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Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 35, No. 2, October 2007 ( 2007) DOI: 10.

1007/s10643-007-0165-8

Play in the Preschool Classroom: Its Socioemotional Signicance and the Teachers Role in Play
Godwin S. Ashiabi1,2
Received: 14 April 2005; Accepted: 13 June 2005

The goals of this paper were two-fold. The rst goal was to examine the emotional and social developmental value of play in the early childhood classroom. This issue is important because of the recent impetus for a more academic focus in early childhood classrooms, and questions about the developmental benets of play. The second goal was to examine and discuss the role teachers could play in making play a developmental and educational experience. This is because understanding the signicance of play could make teachers less apprehensive about using play to promote learning and development, and enable them answer questions regarding the value of play. Using these goals as a backdrop, this paper discussed views of childrens play; the dening characteristics of emotional and social development; play and the socioemotional development of children; and the role of early childhood teachers in childrens play.
KEY WORDS: early childhood teachers; preschool children; sociodramatic play; socioemotional development.

The current focus on young childrens academic preparation for school continues to dominate discussions of the value of childrens socioemotional competence for school readiness (Raver, 2002). Although research shows that childrens socioemotional skills are important for their school performance (Wentzel & Asher, 1995), there is a belief among most adults, including parents, that we need to teach young children. For example, in a 1995 report by the National Center for Education Statistics that asked parents and kindergarten teachers about what veyear-olds should know before entering kindergarten, parents of a majority of preschoolers compared with teachers placed greater importance on academic skills

Department of Human Development, California State University, East Bay, Meiklejohn Hall 3069, 25800 Carlos Bee Boulevard, Hayward, CA 94542, USA. 2 Correspondence should be directed to Godwin S. Ashiabi, Department of Human Development, California State University, East Bay, Meiklejohn Hall 3069, 25800 Carlos Bee Boulevard, Hayward, CA 94542, USA., e-mail: godwin.ashiabi@csueastbay.edu

and preferred classroom practices that were more academically oriented. Most parents believed that knowledge of letters of the alphabet, ability to count to 20 or more, and usage of pencils and paintbrushes were very important/essential, whereas few teachers held those beliefs. Specically, parents were six times more likely than teachers to rate counting as very important/essential; parents were eight times more likely than teachers to rate alphabet knowledge as very important/essential; and parents were three times more likely than teachers to rate the ability to use pencils and paintbrushes as very important/ essential for kindergarten readiness. Given the foregoing, the goals of this paper were two-fold. The rst was to examine the value of play in promoting the emotional and social development of children. This issue is important because questions surrounding the educational and developmental usefulness of play have become prevalent in recent years, in addition to a push for a more academic focus in early childhood settings (McLane, 2003). The second was to examine and discuss the role of early childhood teachers in making play a developmental and 199
1082-3301/07/1000-0199/0 2007 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC

200 educational experience for young children. This goal was based on the following assumptions. If early childhood educators understand the educational and developmental value of play, it could enable them to (a) be less anxious about engaging in practices that enhance learning and development through play, and (b) answer questions regarding the importance of play for learning and development. Using these goals as a backdrop, this paper sought to discuss (a) views of childrens play, with a specic focus on sociodramatic play, (b) the characteristics of emotional and social development, (c) play and socioemotional development, and (d) early childhood teachers role in young childrens play. VIEWS OF YOUNG CHILDRENS PLAY Childrens play has been conceptualized in terms of creativity, adaptation, exploration, experimentation, learning, communication, socialization, acculturation, and mastery (Piaget, 1962; Schwartzman, 1978; Vygotsky, 1978). From a social constructivist perspective, play enables children to build and extend their knowledge and skills as they interact with their environment, with others, and on their own (Glover, 1999). Childrens play has been operationalized as intrinsically motivating; pleasurable; freely chosen; non-literal; actively engaging; opportunistic and episodic; imaginative and creative; uid and active; and predominantly for the moment and therefore concerned more with means than ends (Rubin, Fein, & Vandenberg, 1983; Sturgess, 2003). These views suggest that when children engage in play, they do it because they enjoy what they are doing; they choose how to play and what to play with by using their imagination; they engage in pretense, and are not as concerned with the outcomes as they are with how they are playing. With age, children engage frequently in cooperative play involving two or more children with assigned roles and a common goal; one that can be achieved if all the play partners carry out their roles (Hughes, 1999). Sociodramatic or pretend play is cooperative play (Smilansky & Shefatya, 1990), and makes up about two-thirds of all the pretend play of preschool children (Rubin, 1986). In sociodramatic play children take on an identity that complements the roles played by others, and relate to them as if they are other than themselves (Hughes, 1999; Johnson, 1998) in a world of pretend that is reality bound (Smilansky & Shefatya, 1990).

Ashiabi Sociodramatic play themes fall into three categories: family, character, and functional roles (Hughes, 1999). Family roles usually depict mother, father, siblings, and pets. Character roles are usually stereotyped or ctional, for example, being Sponge Bob, a Ninja Turtle, or a Princess. Like family roles, character roles need not be expressed in terms of specic action plans. On the other hand, functional roles are always dened in terms of specic action plans; for example, a reghter has a specic role. The functional role denes the behavior but not the permanent identity of the character (Hughes, 1999). In essence, sociodramatic play involves childrens emotions, thoughts and their external world; it is social play in which children use their imagination and creativity and take on dierent roles as they create pretend situations involving the use of fantasy and symbolism (Lindqvist, 2001). EMOTIONAL AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT We can think of childrens emotions as ways in which they react to situations while social development refers to as how they get along with peers and form relationships. Furthermore, emotional and social development are linked because childrens social interactions are usually emotionally charged (Halberstadt, Denham, & Dunsmore, 2001). Childrens ability to (a) experience and appropriately express their emotions, (b) understand the emotions of peers, and (c) regulate their emotions determines how successful they are during social interactions (Halberstadt et al., 2001). Emotional Expression As the social world of a child expands, emotional expression comes to serve an important communicative role, providing peers with information about a childs intentions (Halberstadt et al., 2001). This means that a childs ability to properly express his/her emotions is essential for peer interactions because the experience and expression of emotion not only aects a childs behavior, but also, provides information to peers about whether to engage the child or retreat from further interaction with the child (Denham, 1998). Skill in emotional expression is an important part of peer acceptance. For example, children who learn to employ culturally accepted ways of expressing emotions in accordance with situations are more likely to be successful socially (Halberstadt et al., 2001). In using culturally competent ways of expressing emotions, children learn when and how to

Play in the Preschool Classroom (a) substitute one emotion for another, (b) mask their emotions, and (c) minimize their emotional experiences, or maximize their emotional expression, such as crying loudly to get the attention of adults (Cole, 1985). Emotional Understanding Children need to understand the emotions of their peers because it enables them to perceive the communicative intent of the emotions another person is feeling. In understanding others emotions, subjectivity, meaning, and social context are salient; they explain (a) why one emotion, rather than another is aroused in similar situations, as well as (b) individual dierences in emotional expressiveness (Denham, 1998). An integral part of the process of emotional understanding is making a connection between the experience of ones own feelings to a representation of how others feel (Harris, 1989); a process associated with childrens developing theory of mind (Bailey, 2002). In sum, children need to experience various emotions in order to construct social scripts about emotions, because they rst reect on and make judgments about their own emotions, and then generalize these judgments to others feelings (Smiley & Huttenlocher, 1989). Emotional Regulation Although it is useful that children be able to express their emotions, there are many instances when it is more appropriate to regulate emotional expressiveness. Regulation of emotion occurs through the acquisition of culturally accepted ways of expressing emotions, and involves substituting one emotion for another, masking emotions, and minimizing, or maximizing emotional expressiveness (Cole, 1985). The overarching emotional task during the preschool years is the movement from dyadic (caregiverchild) regulation toward self-regulation of emotion, which takes the form of a transfer of responsibility from caregiver to the child (Sroufe, 1997). At rst caregivers have almost total responsibility for keeping emotional arousal manageable, such as comforting a crying child. Over time, the child plays an active role in the regulation process, responding to caregivers, and eventually, seeking regulatory assistance through deliberate eorts, such as running to the caregiver when s/he is hurt (Denham, 1998). Consequently, in peer interactions, children are expected to be able to regulate their emotions, be-

201 cause the ability to manage emotional arousal is essential to their capability to interact with others, and to evaluations of their social competence (Denham, 1998). For example, children engaged in sociodramatic play have to negotiate their roles. During such negotiations, some children do not get the roles they want and may be upset about it. However, those childrens ability to regulate their upset, and take on dierent roles determines to a great extent how desirable they are as potential play partners in future play. Social Development Social development refers to childrens ability to get along with their peers and to form relationships. Children who are unable to form and maintain relationships with other children are at great risk (Hartup, 1992). Although parents contribute to childrens social skills, it is mainly acquired in interactions with other children who provide opportunities to learn and practice new skills, rene old ones, and gain prociency in social interactions (Hartup, 1992). Understanding diversity issues is also important because they give an indication of when and how children may play with each other (Rettig, 1995). Honig (1983) reported that gender identity is achieved before age three, although some toddlers between 18 and 24 months could label other children correctly by sex. Porter (1971) noted there is no exact age when racial awareness is present, but that it appears between ages three and four. Finkelstein and Haskins (1983) in a study of Black and White kindergartners ethnic/racial awareness, noted how that awareness inuences playmate preferences. Children tended to select reported a preference for play with same-color playmates. Childrens awareness of differences based on disabilities occurs between ages four and ve. Gerber (1977) found that children ages three-and-half to ve were aware of the disabilities of other children, and Guralnick (1980) noted that without intervention, nondisabled children tend to play with other nondisabled children and chose them more often as playmates. PLAY AND CHILDRENS SOCIOEMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT Bredekamp and Copple (1997) argued that play is the most developmentally appropriate way for children to learn, and others have suggested that play facilitates problem-solving, perspective-taking, emotional and social skills, and the development of a

202 theory of mind (e.g., Bailey, 2002; Hartup, 1992; McArdle, 2001). Research supports sociodramatic play as a means for the development and promotion of childrens socioemotional skills (Hughes, 1999) because it requires the capacities for reecting before acting, sensing the perspective of others, and emotional understanding and regulation (McArdle, 2001). Pretend play provides children with opportunities to practice perspective taking (Piaget, 1962; Vygotsky, 1978). Consistent with this view, pretend play has been found to be associated with childrens understanding of other peoples emotions (Lindsey & Colwell, 2003), and with high emotion regulation and emotional competence, but for girls only (Lindsey & Colwell, 2003). Also, rough-and-tumble play enables children to practice perspective taking, to learn the expression of emotion, to distinguish between real and play-related emotions of others, and to engage in emotion regulation (Pelligrini & Smith, 1998), although this eect pertains more to boys than to girls (Lindsey & Colwell, 2003). Sociodramatic play enables and improves childrens role-taking ability, a necessary element for communication, empathy, and altruistic behavior (Hughes, 1999). Ianotti (1978) reported that when children were given role-taking training, they improved in their sensitivity to the perspectives of others, compared with a control group that had no training. Burns and Brainerd (1979) also found that children in play groups that emphasized cooperation in constructive play improved in their role-taking abilities, compared with children in a control group. Role-playing also enables children to understand themselves and others better (Harley, 1999) because as they share emotions and responses during activities, they develop sensitivity to the needs of others and gain condence in themselves as problem-solvers. Sociodramatic play improves childrens ability to cooperate, to participate in social activities, and to understand others (Smith, Dalgleish, & Herzmark, 1981). When preschool children engage in sociodramatic play, they explore issues of control and compromise (Howes, Unger, & Matheson, 1992) as they negotiate with their peers during the choosing of roles. Such negotiations help children communicate with each other more eectively and to resolve conicts associated with peer interactions (Howes et al., 1992). Also, cooperation while engaged in sociodramatic play appears to generalize to other areas of interaction as well (Hughes, 1999). Rosen (1974) reported that children trained in sociodramatic play

Ashiabi showed improvements in the ability to work with other children on a task, and improved their ability to take the perspectives of other children when those wants and preferences diered from their own. Play with peers enhances social understanding and relationships. As children develop relationships and encounter problems, they extend their skills by discovering strategies that work and those that do not, how to sustain relationships, and how to solve problems (Glover, 1999). Also, in play with peers children practice and extend what they know about sharing, turn-taking, self-restraint, working in a group, and getting along with others (Glover, 1999). It has also been suggested that pretense is an early indication of childrens ability to recognize mental states in others (Bailey, 2002). Children are not normally able to read intentionality in others before age four, yet children do engage in pretend play (which requires the recognition of intentionality in others) from about 18 months (Bailey, 2002). Thus, it appears that through play children rst come to understand self-awareness, the distinction between pretend and reality, and possibly the intentions of others (Bailey, 2002). A summary of the evidence linking sociodramatic play to childrens socioemotional development is presented in Table I. THE EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHERS ROLE IN PLAY Kagan (1990) identied three obstacles to the implementation of play in the early childhood classroom: attitudinal, structural, and functional. Attitudinal barriers are associated with the value teachers place on play. For example, some teachers perceive involvement in play as interference (Korat, Bahar, & Snapir, 2003), others are ambivalent about play, and are hesitant about being involved (Lindqvist, 2001), while still others view their role as teaching and managing children in an academically oriented early childhood classroom (Hadley, 2002). Structural barriers to implementing play involve limitations imposed by curricula, time, space, and materials (Kagan, 1990). For example, growing expectations for teacher-directed academic instruction has limited time for play in early childhood classrooms. Finally, functional barriers are associated with attitudinal barriers. For example, although early childhood teachers may receive inservice training on the use of dramatic play, each school context, and the challenges of implementing dramatic play in that context dier (Olsen & Sumsion, 2000). In sum,

Play in the Preschool Classroom


Table I. Socioemotional Signicance of Sociodramatic Play Type of Skills Socioemotional Negotiation Problem Solving Perspective Taking Role Taking Cooperation Social Understanding, and Related Skills Theory of Mind Process

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In sociodramatic play, a childs capacities to reect before acting, sense the perspective and emotional experiences of others, and self-regulate emotional experiences are enhanced. As a child engages in play with peers, s/he explores issues of control and compromise as s/he negotiates with their peers. Such negotiations help a child communicate with others more eectively. During play with peers, a childs ability to problem solve is promoted because s/he exposed to various ways of problem-solving and conict-resolution. In sociodramatic play a child has to take the perspectives of others, understand their pretend and real emotions, and be able to regulate his/her actions accordingly. Play enables and improves a childs role-taking ability. This is because as a child shares his/her emotions and responses during play, s/he develops sensitivity to the needs and views of others. Play improves a childs ability to cooperate; evidenced by a childs ability to work with others on a task. As a child develops relationships and encounter problems, s/he extends his/her skills by nding strategies that work and how to sustain relationships. Also, in play a child practices and extends what s/ he knows about sharing, turn-taking, self-restraint, working in a group, and getting along with others. Pretend play is an early indication of a childs ability to recognize mental states in others. Through play a child rst comes to understand self-awareness, the distinction between pretend and reality, and the intentions of others.

whether play is used to promote learning and development depends on teachers beliefs, practices, and contexts (Hadley, 2002; McLane, 2003). Hadley (2002) identied two types of teacher involvement: outside the ow or inside the ow. When a teacher is outside the ow, his/her involvement in play is meant to prompt reection on the part of the children, which may lead to the modication and extension of play. The following is an illustrative example of an interaction between Miss Teri (who is outside the ow) and two preschoolers (Brandon and Calvin) who are packing suitcases:
Miss Teri: I see that youre a packing your suitcases, are you going on a trip somewhere? Brandon: Yes, we are going on a Christmas vacation to visit grandpa and grandma. Calvin: We go to grandpa and grandmas place for Christmas every year. All the family comes there to see them. Miss Teri: Why does all the family go there to see them at Christmas? Calvin: Mom says that is the only time all the family can be together. Miss Teri: How are you getting to grandpa and grandmas place? Brandon: We will drive there. Miss Teri: Did you get any presents for grandpa and grandma? Are you getting presents for anyone else too?

The illustrative example below shows a teacher inside the ow of play. Mr. Lane had noticed his preschoolers interest in medicine and what takes place in the doctors oce. So Mr. Lane set up the dramatic area in the class with props such as stethoscopes, sphygmomanometer (blood pressure units), thermometers, plastic syringes, note pads, reservation books, le folders, and prescription forms. However, Mr. Lane observed that while the children pretending to be nurses in the doctors oce were calling patients to the doctors oce, they were not taking the le folders of the patients into the doctors oce. He was able to take the role of a patient and draw attention to the issue.
Mr. Lane: Where is my le folder? I thought you made one for me the last time I was here so you can know how I am doing every time I come to see you. Can you tell the nurse to bring my le folder to you? Doctor: Yes, yes, we have one for you. Yes, I will ask the nurse to bring it over (Goes out the door to ask the nurse to look for Mr. Lanes le folder and bring it into the oce). Nurse: Doctor, here you are. Here is the le folder for Mr. Lane that you asked me to bring. Doctor: Thank you nurse, dont forget to have all the le folders ready for the other people too.

On the other hand, a teacher situated inside the ow of play takes on a role as a participant (Hadley, 2002), and can communicate to extend play. Once a teacher gets inside the ow of play, communication with children is direct and unmediated (Hadley, 2002). Thus, it becomes essential that the teacher be mindful of what s/he says in that context.

Whether teachers are outside or inside the ow, they play several roles: an observer and recorder, stage manager and facilitator, mediator, or participant in play (Dau, 1999; Jones & Reynolds, 1992). As a stage manager and facilitator, the teacher organizes and provides play materials, designates a play area, schedules time for play, sets ground rules, decides what activities constitute play, and how to relate to

204 play while it is in progress (Jones & Reynolds, 1992; Kontos, 1999). In setting the stage for play, teachers should use props and materials that enhance childrens cultural awareness by regularly changing materials in the dramatic play area to reect dierent cultures (Kendall, 1983). Also teachers could help remove clutter in the space around an ongoing play, but not intervene with accessories or action unless they perceive that an action is helpful in sustaining and elaborating childrens play (Van Hoorn, Nourot, Scales, & Alward, 2003). Teachers could act as mediators, supporting childrens interactions with materials as well as with other children (Harley, 1999). For example, in a mediating role, teachers could resolve conicts over materials or roles by oering new accessories, or by suggesting alternatives for disputed roles. In a mediating role, teachers model for children the exible thinking and problem solving abilities needed for peer interactions (Van Hoorn et al., 2003). Also, teachers could use incidental comments to extend play. Such interventions often employed when children have shown an interest in or have been involved with materials, activities, or others (Brown & Odom, 1995, p. 40) is a means for promoting childrens socioemotional development in the context of play. For example, a teacher could help a child develop eective strategies for entering play by introducing an accessory, or suggesting a new role. The teacher might say something like Camille, I see that you want to join your friends in play. Since they are pretending to go shing, why dont you pretend to be a big sh in the water so they can catch you? Another strategy may involve teachers support of childrens peer interactions by prompting children to elaborate their social behavior. For example, instead of the teacher suggesting a role for Camille, the teacher might say Camille, I see that you want to join your friends in play. I think you should tell them that you want to join them in play. As an observer and recorder, a teachers interest is in understanding play, and how to build appropriate experiences that will scaold childrens learning and development. Observation can lead to a much better understanding of children, and give insights into how to plan for, initiate, and extend childrens play (Dau, 1999; Korat et al., 2003). When a teacher takes on the role of co-player and actively participates in childrens play, s/he models roles and oers ideas to enhance play and support childrens growth (Jones & Reynolds, 1992). Teachers Role and Diversity Issues

Ashiabi

Why should teachers have an interest in promoting childrens understanding of diversity? First, as racial dierences in the US increase, so has the signicance of helping children learn how to get along with others. This is because children construct knowledge about themselves, their peers, and the world through interactions (Bandura, 1986). Furthermore, as children interact with others, they express thoughts about each other; they also mention dierences regarding gender, ethnicity/culture, or abilities. These realities provide an opportunity for teachers to respond to childrens interest in diversity. A note of caution is warranted. In DermanSparks (1989) Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children, she discussed problems associated with using only holidays to teach young children about dierent cultures, and the dangers of what she calls a tourist curriculum. She observed that if holidays, with their customs and activities are the only things we teach children about other cultures, we are not communicating a true picture of that culture. With that caveat in mind, this section focuses on some activities that teachers could engage in to foster childrens appreciation and recognition of diering beliefs, traditions, and abilities. Teachers could learn about and promote the various cultures represented among children they teach through selection of developmentally appropriate materials (e.g., books, pictures, toys, and games) that show people of dierent races, ages, genders, and abilities as competent. Also, teachers could utilize multicultural books read to children as material in teacher-guided play to promote an appreciation for, and understanding of diversity. The illustrative example below will hopefully illuminate the point. Miss Jane had observed that her preschool children were interested in dierences based on skin color. So she setup her classroom with diversity related resources and decided to read Lynn Reisers (1993) Margaret and Margarita/Margarita y Margaret, and Bryan Ashleys (1995) illustration of What a Wonderful World. In Margaret and Margarita/Margarita y Margaret, Margaret, who speaks English and Margarita, who speaks Spanish, meet on a trip to the park with their mothers. The language barrier distances the parents (Margarets mother reads a book, while Margaritas mother knits), but the two little girls who at rst peer shyly at one another from behind their mothers skirts, soon are chattering away. In What a Wonderful World,

Play in the Preschool Classroom Bryans illustrations tell a story of a six multicultural children making puppets that will act out the lyrics in the song, What a Wonderful World. The multicultural puppets and a Louis Armstrong look-alike (a smiling black man with a trumpet) dance away as the children behind the stage wave clouds, owers, trees, sun, moon, rainbows, and other props. While Miss Jane was reading the books to the children, she played What a Wonderful World in the background. After reading the books, Miss Jane devoted circle times to discussing diversity issues with the children using Margaret and Margarita/Margarita y Margaret, and What a Wonderful World as reference points. This time was helpful because it provided children with a feeling of group identity and introduced them to the variety of cultures represented in the class (Dixon & Fraser, 1986). Furthermore, because children with disabilities spend less time in play with their peers (Favazza & Odom, 1997), the teacher used the discussions to build understanding of children with disabilities. During the discussions, Miss Jane asked who thinks itll be fun to have a puppet show like the kids in What a Wonderful World? A sea of raised hands and a simultaneous chorus of me-me followed her question. This set in motion preparations for a teacherguided play of the preschoolers version of What a Wonderful World. Engagement in such a play enabled children to recreate events, and oered them a process of appropriating the symbolic constructions of culture to learn their meanings (Bretherton, 1984). As part of preparation for their play, roles were bargained for and assigned; both teacher and children suggested materials and props needed, and children learned the lyrics to song, What a Wonderful World. In reenacting the themes in What a Wonderful World, children brought the outside world into the classroom through their use of materials and activities (Jalongo, 1992). At the core of teacher-guided play are the mechanisms through which children develop socioemotional skills as they engage in play with guidance and support. In teacher-guided play, the teacher must continuously adapt her/his actions in response to childrens activity in playgroups. For example, the teacher may act as an interpreter to help children understand what is meant by anothers words and actions during play. At other times the teacher guides the playgroup, arranges props, and reminds children of assigned their roles. At still other times the teacher is outside the ow of play, inquiring, observing and

205 oering suggestions that enable children to organize and direct their own play activities. As the teacher monitors and guides play, and scaolds interactions, s/he could use strategies that promote social integration and interactions among children with and without disabilities, and among children of varied racial/cultural backgrounds. Social integration activities provide a context for teacher and peer support for children with social interaction diculties (Brown, Odom, & Conroy, 2001). For example, during teacher-guided play, teachers could arrange for children with limited peer interactions to be in involved in roles that put them in direct contact with children who are socially responsive and competent. This enables children with interaction diculties to observe socially competent peers, participate directly in social interactions with peers who have excellent play and interaction skills, and establish a positive history of peer interactions (Brown et al., 2001). Also, as children engage in teacherguided play, teachers could encourage children to be friendly, interact aectionately, compliment, smile, give encouragement, share, and use other forms of prosocial behavior. Such integrated playgroups have been found to lead to more frequent peer interactions, and positive changes in interactions between children with and without disabilities (Brown et al., 2001). In summary, child-initiated and teacher-guided play involve dierent kinds of teacher interaction with children. Sociodramatic play in the early childhood classroom requires a range of teacher participation, and teachers have to decide the right degree of involvement. Teachers have to observe what children are doing, support their eorts, and get involved thoughtfully to support additional learning. CONCLUSION In an era where most adults and parents prefer early childhood classrooms that are more academically oriented, this review suggests that play is benecial to childrens socioemotional development. Given the importance of socioemotional skills to school performance, the signicance of enhancing those skills through sociodramatic play is paramount in the early childhood setting. There are many advantages to letting children engage in play with others. For example, sociodramatic play enhances childrens capacity for reecting before acting, roletaking, perspective-taking, empathy, altruism, and emotional understanding and regulation.

206 Furthermore, in play with peers, childrens negotiation and problem-solving skills are promoted, as are their abilities to cooperate with others, share, take turns, self-restrain, work in a group, and get along with others. Play also promotes childrens ability to read intentionality in others. In addition, early childhood teachers have to recognize the developmental signicance and appropriateness of play in promoting childrens socioemotional development, and engage in practices (whether inside the ow or outside the ow) that scaold childrens experiences and socioemotional skills during play. This implies that there is a role for child-initiated and teacher-guided play. Teacher-guided play could be used to scaold understanding of concepts or issues that children are interested in, but requires some form of adult intervention and guidance. In summary, sociodramatic play contributes to childrens emotional and social development. As children engage in play, they develop and enhance emotional and social skills that will serve them in the school setting and other aspects of life. Also, early childhood teachers have a role to play in making play a developmental and learning experience for young children.

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