Play and the Peer Culture: Play Styles and Object Use

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In this paper, children's play and friendship in relation to the peer culture was examined from, an ethnographic perspective. Because the majority of interactions in the preschool take place during play, a unique view of the classroom may be obtained by examining the social dynamics of play in the peer culture. This view is based on the assumption that classroom life is at least partially constructed and negotiated through the peer culture. Nineteen children ages three to five, enrolled in a university preschool, were observed and data were collected through extensive videotaping and daily field notes taken by participant observers. Analysis of the data for the first five weeks of school consisted of identifying patterns of object use and types of play styles through the construction of a domain analysis (Spradley, 1980). The findings suggest that, first, the peer culture is not a unitary whole but rather a differentiated social system comprised of various groups and different types of players. Second, objects played an important role in the peer culture as entry vehicles and social markers. These findings also suggest that play periods are indeed social arenas whereby the dynamics of the peer culture are enacted.