Pellegrini 98

Pellegrini 98 - C hild Development, J u n e 1998, Volume...

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Child Development, June 1998, Volume 69, Number 3, Pages 577-598 Physical Activity Play: The Nature and Function of a Neglected Aspect of Play A. D. Pellegrini and Peter K. Smith In this review, we consider the nature and possible developmental functions of physical activity play, defined as a playful context combined with a dimension of physical vigor. We distinguish 3 kinds of physical activity play, with consecutive age peaks: rhythmic stereotypies peaking in infancy, exercise play peaking during the preschool years, and rough-and-tumble play peaking in middle childhood. Gender differences (greater preva- lence in males) characterize the latter 2 forms. Function is considered in terms of beneficial immediate and deferred consequences in physical, cognitive, and social domains. Whereas most theories assume that chil- dren’s play has deferred benefits, we suggest that forms of physical activity play serve primarily immediate developmental functions. Rhythmic stereotypies in infancy are hypothesized to improve control of specific motor patterns. Exercise play is hypothesized to function primarily for strength and endurance training; less clear evidence exists for possible benefits for fat reduction and thermoregulation. In addition, there may be cognitive benefits of exercise play that we hypothesize to be largely incidental to its playful or physical nature. Rough-and-tumble play has a distinctive social component; we hypothesize that it serves primarily dominance functions; evidence for benefits to fighting skills or to emotional coding are more equivocal. Further research is indicated, given the potentially important implications for children’s education, health, and development. INTRODUCTION Over the past 30 years, the study of children’s play has been a popular topic of scientific inquiry (see the chapter on play in the fourth edition of the Manual of Child Psychology; Rubin, Fein, & Vandenberg, 1983). Pretend play is the aspect of children’s play most thoroughly studied (see Fein, 1981). Indeed, the para- digmatic study of young children’s play has probably been the study of children’s symbolic use of play ob- jects in a developmental progression (e.g., McCune, 1995). Yet these analyses ignore some of the most com- mon forms of play, as well as some basic theoretical assumptions regarding the functions of play. Chil- dren’s play often has a vigorous physical component, and thus it may variously be called physical activity play, locomotor play, or exercise play. Much of chil- dren’s physical activity can be seen as playful in the sense that it is minimally constrained by adult de- mands. Adults, however, often show some ambiva- lence toward children’s high levels of physical activ- ity. This ambivalence may also be reflected in the relative paucity of research on children’s physical ac- tivity generally (Pellegrini & Smith, 1993; Welsh & Labbk, 1994), and on physical activity play and raugh-and-tumble play in particular (Humphreys
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This note was uploaded on 09/28/2011 for the course PSYC 414 taught by Professor Aboud during the Fall '11 term at McGill.

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Pellegrini 98 - C hild Development, J u n e 1998, Volume...

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