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Choices Preschool Children Make During Free Play Time:

Effects of Age, Gender, Socioeconomic Status, and Ethnicity 

2015-2016 Academic Year


Principal Investigator: Samantha Marsh, Honors Program Student (majors: Early Childhood Education and Sociology)
Faculty Mentor: Jeffrey Trawick-Smith

Play has been found to contribute to preschool children's development and learning. However, little research has been done on where children spend most of their time during free play periods in classrooms. Although so much social interaction and learning occurs in play centers in preschool classrooms, a systematic study of how frequently children of both genders, of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and of different ages use specific learning centers during the day. The present investigation will examine how child demographic characteristics affect different learning center choices during free play time.

All children in two preschool classrooms will be observed for 360 hours in naturalistic play activities during center times, over a five week period. The principal investigator will tally each child's visit to each learning center during the period of the study. Frequencies of visits to each center by boys and girls, those of different cultural and SES backgrounds, and different ages will be entered into a single step loglinear analysis to determine whether there are significant differences in where children choose to play across demographic variables studied.

Being able to identify which children, of which backgrounds and characteristics, choose which play areas will provide insight into our understanding of children's play. More practically, it will inform teachers' choices in the kinds of centers they will create in the classrooms, based on the characteristics of their students.

See more Previous Studies