Cultural Variations in the Play of Toddlers

The present study examines differences in the social play of toddlers from four communities.
Fourteen children, between the ages of 12 and 24 months, from four cultural communities (San
Pedro, Guatemala; Kecioren, Turkey; Dhol-Ki-Patti, India; Salt Lake City, United States)
participated in the study. This paper is based on an analysis of data from a larger study, which
was designed to examine guided participation between caregivers and toddlers during daily routine activities. This study specially examines episodes of social play which occurred during various activities. We addressed community differences in the occurrence, frequency, partners, and dynamics of social play. We also examined whether or not the kinds (i.e. pretend, object, physical, language, and games) and themes of children’s play varied as a function of the activity (i.e. exploring novel objects, dressing, free activity, and adult conversation) in which the play activities were embedded. The results indicated that social play occurred in each of the four communities, although the frequency and partners of social play presented cultural variations. Also, there were cultural variations in the numbers of children who engaged in the various
kinds of play examined. Based on our results we conclude that developmental play theory should be extended to take into account cultural variation.

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