For this observation, I studied two young boys playing at their home in Minneapolis. These boys are two and four years old, and their names are Heath and Noel, respectively. They are brothers and they are my boyfriends' nephews. I observed them for about an hour continuously, during which time they engaged in social play and rough and tumble play. When I say that they were engaging in social play, I mean that they were playing together in a seemingly disfunctional manner that ultimately was meant to get attention from their nanny. For instance, Noel has a new toy that he received in exchange for good behavior last week. This toy is a Batman motorcycle that ejects various weapons when one presses certain buttons. Since Noel is obsessed with this toy, Heath wants nothing more than to take it away from Noel. Noel was playing with the toy on the kitchen floor and Heath ran up to Noel, and stole the toy and ran away, which of course caused Noel to chase Heath, catch him, and easily wrestle him to the ground. Predictably, this caused Heath to cry and Noel to get in trouble from his nanny, who told Noel that he needed to share the toy with his brother.
It is difficult to observe the lines between what is play and what are attention-getting strategies. In a way, their little "dance" with stealing the toys from one another and tackling/fighting each other for them seems to be social/rough and tumble play, but on other hand, one of them knows exactly how to end the play by crying out for an adult, who is always nearby.
Noel also engages in imaginative play with his Batman toy, running it around the hard wood kitchen floor while making noises with his mouth and pretending to be both the voice of Batman and the "bad guy". That is, until his brother takes the toy away from him and he gets in trouble for it. Further, Noel often stands on a chair at the kitchen counter and takes the day's junk mail and colors on it with a pen. When asked what he's doing, he says he's "paying bills", which must be a very interesting sort of mimicing "let's pretend".
Heath, because he is only 2, still engages in the attunement style play. He will still play peek-a-boo and respond to tickling, etc, from adults. Though I did notice on this visit that he is more interested in playing with his brother's things than he has been in the past, so perhaps this means he is growing out of the need for attention from adults and is beginning to seek more attention from his peers (or his brother in this case). All in all, the boys are very rough with one another, almost too rough for comfort, but they are often prevented from being so rough with one another by an adult. The boys almost never play unsupervised, as they have a nanny whose sole responsibility is to watch these two guys and parents who are very attentive.
4 years ago