For some time play has been considered a vital activity for children in enabling them to develop and practice real social skills in a safe setting. Whilst interactions with adults can be very important it is often, due to the nature of the relationship, when children interact with peers and siblings that the potential for development through play becomes apparent. Play can be based either on complimentary or reciprocal processes. A complimentary process being when one individual has more social power and reciprocal being when two individuals have similar power and education. In order to see why play is important to child development, it is important to look at how various aspects of play with peers relate to the major theories of child development. Therefore whilst looking at the developments that can take place, this essay will also consider how this development comes about through the theories of development. Which specific aspects of development are evident in sibling and peer relationships will be analysed in light of the research that has been undertaken in this area, along with a look at the limitations of this research and a consideration of what other things influence a child’s learning. The conclusion will finally consider why play with peers and siblings is important.
Firstly then play with peers can help with conflict resolution and understanding other points of view. An example of this is in Playfighting where it is felt that children can develop these skills. Often this is a reciprocal process, in that the children are likely to be the same age and education level, as playfighting is often a playground game. Littleton and Meill (2005) consider, through discourse analysis, that children can become skilled communicators through playfighting and found that children were able to ‘instruct each other on how to behave and what to say in their respective roles’ (2005, p. 101), this happened alongside working out who would play what part and when they would change over. Smith et al as cited in Ding and Littleton (2005) consider that playfighting also allows children to practice other skills for example not becoming too physical as to turn what was play into a conflict situation. Also taking turns at being a character and understanding each others point of view and how this might differ from how they feel the roles should be played.
Piaget in his theory of constructivism detailed that through the model of stages of development children become less egocentric as they move through the stages. Play fighting would be an example of this as playing with a peer on a similar power level may lead to conflicting egocentric viewpoints. As the child moves further through the stages of development the children will become less egocentric and more aware that other people have a different point of view. This leads to development as they are able to take their point of view into account more readily and become more able to resolve conflict in play situations. This is less likely to happen in an adult child relationship as the adult is in a position of power and the child is more likely to accept the adults view.
These skills are transferable from having practiced them in play to other situations such as at school where children work in groups and need to work together to complete tasks and an understanding of other points of view has the potential to enrich the ideas that children bring to their work. There can however be negative effects with playfighting type games. Bullying can occur when there is a power imbalance between peers or when a peer wants to maintain a position in a group. Children who have learnt to deal with aggression and conflict through play may be able to deal with this behaviour, other children may not. It is therefore important that adults ensure that the environment in which children play with others is...