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Symbolic play and language development: A longitudinal study.

CollectionsCollaboration across boundaries : a cross-disciplinary conference (2017)
Title: Symbolic play and language development: A longitudinal study.
Author(s): Creaghe, Noelie
Quinn, Sara
Kidd, Evan
Date published: 2017
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : NECTAR, The Australian National University
There is a well-attested empirical relationship between language acquisition and symbolic play (e.g., Bates, 1979; McCune, 2010). However, the underlying nature of this relationship still needs exploration. Here we report on a longitudinal study that examined the play-language relationship, with a specific focus on parent-infant interactions across different play contexts. Fifty-four (N = 54) parent-infant dyads were followed between the ages of 18 and 24 months. At 18 and 24 months the dyads participated in a 20 minute play session. During each session, the dyads played with toys facilitating symbolic play for ten minutes, and with toys facilitating functional play for another ten minutes. Play sessions were then coded for conversational turn, vocabulary, and syntax. Parents also completed the McArthur-Bates CDI at 18, 21, and 24 months During symbolic play, parents were more likely to ask questions which led to greater conversational turns between dyads. During functional play, parents were more likely to use imperatives and declaratives, and fewer conversational turns were observed between dyads. Unique characteristic properties of symbolic and functional play predicted children�s language growth 6 months later: the number of conversational turns and the use of questions, which were more common in symbolic play, had a positive impact on children�s vocabulary, while the use of declaratives and imperatives, which were more common in functional play, negatively impacted syntactic complexity and vocabulary development. The results suggest that symbolic play provides infants with more opportunities to participate and engage in interactions than functional play, which positively predict children�s language growth. Specifically, symbolic play supports language acquisition because it provides a social and explorative environment in which the parents invite language production. References Bates E., B. L. (1979). Cognition and communication from nine to thirteen months: correlational findings. In E. B. Bates, The emergence of symbols: cognition and communication in infancy. (pp. 69-140). New York: Academic Press. McCune, L. (2010). Developing symbolic abilities. In B. Wagoner, Symbolic transformation: The mind in movement through culture and society (pp. 173-192). London: Routeledge Press.


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