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Definition

Functional play is another term often used for object play, when it is seen as a precursor of pretence, where objects are explored to examine their properties rather than being used as symbols to represent something else.

See also: Object play, Exploratory play

Cabrera, N. et al. (2017) The magic of play: Low-income mothers’ and fathers’ playfulness and children's emotion regulation and vocabulary skills (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Using data from a diverse sample of low-income families who participated in the Early Head Start Research Evaluation Project (n = 73), we explored the association between mothers’ and fathers’ playfulness with toddlers, toddler’s affect during play, and children’s language and emotion regulation at prekindergarten. There were two main findings. First, fathers’ playfulness in toddlerhood was associated with children’s vocabulary skills in prekindergarten whereas mothers’ playfulness was related to children’s emotion regulation. Cross-parental effects were found only for mothers. The association between mothers’ playfulness and children’s vocabulary and emotion regulation was strengthened when fathers engaged in more pretend play and when children were affectively positive during the play. These findings show that playfulness is an important source of variation in the vocabulary and emotion regulation of children growing up in low-income families. They also point to domain-specific ways that mothers and fathers promote children’s regulatory and vocabulary skills, and highlight the importance of children’s positive engagement in play.

Date:
January 2017
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
38
Page/s:
757-771
Synonyms:
  • Functional play
  • Language
  • Mental health
  • Parent/Guardian play
  • Pretend play
Relevant age group/s:

Dansereau, D. (2015) Young Children's Interactions with Sound-Producing Objects (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The purpose of this study was to observe, analyze, and document the range of young children's interactions with sound-producing objects in order to better understand the nature of such interactions. Of particular interest was whether theories of cognitive play, social play, object play, and existing research on musical play could guide concurrently the interpretation of children's interactions with these objects and whether the interactions were consistent with these theories. Two groups of participants, nine 3-year-old children and seven 4-year-old children, played with sound-producing objects for approximately 15 min once a week for 12 weeks. Participants interacted with the objects in rich and varied ways, including explorations of the objects' sound-producing capabilities and other physical attributes, nonmusical and musical functional and pretend play episodes, and construction behaviors. Movement and singing often were layered upon the children's interactions with the objects. Musical functional play was the most frequently observed behavior across both ages of participants. The children were more likely to engage in solitary/parallel behaviors than group interactions, and group interactions were more common among the 4-year-old children than the 3-year-olds. All behaviors that were anticipated via the conceptual framework were observed, with the exception of group nonmusic exploration.

Author/s:
Date:
January 2015
Volume:
63
Page/s:
28-46
Synonyms:
  • Exploratory play
  • Functional play
  • Musical play
  • Peers play
  • Play assessment
  • Pretend play
  • Semiotic play
  • Solitary play
  • Construction play
Relevant age group/s:

DeLoache, J. et al. (1985) The Development of Error Correction Strategies in Young Children's Manipulative Play (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The focus of this study was the strategies used by young children between 18 and 42 months for correcting the errors they made as they attempted to nest a set of 5 seriated cups. In the process of combining the cups, the children committed numerous errors (such as putting a cup that was too large on a smaller cup), and they tried to correct the majority of those errors. Detailed examination of the children's correction attempts revealed that the strategies they used changed substantially with age, becoming increasingly more flexible and involving more extensive restructuring of the relations among the cups. Earlier correction attempts tended to focus on a single, nonfitting cup or on a single relation between 2 cups. Later-appearing strategies involved the coordination of relations involving several cups. The same trend toward increasing flexibility of thought and action also appeared in the procedures the children used to combine the cups. This study thus documents a finely graded series of cognitively significant changes in children's constructive activity during a period that has been poorly differentiated by cognitive developmental research. In so doing, it demonstrates the usefulness for problem-solving research of analyzing how subjects go about trying to rectify their own mistakes.

Date:
January 1985
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
56
Page/s:
928-939
Synonyms:
  • Cross-sectional
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Exploratory play
  • Functional play
  • Object play
  • Problem-solving
Research discipline:

Hirose, T. et al. (2012) Correspondence between Children's Indoor and Outdoor Play in Japanese Preschool Daily Life (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This study examined the correspondence between children's indoor and outdoor play in a preschool environment to investigate whether the children maintained a tendency to engage in a particular type of play irrespective of the environment, or whether they changed the type of play according to the environment. Play behaviours of 18 three-year-old and 20 five-year-old children were observed in both settings in an urban preschool in Japan. Various characteristics of play were examined based on cognitive play categories, social play categories, and types of objects used. The results indicate that children do not maintain fixed play behaviour without taking into consideration the play settings: their play differed greatly in accordance with the play setting. Not every child showed the same differences in play corresponding to differences in the setting. However, for each age group there was a qualitative difference based on the setting. For the three-year-olds, the "subject of interest" changed between settings, whereas for the five-year-olds, the "participation in society" changed related to the setting (indoor or outdoor). The "relation with the environment" was greater for both age groups in the outdoor setting. There were no significant sex differences. (Contains 3 tables and 2 figures.)

Date:
January 2012
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
182
Page/s:
1611-1622
Synonyms:
  • Correlational
  • Free play
  • Functional play
  • Indoor play
  • Outdoor play
  • Parallel play
  • Peers play
  • Physical play
  • Playground
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Leslie, A. (1987) Pretense and representation: The origins of "theory of mind." (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Presents a theoretical analysis of the representational mechanism underlying a child's ability to pretend. This mechanism extends the power of the infant's existing capacity for (primary) representation, creating a capacity for 'metarepresentation.' It is this, developing toward the end of infancy, that underlies the child's new abilities to pretend and to understand pretense in others. There is a striking isomorphism between the 3 fundamental forms of pretend play and 3 crucial logical properties of mental state expressions in language. This isomorphism points to a common underlying form of internal representation that is here called metarepresentation. A performance model, the 'decoupler,' is outlined embodying ideas about how an infant might compute the complex function postulated to underlie pretend play. This model also reveals pretense as an early manifestation of the ability to understand mental states. Aspects of later preschool development, both normal and abnormal, are discussed in the light of the new model.

Author/s:
Date:
January 1987
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
94
Page/s:
412-426
Synonyms:
  • Atypical development
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Functional play
  • Literature review
  • Pretend play
  • Social cognition
  • Social-emotional
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

NCCA, . et al. (2017) Why is play important for babies and toddlers (Birth-3 years) from NCCA on Vimeo (Video Recording)

Abstract:
Author/s:
Date:
January 2017
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
Page/s:
Synonyms:
  • Creativity
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Exploratory play
  • Functional play
  • Language
  • Parent/Guardian play
  • Playfulness
  • Self-regulation
  • Social-emotional
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Vu, J. et al. (2015) The effects of in-service training on teachers’ beliefs and practices in children's play (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Early childhood educators are often aware of the general importance of play in children's development; however, they are often less aware of how play can support both academic and social learning and what their own roles can be in children's play. In this study, we examined the effect that professional development training about play would have on early childhood teachers' beliefs about and practices in supporting play. Educators' beliefs did not change after training: they generally believed that play was relevant to both social and cognitive skill development and that play had many benefits both before and after their training. After training, teachers were more engaged with children during play and these roles were related to children's cognitive and social play categories. In a time of increasing academization of the early childhood years, these findings highlight the importance of providing professional development opportunities about play to early childhood professionals in order to remind and inform them of the important role that play can have in the early childhood curriculum.

Date:
January 2015
Volume:
23
Page/s:
444-460
Synonyms:
  • Academic outcomes
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Free play
  • Functional play
  • Learning
  • Peers play
  • Playful learning
  • Pretend play
  • Social play
  • Teacher/caregiver play
  • Construction play
Relevant age group/s: