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date: 21 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Why do young children play? Why do they work? Although play is often considered a spontaneous and intrinsically motivated activity of children, this chapter provides evidence that different cultural commitments to play influence the forms that it takes. Work also is a culturally constructed activity, with cultural variation in its value and forms. These cultural differences in how play and work are viewed by caregivers and experienced by children grow out of differences in broader parental ethnotheories about the nature of childhood and development, which in turn are based on more general cultural beliefs and practices. How play and work influence development is obscured by theory that emphasizes universal outcomes even as it also recognizes environmental influences. Four different models of how to integrate these potentially contradictory claims are proposed and are used to interpret the adequacy of explanations about developmental outcomes of children’s play and work experiences.

Keywords: culture, work and play, parental ethnotheories, everyday experience

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