 4-5, and in boys at the age of 5-61. The reason why this type of play only appears in these later years is because it requires an evolved set of organisational skills and a higher degree of social maturity. Cooperative play, in a way is a culmination of all the skills learned across previous play development stages that give the child the necessary skills for social and group interactions.

The social stages of play were first categorised by Mildred Parten in 1929. Her work was a great influence in how current literature categorises play by its social dimension; solitary play, parallel play, associative play, cooperative play, games with rules, and onlooker play.

See also: Solitary playParallel play, Games with rules 

Barbu, S. et al. (2011) Boys and girls on the playground: sex differences in social development are not stable across early childhood (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Sex differences in human social behaviors and abilities have long been a question of public and scientific interest. Females are usually assumed to be more socially oriented and skillful than males. However, despite an extensive literature, the very existence of sex differences remains a matter of discussion while some studies found no sex differences whereas others reported differences that were either congruent or not with gender stereotypes. Moreover, the magnitude, consistency and stability across time of the differences remain an open question, especially during childhood. As play provides an excellent window into children's social development, we investigated whether and how sex differences change in social play across early childhood. Following a cross-sectional design, 164 children aged from 2 to 6 years old, divided into four age groups, were observed during outdoor free play at nursery school. We showed that sex differences are not stable over time evidencing a developmental gap between girls and boys. Social and structured forms of play emerge systematically earlier in girls than in boys leading to subsequent sex differences in favor of girls at some ages, successively in associative play at 3-4 years, cooperative play at 4-5 years, and social interactions with peers at 5-6 years. Preschool boys also display more solitary play than preschool girls, especially when young. Nevertheless, while boys catch up and girls move on towards more complex play, sex differences in social play patterns are reversed in favor of boys at the following ages, such as in associative play at 4-5 years and cooperative play at 5-6 years. This developmental perspective contributes to resolve apparent discrepancies between single-snapshot studies. A better understanding of the dynamics of sex differences in typical social development should also provide insights into atypical social developments which exhibit sex differences in prevalence, such as autism.

Date:
January 2011
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
6
Page/s:
e16407
Synonyms:
  • Cooperative play
  • Cross-sectional
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Free play
  • Parallel play
  • Peers play
  • Social play
  • Social-emotional
  • Solitary play
Research discipline:

Francis, G. et al. (2019) Do Tangible User Interfaces promote social behaviour during free play? A comparison of autistic and typically-developing children playing with passive and digital construction toys (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Background
Little is known about the extent to which embodied digital mediation may support social engagement between children with or without autism (ASD) in free play settings. This study draws on Affordance theory and Constructionism to investigate social play behaviours associated with use of a Tangible User Interface (TUI) during free play.
Method
The study used a detailed observational and descriptive design. Two groups of children with ASD and two groups of typically developing (TD) children were filmed during a 20-minute play session with either a passive toy, or a digital toy with a TUI. Behaviours were coded according to a scheme based on Parten’s Play States. Data were described in terms of duration, frequency and the likelihood of transition to another state, given the current state.
Results
For TD children, Parallel and Associative were the most frequently observed Play States across both conditions. For those with ASD, Parallel Play and Non-Play-Related Conversation were the most frequent states in the passive condition, while Parallel and Associative Play were the most common in the TUI condition. This group demonstrated a longer duration of co-operative play with the TUI toy compared to TD children. Both groups showed higher frequencies of social play in the TUI condition.
Conclusions
Social play states can be effectively mediated by TUIs for both TD and ASD groups. For the ASD group, repetitive behaviour with a TUI may not be inhibitory to social engagement. Practitioners may consider making TUI enabled toys available during free play opportunities.

Date:
January 2019
Volume:
58
Page/s:
68-82
Synonyms:
  • Cooperative play
  • Free play
  • Social play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

McInnes, K. et al. (2009) Behavioural differences exhibited by children when practising a task under formal and playful conditions (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Play is viewed as central to learning in the early years despite a lack of empirical evidence to support this. Most research has concentrated on adult definitions of play which fail to capture the intrinsic quality of playfulness. To achieve this it is necessary to elicit children's definitions of play. The research discussed in this paper utilises children's definitions of play to create formal and playful practice conditions to demonstrate the links between playfulness and learning. In addition, analysis of videotaped observations indicates behavioural differences according to whether children participate in playful or formal practice conditions. These findings support a behavioural threshold and fluency theory of play. Children in the playful condition exhibited more fluent and purposeful problem solving behaviours than children in the formal condition. Implications for practitioners in educational settings are outlined.

Date:
January 2009
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
26
Page/s:
31-39
Synonyms:
  • Academic outcomes
  • Cooperative play
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Engagement
  • Games with rules
  • Learning
  • Object play
  • Playfulness
  • Problem-solving
  • Self-regulation
  • Semiotic play
  • Social-emotional
  • Construction play
Relevant age group/s:

Ramani, G. et al. (2014) Preschoolers’ cooperative problem solving: Integrating play and problem solving (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Cooperative problem solving with peers plays a central role in promoting children’s cognitive and social development. This article reviews research on cooperative problem solving among preschool-age children in experimental settings and social play contexts. Studies suggest that cooperative interactions with peers in experimental settings are not as consistently beneficial to young children’s cognitive growth as they are for school-age children. In contrast, both theory and empirical research suggest that social play like that seen in early childhood classrooms is a context in which young children gain critical knowledge from peer cooperation. However, these contexts differ in how much they allow children to create and sustain their own joint goals, which likely influences their learning from cooperative interactions in experimental settings. Features of cooperative social play that allow preschool children to create joint goals are considered, and suggestions for future research are proposed to integrate these features into experimental settings in order to provide a fuller understanding of the development of cooperative problem solving in young children and its benefits.

Date:
January 2014
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
12
Page/s:
92-108
Synonyms:
  • Cooperative play
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Learning
  • Literature review
  • Peers play
  • Problem-solving
  • Social play
Relevant age group/s: