next up previous contents
Next: How Gender Biases a Up: Child Development Previous: The Emergence of Empathy

The Role of Play in the Emotional Development of a Child

Play is a form of communication for children. Soon after her first birthday a child will begin to exhibit empathy toward her dolls. By her second birthday, she is actively engaged in pretend play. She will imitate domestic roles, and take on the role of other people (mother, teacher, etc.). The ability to play pretend games signals the development of symbolic representation within the child.

Between two and two and a half years, children begin to endow dolls with a capacity for action and experience: the dolls are made to talk and act independently, and eventually credited with desires, sensations and emotions. Three year olds can make a distinction between the real world and the world of imagination. If they are given an emotion, they can suggest a situation likely to cause it. Three and four year olds are good at figuring out which emotions go with which situations. Children can conjure up pretend or imaginary psychological states, such as desires or beliefs, and project them on to their dolls and toy soldiers [Harris, 1989].

Dana L Kirsch
Tue May 25 08:59:22 EDT 1999