Play Time/Social Time Foundations

At the Specialpedagogikens Dag–2019, Eva Siljehag, Maria Gladh, and I gave a talk about the program Play Time/Social Time and there were some questions about how this program was developed. The Play Time/Social Time program is based on a long history of research about young children’s social participation and peer interactions. An early prominent researcher from the United States in the 1930s, Mildred Parten, documented the development of children’s play, which begins with onlooker and solitary play and develops into more social forms of play with peers. In the 1960s another group of US researchers, Willard Hartup and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota, studied the relationship of positive interactions with peers and social acceptance in the peer group. In the 1970s, Richard Shores and Phillip Strain highlighted the role of social reciprocity, that is turn taking in everyday play and interactions, in developing positive relationships with peers. They also pointed out that many children with special educational needs do not naturally learn the social skills necessary for being successful in social play. For those children, Dr. Strain designed a program called peer-mediated intervention, which taught typically developing peers in preschool classrooms helpful ways that they can play with children having special educational needs. Those play interactions help children with special educational needs to become more socially engaged and learning important social play skills. I was fortunate to have conducted research with Dr. Strain early in my career, and in Play Time/Social Time we have incorporated many of the important lessons learned from that research. These include:

  • Providing an introduction to peers about specific ways they can get their friends (with special educational needs) to play,
  • Having the teacher model the social play and then have the peers try out the play approach, 
  • Providing a brief play time in the classroom the only involves the special peer partners and the child or children with special education needs, and 
  • Having the teacher provide suggestions or scaffolding to the child when necessary but not to get to closely involved with the peer play (because then the peer and child with special educational needs will want to play with the teacher rather than each other).

These approaches are all part of the Play Time/Social Time program, which is now being adapted for use here in Sweden. 

Sam Odom, Visiting Professor at Stockholm University

Girls playing


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