Brief Notes on the Symbolic Interaction Theory of Play


1. The importance of play to this school of thought is that all forms of communication are vital to the process of development.

2. “Fertile research of the past twenty years into kinesis, non-verbal communications and polemics, the study of spatial relations, has shown that an underlying communicative baseline of any culture begins with the acquisition of the early sensorimotoric patterns”.

3. By recognizing and understanding the nature of children’s play we learn something of ‘children’s language’ through which we can communicate.


4. Cooley and Mead understand play in the context of personality and social development.

5. Play is an interaction between the self and the environment.

6. Through play the attitudes and role definitions of others are internalized and socialization is thus evolved.

7. Through contact with the environment, the child gains knowledge of his material/spatial environment and his distinction from that environment.


8. Through play the child has an opportunity of discovering his own strengths and weaknesses.

9. He can select and improve particular skills, and practice the range of functional capacities that are inherent.

10. As a result of the interaction between himself and the world he is able to establish a sense of personal identity and definition of his social context.

11. There seems to be no remedial or educational programme that could replace the child’s own observations and spontaneous encounters with is environment.


To what extent does a certain skill (such as walking or speaking) develop through maturation and to what extent does its appearance depend on experience or environmental conditions? It is difficult to separate the effects of “nature” and “nurture.” Maturation can be accelerated or impeded by the quality of the environment; and environmental conditions or special training can stimulate behavior only when the organism possesses the appropriate neural and muscular equipment.

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