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Journal Article

Symbolic play promotes non‐verbal communicative exchange in infant–caregiver dyads


Kidd,  Evan
Australian National University Canberra;
ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of LanguageCanberra;
Language Development Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Learning through Processing, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Quinn, S., & Kidd, E. (2019). Symbolic play promotes non‐verbal communicative exchange in infant–caregiver dyads. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 37(1), 33-50. doi:10.1111/bjdp.12251.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-6E85-E
Symbolic play has long been considered a fertile context for communicative development (Bruner, 1983, Child's talk: Learning to use language, Oxford University Press, Oxford; Vygotsky, 1962, Thought and language, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA; Vygotsky, 1978, Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA). In the current study, we examined caregiver–infant interaction during symbolic play and compared it to interaction in a comparable but non‐symbolic context (i.e., ‘functional’ play). Fifty‐four (N = 54) caregivers and their 18‐month‐old infants were observed engaging in 20 min of play (symbolic, functional). Play interactions were coded and compared across play conditions for joint attention (JA) and gesture use. Compared with functional play, symbolic play was characterized by greater frequency and duration of JA and greater gesture use, particularly the use of iconic gestures with an object in hand. The results suggest that symbolic play provides a rich context for the exchange and negotiation of meaning, and thus may contribute to the development of important skills underlying communicative development.