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Toddlers' emerging symbolic play: a first-born advantage?

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The influence of older peers on younger children's emerging symbolic play was examined for 24 young children in eight participating long-day child-care centres. Toddler participants (aged from 17 to 31 months) were observed and video-taped in three conditions in free play in the outdoor environment as follows: condition one, with their same-age peers; condition two, with their older, preschool-aged peers; and condition three, in a dyad situation with a familiar often 'self-chosen' preschool-aged peer. Fourteen of the participants were first-borns and 10 were later-borns. The toddlers' symbolic play was coded in the four dimensions of symbolic play ('decontextualization', 'thematic content', 'organization of themes', and 'self-other relationships') in accordance with Westby's (1991) 'Symbolic play scale'. First-born participants exhibited higher levels of symbolic play in all four dimensions as identified by Westby (1991) in mixed-age free play sessions. Additionally, in mixed-age free play, first-borns scored significantly higher in three dimensions in the most frequently occurring levels of symbolic play than did later-born participants.
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Keywords: Daycare' Mixed-age groups; Older peers; Pretend play; Symbolic play; Toddlers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Early Childhood Macquarie University Australia 2: Faculty of Education University of Wollongong Australia 3: Faculty of Education University of Western Sydney Australia

Publication date: 2004-04-01

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