Thursday, November 4, 2010

Culture and children's play

Cultural belife about the importance of play affects early peer associations.' Adult who view play as mere entertainment are less likely to provide props of to encourage pretend than those who value its cognitive and social benefits (Farver & Wimbarti, 1995a, 1995b). Children's play is different form culture to culture. Children's play has been recognized as one of the major factor in young children's development and learning. Through plays children learn social roles, norms, and values. As a fundamental concept for developmentally and culturally appropriate  practice, we need to understand the dynamics of cultural influence and child development on children's play, particularly in the contexts of family ethnic culture.
Even how we interpret child's play and development is different form culture to culture. Also , defining children's play and children's activities are different from on one's culture. For example: In Asia, ethnic cultural influences tend to see play and academic activities separate from each other. However, In Italy, there is little distinction between play and child's other activities and they strongly emphasis  on social-interaction in child's play, an example is the Reggio Emilia. (New, 1994). Also, preschool children of Korean-American parents, who emphasize task persistance as crucial for learning,spend less time than their caucasian -American counterparts at joint make-belive and more time unoccupied and in paralledl play ( Farver, Kim, & Lee, 1195).
Many U.S. educators and researchers with Euro-American perspectives believe that child-initiated play and other experiences are already related to the child's development of later academic experiences.
Children's play always portrays and reflect their own social values and family ethnic practices. 'Children's play are personally meaningful experiences through their  physical enviormment in their own way, while at the same time the sociocultural experiences shapes children's play in its unique way (Erickson, 1963, 1963; Vygotsky,1997)'.
Play is an important context for cultural learning and reflection of children's experiences. Culture influences all froms of adult-child, child-child, and child-children play and children's ethnic family culture always interweaves directly in their play and peer interaction.
Super and Harkness (1999) proposed that children's physical and social enviroment set the stage for understanding developmental processes and outcomes. 
According to their theory, cultural belief and customs influences children's experiences and give information that based on those information children and their parents co-construct the rules of their culture. Culture plays significant role in structuring and organizing the environment that children's play and social interaction takes place. 
One of the best way to see how culture influences children's development is to observe mother and child engaging in a developmentally appropriate activity. 
Cross-cultural differences exits in the extent to which children and mother initiate play . Children are initially teach  to play in different way by their mothers, and in ways valued by the culture in which their mother was reared. 
Play can value, celebrate and raise awareness of different cultures. Cultural Play can enhance learning, understanding and acceptance. Cultural Play promotes self-esteem and positive self. 
Western children tend to engage in more socio-dramatic play than children in other are, especially group-oriented culture. Researchers have found that Korean American preschool children show less social and pretend play than Anglo-American children. Furthermore, when Korean children played in pretend play, they showed more everyday and family role activities and less fantastics themes (e.g. action related to legend or fairy tale characters that do not exist). 


Chen, X. (2009). Culture and Early Socio-Emotional Development. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.

Cote, L. Bornstein, M. (2005). Child and mother play in cultures of origin, acculturating cultures and cultures of destination. International Journal of Behavioral development; 29(6): 479-488.

Berk, Laura, E., & Shanker, Stuart, G. (2006). Child Development (2nd Cdn. Ed.). Toronto, ON: Pearson Education Canada Inc.


  1. Hi Shima,
    I really enjoyed reading your posts and watching the video’s. You had some really good ideas and I’m excited to incorporate them into a center where I may work. The books you also shared I think are also really good resources to have, thanks for sharing them :)

    I also enjoyed reading your post on culture and play, my blog was about play and hearing different things about play excites me and challenges me to think about it in other ways. I would have never thought to have talked about the differences of play in different cultures. I didn’t realize the differences in play like in Asia play being different from academic activities and Korean families emphasizing on task persistence. I learned a lot from your blog and I’ll definitely look to it for ideas and reference.

    I’ve learned a lot about culture over the last couple of months being here at Capilano, especially in my Families, school and community class. Your blog seemed to have pulled it all together and it seems to have just clicked for me. I didn’t know a lot about culture before coming here, I transferred in this year, and I’ve just been experiencing so much of it since coming here and I’m really excited about it.

    I’ve developed a passion now for trying to incorporate more culture into places where I work because everywhere I’ve done practicum or worked, I’ve never seen culture represented.

    Thanks for your ideas :) It was a really good blog!

  2. Hi Courtney,
    Thanks for your kind comments. It is also very interesting to me too that eventhogh I come from Asian, Middle eastern culture, I have never thought about how our culture views play in childhood until I started to write my blog. After doing research about play and culture, I though about how true it was in our culture. My family, my school, and basically our culture doesn't see play as a way of learning; in our culture play is separate and different from learning. The role of play is just to have fun. I remember in my childhood, there was a huge pressure on us not only through family but also from school to be successful in academic studies.
    Thanks again for your comment and Good luck.

  3. I personally believe that learning through play is liked by every children no matter from where he is. check kids IQ here 
    Thak you for great post