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Relationships between block play and the social development of kindergarten children

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Relationships between block play and the social development of kindergarten children
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Rogers, Dwight L., 1948-
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ix, 151 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.

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Child development ( jstor )
Childrens games ( jstor )
Classrooms ( jstor )
Community participation ( jstor )
Kindergarten ( jstor )
Observational research ( jstor )
Observational studies ( jstor )
Participant observation ( jstor )
Sex linked differences ( jstor )
Social behavior ( jstor )
Block building (Children's activity) ( lcsh )
Child psychology ( lcsh )
Curriculum and Instruction thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Curriculum and Instruction -- UF
Social interaction ( lcsh )
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theses ( marcgt )
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1982.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 137-142).
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Also available online.
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Typescript.
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Vita.
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by Dwight L. Rogers, III.

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RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN BLOCK PLAY AND THE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF KINDERGARTEN CHILDREN
















BY

DWIGHT L. ROGERS, III


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY







UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1982


































Copyright 1982

by

Dwight L. Rogers, III































This dissertation is dedicated to
my family-Amy, Gail, and Nora.















ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


One of the most difficult yet satisfying portions of the dissertation process is the writing of these acknowledgements. Although technically I receive the credit for this study, it could not have been completed without the assistance of many giving individuals.

First I would like to thank my committee: Dr. Dorene Ross, for her eternal guidance, insightful suggestions, and stimulating discussions and more importantly for her friendship, understanding, and willingness to give of her self and her time; Dr. Linda Lamme, for her academic and personal support throughout my graduate years and for her thorough criticisms and thoughtful suggestions which made this a better dissertation;Dr. Jamie Algina, for his creative and intelligent approach to data analysis, his patience, and his concern for the investigation and the investigator; Dr. Pat Ashton, for her infectious enthusiasm for child study and providing the confidence, encouragement and intellectual stimulation to pursue the study of children; Dr. Suzanne Krogh, for her penetrating questions and intriguing ideas which were a constant source of stimulation and for her concern and emotional support.


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Next I would like to thank my family: My wife, Gail Gillespie Rogers, for her help through every aspect of this study and for her patience, love, and understanding throughout the dissertation process; my children, Amy and Nora, for their hugs and kisses and for putting up with an irritable and harried daddy; my mother and father, for their faith in me, exemplified by their love and support throughout graduate school and life; my Uncle Bob, who thought I'd never make it but never gave up hope.

Finally I would like to thank my friends: Connie Green and the children, for their acceptance, kindness and willingness to be involved; Tish Denny, for her friendship and the hours she spent reading, discussing, answering questions, and suggesting new and better approaches to problems; Griselda Forbes, for her painstakingly careful editing and reviewing of the entire manuscript and her patience with me in my "hour of need;" Karen Kilgore, for her help as an observer and her interest in this study and my family; Cherry Travis, for her friendly hellos and constant technical support.


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TABLE OF CONTENTS


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ABSTRACT .


PAGE

. iv

. viii


CHAPTER


INTRODUCTION .

Statement of the Problem
Definition of Terms .
Need for the Study
Limitations to the Study Summary. ....


II REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH

Young Children's Preference for Blocks
Play and Social Development .
Relationships Between the Use of
Blocks and Other Selected Materials
and the Social Participation of
Young Children
Relationships Between the Use of
Blocks and Other Selected Materials
and the Social Behavior of Young
Children
Sex Differences in the Materials
Preference, Social Participation,
and Social Behavior of Young
Children
Summary.... ...

III METHODOLOGY .

Defining Social Behavior Naturalistic Observations
Setting ... ...
Educational Practices of the Teacher.
Subjects
Selection of the Sample and Grouping.
Procedure for Observation .
Definitions of Levels of Social
Participation


. 1

. 2
* 3
. 5
. 9
* 11

. 12

. 12
. 31



. 34



. 41



. 47
. 60

. 62

. 62
. 64
. 65
. 68
. 70
. 71
. 72

. 82


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. .

. .
. .
. .
. .
. .


.
.
.
.
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Definition of Block Area
Participation..... 84
Definitions of the Units of Social
Behavior .. . 85
Definitions of Teacher-Directed Behavior
and Teacher Intervention Behavior 89
Description of Observational Checklist 90 Summary .... . 91

IV RESULTS.. .... 93

Introduction ... . . 93 Findings ... . 94 Summary . ... . . 114

V DISCUSSION ......... 118

Summary of Findings .. ... 119 Discussion ... . . 122 Suggestions for Further Research 126 Implications for Kindergarten Teaching 129 Conclusion ... . . 134

REFERENCES . ... . 137

APPENDICES

A OBSERVATIONAL CHECKLIST ... 144

B SUMMARY TABLE OF CELL MEANS AND STANDARD
DEVIATIONS FOR ALL DEPENDENT VARIABLES 146

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .. .... .. 151


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Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN BLOCK PLAY AND THE
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF KINDERGARTEN CHILDREN By

Dwight L. Rogers, III

December, 1982


Chairperson: Dr. Linda L. Lamme Cochairperson: Dr. Dorene D. Ross Major Department: Curriculum and Instruction


This naturalistic observational study investigated the social behavior of kindergarten children as they played with unit (small, solid, hardwood blocks) and large hollow blocks. The subjects, 10 boys and 10 girls, were observed in a university laboratory school kindergarten classroom, whose population is representative of the population of Florida.

The children were observed in assigned groups of two boys and two girls each. The children were observed for a total of 60 minutes per child, 30 minutes for each type of blocks. Every child was observed on eight occasions, four for unit and four for large hollow blocks. Two observers each observed two children for alternating 15 seconds. The observer first recorded one child's behavior for 15 seconds, then observed the second child following the same procedure,


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until 7 1/2 minutes of data per child were collected for each occasion.

A 2 (type of blocks) x 2 (sex) x 4 (time) completely repeated measures ANOVA was used to analyze the data. All variables were tested at a .05 level of significance. The findings indicated the following. (1) The children in this study engaged in more group play with large hollow blocks and more parallel and solitary play with unit blocks. (2) The children spent more time with large hollow blocks. (3) The children exhibited similar social behavior with the two types of blocks although the behavior usually occurred more frequently with large hollow which might have been because the children spent more time with large hollow blocks.

(4) No sex differences were found in the levels of social participation, the social behavior, or the amount of time these children spent with the two types of blocks. However, the small sample of children from only one classroom suggests a need for further investigation of this finding. (5) Many behaviors traditionally considered antisocial were rarely or never observed. These behaviors included taking blocks from another child, hitting, throwing blocks at others, and fighting. The results from this study indicated that both unit and large hollow block play may provide many opportunities for different kinds of social behavior and different levels of social play.


ix

















CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION



Block play has been an integral part of the kindergarten curriculum since the kindergarten reform movement of the early 1900s (Robinson & Spodek, 1965). The invention of unit blocks (small, solid,hardwood blocks) by Pratt and the influence of Johnson's 1933 book The Art of Blockbuilding were instrumental reasons for the initial popularity of blocks as a kindergarten play material in the United States (Hirsch, 1974). Today unit blocks and large hollow blocks are still common equipment in most American kindergartens (Bender, 1978; Benish, 1978; Cohen & Rudolph, 1977; Maxim, 1980; Robinson & Spodek, 1965).

Blocks have been described as the "most important" material found in a preschool or kindergarten classroom (Benish, 1978; Starks, 1960). Their adaptable qualities provide children with "opportunities for growth" and the choice of playing alone or with a group (Starks, 1960). Blocks are "nonthreatening" and a more desirable material for children who feel uncomfortable with messy materials such as clay and fingerpaints (Cartwright, 1974). Early childhood educators maintain blocks can stimulate physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development (Benish, 1978; Cartwright,


1








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1974; Hirsch, 1974; Layman, 1940; Tarrants, 1950; Winston & Fleiss, 1966).

The selection of play materials which encourage the development of the child is a major role of the kindergarten teacher. If blocks are capable of providing opportunities for practicing social skills, then it is important for the teacher to know the potential of this material for enhancing specific learning situations. A better understanding of the relationships between kindergarten children's block play and their social development will provide teachers with the information necessary to make curricular decisions that promote the social growth of kindergarten children.



Statement of the Problem


This study investigated the social behavior that occurred while kindergarten children played with unit and large hollow blocks. The results provide information about the levels of social participation and specific social behaviors that may occur when kindergarten children play with these two types of blocks. This information adds to the present knowledge of the value of blocks as a play material and the relationships between block play and the social development of the kindergarten child.

Specifically, the purpose of this study was to examine the following research questions:







3


1. What levels of social participation occur as kindergarten children play with unit and large hollow

blocks?

2. What social behaviors occur as kindergarten children play with unit and large hollow blocks?

3. What are the differences and similarities between

(a) the levels of social participation, (b) the

block area participation, and (c) the social behaviors of kindergarten children as they play with

unit and large hollow blocks?

4. What are the differences and similarities between

(a) the levels of social participation, (b) the block area participation, and (c) the social behaviors of kindergarten boys and kindergarten

girls as they play with unit blocks?

5. What are the differences and similarities between

(a) the levels of social participation, (b) the

block area participation, and (c) the social behaviors of kindergarten boys and kindergarten girls

as they play with large hollow blocks?



Definition of Terms


Social Behavior is any action, facial expression, verbalization or vocalization by one child while interacting








4


with or in the presence of (within three feet) at least one other child. This category includes behaviors that are both antisocial and prosocial. The specific behaviors to be observed are defined in Chapter III.

Social Participation is the degree of play involvement and interaction with others, as exhibited by a child in the block area. Six levels of social participation have been adapted from Parten (1932). They are: (1) Inside Structure,

(2) Unoccupied, (3) Onlooker, (4) Solitary, (5) Parallel, and (6) Group. These levels of social participation are defined in Chapter III.

Block Area Participation is the amount of time a child spends in each block area.

Unit Blocks are solid,hardwood blocks of which the basic "unit" is twice as wide as it is thick, and twice as long as it is wide. The dimensions of the basic unit are 5 1/2" x 2 3/4" x 1 3/8", and all other blocks are either multiples or divisions of the unit's width, thickness, or length. The basic unit and double unit comprise 80% of the set of blocks in addition to an assortment of other shapes and sizes.

Large Hollow Blocks are wooden blocks much larger than unit blocks, hollow as opposed to solid, and particularly suited for outdoor use. The dimensions of the large hollow blocks are 12" x 12" x 6" and 12" x 6" x 6". They are












square-, rectangular-, and triangular-shaped. The rectangular and square blocks make up 90% of the set.



Need for the Study


Several studies have investigated the relationship between block play and children's social development, but only in a non-specific manner as part of a larger study (Bender, 1978, Clark, Wyon, & Richards, 1969; Hulson, 1930a; Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Massey, 1970, Parten, 1932; Van Alstyne, 1932). A major limitation of these investigations is the lack of clear, concise definitions for the relatively small number of social behaviors observed. Some of these studies were conducted almost a half century ago and most focused primarily on preschool children. Another weakness exhibited by these investigations is the lack of demographic data reported on the children observed. Many of the studies did not report the race of the subjects. Therefore, although several studies have explored the relationship between block play and the social development of young children, no studies have thoroughly examined block play exclusively in this developmental area.

Hymes (1968) stressed the importance of providing opportunities and experiences to promote positive social growth in the kindergarten child. A better understanding of what social behavior occurs during block play is








6


necessary to help kindergarten teachers provide appropriate social learning experiences for children. Little current information about the relationships between unit or large hollow block play on social development exists to aid the kindergarten teacher in making the specific decisions needed to guide children's social learning in the block area. Therefore, an in-depth study of the specifically defined social behaviors that occur during the block play of kindergarten children is needed.

There is a recent trend among some educators to change the goals of the kindergarten curriculum from that of educating the "whole child" through a challenging and flexible experiential program to preparing the child for first grade through a structured, task-oriented, pencil and paper "academic" readiness program (Blackwell, 1980). Hymes (1968) expressed concern about this trend toward a rigid, contentoriented approach. He emphasized that good kindergartens should seek to promote "total development" and argued that a "seat-work" approach to learning deprives the child of opportunities for social development: "Kindergartners are social beginners. A good day in school is a day spent in small subgroups, in clusters of two or three or four" (p. 2). Block play encourages this kind of grouping among children.

Furthermore, Hymes emphasized that "kindergarten tools for learning are not the 'standard' tools: chair, paper, pencil, book" (p. 10). Children need to be actively







7


involved in their learning through a multitude of "hands-on" experiences, according to Piaget (Bringuier, 1980). Blocks are one of the "tools" for learning readily available in most kindergarten classrooms and thus we need to discover more about the power of this "tool" to promote both cognitive and social learning.

To get a more complete understanding of the relationship between block play and social development, the two most commonly found types of blocks in kindergarten classrooms, unit blocks and large hollow blocks, need to be studied. Although unit and large hollow blocks are both predominantly rectangular wooden blocks, they also have many different physical properties. For example, the large hollow blocks are much larger and heavier than the unit blocks. The standard unit block is 5 1/2" x 2 3/4" x 1 3/8" and weighs only a few ounces; the standard large hollow block is 24" x 12" x 6" and weighs several pounds. While a kindergarten child can easily transport and manipulate several unit blocks at a time he or she can probably carry only one large hollow block. Some children require the assistance of another child when transporting or building with large hollow blocks. The large hollow blocks are big enough for children to make structures that they can actually crawl into or climb. Unlike large hollow blocks, the unit block set contains a variety of differently shaped blocks as well as squares, triangles, and rectangles.







8


These physical differences suggest there will be differences in children's use of these two types of blocks and thus differences in their social behavior as they build and play with either unit or large hollow blocks. There has been very little research on large hollow blocks. Additionally, there have been no studies to date which compared the social behavior of children playing with these two types of blocks and the possible relationships between block play and the social development of the kindergarten child.

A review of the literature on play materials indicates that blocks are among the most popular play material of young children, especially the kindergarten child (Hartley, Frank, & Goldenson, 1952; Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Van Alstyne, 1932). The literature also suggests that boys like blocks more than girls (Beeson & Williams, 1979; Clark et al., 1969; Farrell, 1957) but that when girls are given equal access to the block area the interest level is similar between sexes (Varma, 1980).

Little information exists about the relationships between play with unit or large hollow blocks and the social development of kindergarten children. Moreover, the general and vague definitions of social behavior of the earlier studies suggest a need for more specific in-depth examination of kindergarten children's social behavior during unit and hollow block play. As a result of the vague and general character of the earlier research findings, kindergarten







9


teachers have limited information concerning the possible social learning situations that may occur when small groups of kindergarten children play with these two types of blocks. In addition, there is a current trend among some kindergarten teachers to sacrifice social activities such as block play, in order to provide time to practice readiness skills. There is a danger in eliminating block play from the kindergarten curriculum without further investigation into the educational and social value of this activity. Finally, kindergarten children's preference for blocks and their availability in most kindergarten classrooms make blocks a potentially valuable learning material and lend support for the need to examine more carefully the unit and large hollow block play of kindergarten children.



Limitations to the Study


Twenty children from one kindergarten classroom at P.K. Yonge Laboratory School were the subjects for this study. P.K. Yonge classes are as representative as possible of Florida's population in terms of race and socioeconomic status (SES). Therefore, the sample, although small, was composed of a mixed-sex, -race, and -SES group of kindergarten children.

As a result of the small sample size, the relationship between social behavior as it occurred during block play and the effects of birth order, race, SES, and the level of







10


social development was not examined. However, in an effort to control for the above-mentioned variables, this study was designed to compare each child's social behavior occurring during unit block play to the social behavior of that same child occurring during large hollow block play. A thorough description of the classroom setting and the educational practices of the teacher, in addition to the detailed demographic information pertaining to the children, is included in Chapter III to provide information for the interpretation of the results of this investigation.

An observation checklist was used in the collection of data. A checklist has the advantage of providing a more consistent record than other observational techniques and the checklist format reduces the chance of errors during analysis. The use of a checklist, however, may limit the findings because of its brevity and relative inflexibility.

The presence of two observers may have affected the

children's behavior. However, observers are very common in this classroom and probably had little effect on the children's behavior.

Finally, the size and composition of the groups playing with the blocks may have had an impact on the behavior of the children. The group selection process was carefully planned in an attempt to control these confounding variables. Total control over these variables was impossible and further research is needed to study the effect of both group







11


size and composition on the social behaviors of young children playing with blocks.



Summary


This study investigated the social behavior of kindergarten children during play with large hollow blocks and unit blocks. It also compared the differences and similarities in the social behavior and social participation during the unit and large hollow block play of kindergarten boys and girls. This study was designed to add to the existing knowledge of block play and its relationship to social development. The findings from this study provide kindergarten teachers with a better understanding of the social behaviors that are likely to occur when kindergarten boys and girls play with each of these types of blocks. The results of this study furnish teachers with information needed to assist them in making curriculum and instruction decisions in order to provide suitable social learning experiences to meet the needs of individual kindergarten children.















CHAPTER II
REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH



A survey of the literature related to the study of the social behavior of young children during block play revealed three distinct areas of investigation: (1) the materials preference of kindergarten and preschool children, (2) the relationships between the choice of play material, the social behavior and social participation of children, and

(3) the sex differences in the materials preference, social behavior, and social participation of the child. The following review will examine studies reported in these three areas focusing on the relationships between block play and the social development of the child.



Young Children's Preference for Blocks


Since the late 1920s, a number of studies have been

conducted in order to determine the preferred play materials and activities of young children. These studies are reported below. The reader should note that many of the earlier studies made no reference to the socio-economic status (SES) or race of their subjects. Race, age, sex, and SES will be reported in this review only for those studies that contained this demographic information.


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Naturalistic Observational Studies

Large blocks ranked second in popularity among 25 play materials in an observational study of nine preschool children conducted by Bott (1928). She divided the children into three groups (two- to three-year-olds, three- to fouryear-olds, and over four), reporting the findings of only three children at each age level. Materials were assigned to five categories: patterned, raw materials, locomotor, mechanical, and unclassified. She found that the category of raw materials, which included blocks, was used for the longest periods of time by the two- to three- and three- to four-year-old groups and for the second longest periods of time by the over four-year-old group. Bott acknowledged that the small number of cases limits generalizability, but the results suggested the importance of the availability of raw materials, including blocks, for preschool children.

Hulson (1930a) gained similar results by studying ten four-year-old preschoolers, six over a period of one school year and four over a four-month period, for an hour during free-play each day. When the 13 materials investigated were "ranked in order according to the number of times chosen, number of minutes used, persistence in use, and social value, it was found that blocks held first rank in all four" (p. 208). Hulson, like Bott (1928), observed only a small number of subjects. However, she used a method of consecutive







14


observations over a period of a school year, so many observations were made of these relatively few children.

In her study of 271 middle- and low-SES kindergarten, first-, and second-grade children, Farwell (1930) introduced "specific constructive play materials" into the classrooms and recorded the percentage of time children interacted with each material during a 30-minute period for 14 days. She found that boys ranked the Hill Floor blocks (large hollow blocks) "first in importance." The interest in building blocks by girls--especially the Froebelian Gift blocks (like unit blocks)--"decreased from fair interest in kindergarten to practically no interest in second-grade" (p. 531).

Van Alstyne (1932) observed 112 mixed-race and mixedSES two- to five-year-old children in seven different preschools and kindergartens over a period of four months. Each child was observed for at least 10 hours. Her findings indicated that of the 25 play materials studied, blocks were the most preferred play material of four- and five-year-olds.

Parten (1933) recorded the activities of 23 high-, middle-, and low-SES two-, three-, and four-year-old children for one minute each day during free-play period until at least 60 independent behavior samples were obtained for each child. She noted 110 different activities; 33 were observed only once, 79 less than 10 times, 24 from 20 to 100 times, and 12 more than 100 times. On the basis of "frequency of occurrence," building with blocks was ranked eighth. The








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materials ranked fifth through seventh had scores so similar so as not to be statistically significant. Although Parten did not find blocks to be as popular as Van Alstyne (1932) and Hulson (1930a), she did establish them as a much preferred material, rated eighth out of 110.

Hartley, Frank, and Goldenson (1952), found blocks to be the most popular play material of 217 preschool children from "varied cultures and national backgrounds" and ranging in age from two and one-half to five and one-half years. These children were observed in 20 different preschools during free-play as part of a comprehensive study on children's play. Observers kept running records of the activities, context, language, interactions with others, and time of events. Of the 217 children studied over a two-year period, 97 were observed choosing blocks, while 83 chose to paint, and 75 chose clay. Blocks also ranked first in general popularity (the number of children using blocks on each occasion). Blocks attained this number one ranking despite the differing methods and attitudes of the various teachers and the wide variety of physical environments of the 20 preschools involved in this study.

Clark, Wyon, and Richards (1969) observed 40 middleclass English preschool children during their free-play period. The 18 boys and 22 girls, from two different preschools, were observed for approximately 13 hours. An unobtrusive observer recorded one child's behavior for a 10-







16


second interval then recorded the behavior of another child. The observation periods were spread across the school year and normally lasted about one hour. The findings indicated that of 19 preschool activities, blocks ranked first with boys and ninth with girls. The preference was determined by the amount of time each child spent with a particular material or was involved in a particular activity.

Kinsman and Berk (1979) found that "children preferred the block area and were observed playing there almost twice as often as the housekeeping setting" (p. 70). In a university laboratory school, the 21 boys and 16 girls were aged three and one-half to six and one-half years. The observer focused on the block and housekeeping areas, alternating between the two every five minutes and dictating the following information into a tape recorder every 20 seconds: identity of each child in the setting, group size and composition, type of play, location of child's activity, and child's affective expression. For six weeks the children were observed a total of nine hours a week, four hours in the preschool and five in the kindergarten. Kinsman and Berk found no sex differences in the amount of time boys and girls spent in the block area.

In summary, the naturalistic observational studies appear to indicate that when preschool and kindergarten children are given the opportunity to choose play materials, their first or second choice will be blocks (Clark et al.,








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1969; Hartley et al., 1952; Hulson, 1930a; Van Alstyne, 1932), especially large blocks (Bott, 1928; Farwell, 1930). While Bott (1928) and Clark et al. (1969) found boys expressed more interest in blocks than did girls, Kinsman and Berk (1979) found boys and girls spent equal time in the block area. Out of 110 activities observed by Parten (1933) blocks ranked eighth, behind second-ranked housekeeping. Kinsman and Berk (1979), however, found children played in the block area twice as much as in the housekeeping. In analyzing the findings of these studies, there is evidence to support preference of blocks as a play material for young children.

The following section describes a number of studies that did not use naturalistic observational methodology to study the play materials preferences of children. These studies are a composite of various methodologies and designs. Other Studies Investigating the Play Materials Preferences
of Young Children

The following four studies examined young children's preference for materials and found conflicting evidence for the popularity of blocks. Vance and McCall (1934) and Margolin and Leton (1961) found blocks were rated as least preferred by children. Cockrell's (1935) findings indicated blocks were of intermediate rank in young children's choice of materials, while Vlietstra (1978) found blocks to be more popular than pictures.








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Vance and McCall (1934) used a method of paired comparison of pictures to investigate children's preferences among 48 materials. They found blocks ranked low with preschool and kindergarten children. The 15 boys and 17 girls studied ranged in age from three and one-half to six and one-half years old. The subjects' families were members of "professional and business classes." The blocks rated low by the children were similar to unit blocks. In addition, the findings indicated girls enjoyed materials which involved "more passive play," while the boys preferred wood working, large blocks, and materials which involved "more strenuous activity."

In a similar study, Margolin and Leton (1961) randomly selected 200 mixed-SES kindergartners, five boys and five girls from 20 classrooms in Los Angeles. The purpose of this study was "to investigate children's interest in block play where the situation requires total class participation" (p. 13). Ten photographs portraying a block activity were paired with a photo portraying another activity and the children were asked, "Which of these would you rather be doing?" (p. 14). Non-block activities were chosen much more often than block activities. Girls exhibited a significant preference for the non-block activities. The authors concluded that the use of blocks in the kindergarten classroom should be questioned; however, they also hypothesized that the low blocks rating may have been attributed to children's dislike








19


for large group activities (it was common practice at that time in the Los Angeles Public Schools to have 25 to 30 children simultaneously playing with blocks) and not their dislike of blocks per se.

Blocks were of intermediate rank among children's preference in play materials according to Cockrell (1935). Cockrell observed six "professional class" two- and three-yearold children, three males and three females, in a laboratory situation with no adult present. The children were observed through a one-way mirror individually and in pairs with each of the following: (1) combined materials, (2) clay and crayons, (3) pictures and books, (4) blocks, (5) housekeeping materials, and (6) only a table and two chairs in the otherwise bare room. The children could terminate the session themselves. The materials were ranked in terms of interest, or "holding power," which was measured by the length of time the children voluntarily remained in the observation room. Combined materials, clay and crayons, pictures and books all ranked ahead of blocks, housekeeping, and bare room in that order.

Vlietstra (1978) presented 10 male and 10 female fouryear-old middle-SES children and 20 college students with boxes containing "incongruous" animal pictures and Bristle Blocks. Both groups spent more time playing with the blocks than looking at the pictures during three 10-minute sessions on different days.







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While the naturalistic observational studies are in

general agreement as to the preference of young children for block play, the other studies are divided in their findings about children's preference for blocks. These other studies reported the following contradictory findings: (1) blocks are among the least preferred of the preschool and kindergarten materials (Margolin & Leton, 1961; Vance & McCall, 1934); (2) blocks are only of intermediate interest to twoand three-year-old children (Cockrell, 1935); and (3) preschool children would rather play with blocks than look at pictures (Vlietstra, 1978).

In analyzing the findings of both the naturalistic observational studies and the other materials preference investigations, it is important to carefully examine the methodology used in each study. The naturalistic observational studies differed from the other studies in two ways (1) they attempted to preserve the natural setting, and (2) a large number of observations were extended over a period of time. Bott (1928), Clark et al. (1969), Farwell (1930), Hartley et al. (1952), Hulson (1930a), Kinsman and Berk (1979), Parten (1933), and Van Alstyne (1932) all observed children in their free-play period without interfering with their play or altering the environment of the school (with the exception of Farwell [1930] who brought the materials into the various classrooms and Kinsman and Berk [1979) who, as a part of their study, combined the block and housekeeping








21


areas). In all of the naturalistic observational studies, the children were observed a number of times over an extended time period of at least one month and as much as two years. For example, Hartley et al. (1952) observed 217 two and onehalf-to five and one-half-year old children for two years in 20 preschools during free-play. Kinsman and Berk (1979) recorded the play behaviors of 37 preschool and kindergarten children for nine hours a week for six consecutive weeks. Van Alstyne (1932) studied 112 children from five preschools and two kindergartens over a four month period by means of naturalistic observation of each child for at least 10 hours. All three of these studies found blocks to be children's most preferred play material.

The methodology used in the other studies investigating the play materials preference of children differed greatly from the aboye in that children were (1) asked on one occasion only to make choices about their preference for play materials by choosing pictures of the material they liked best (Margolin & Leton, 1961; Vance & McCall, 1934) as opposed to observers recording what material the children used;

(2) observed in an artificial setting (Cockrell, 1935; Vlietstra, 1978), or (3) observed only on a small number of occasions for short periods of time (Vlietstra, 1978).

Vance and McCall (1934) and Margolin and Leton (1961)

used a method of paired comparison of pictures depicting preschool activities to determine preference of materials. This







22


methodology can be questioned on several counts. The use of pictures to determine preference of materials may be too abstract for young children, most of whom were probably still at an early concrete operational or preoperational level. The large number of choices--48 individual items in eight different groupings--presented by Vance and McCall (1934) may be too confusing for some children. It may also be possible that the pictures of the blocks were not as attractive to the children as the pictures of other toys and materials, thus they were responding to the physical or aesthetic attractiveness of the material pictured as opposed to its usefulness in a play situation.

Although the random selection of 200 subjects strengthens the study by Margolin and Leton (1961), it has four major weaknesses. (1) The children were asked to identify their favorite activity on only one occasion. (2) No follow-up was made to see if the children actually used the materials they claimed to prefer. (3) The low rating for the blocks may have been due to the dislike for the large group situation. (4) The method used was to pair a block photograph 10 times with a picture of another activity and ask the child, "Which of these would you rather be doing?" (p. 14). Vance and McCall (1934) reported that they discarded this approach of continually pairing the same material (blocks, in this case) with a different material each time because the children became confused and questioned why








23


the experimenters were showing a picture of something they had already seen.

At first glance, Vlietstra's (1978) findings would appear to support the findings of the naturalistic observational studies that indicate young children generally prefer blocks to other play materials. However, because this study used Bristle Blocks, which differ greatly in form and function from both unit and large hollow blocks, the use of Vlietstra's findings as support for the preference of blocks by young children may be somewhat tenuous.

The findings of Vlietstra and Cockrell (1935), are weakened by the fact the children were observed alone (for part of Cockrell's study), in a laboratory setting, and not with other children in their own classroom. Cockrell's results might also be questioned not simply because blocks were not ranked higher, but because housekeeping, rated extremely high by most of the naturalistic observational studies, was ranked fifth out of six. The ages of the six children observed in Cockrell's study, two- and three-year-olds, may also have affected their choice of materials.

In examining those studies where some or all of the subjects were kindergarten children the following conclusions can be reached. The naturalistic observational studies indicate that: (1) blocks are the number one choice of kindergartners (Hartley et al., 1952; Van Alstyne, 1932);

(2) middle-class kindergarten boys and girls prefer blocks








24


to the housekeeping area (Kinsman & Berk, 1979); (3) kindergarten boys prefer large hollow blocks over all other material while the interest in blocks by girls decreases from "fair" in kindergarten to "no interest" in second-grade (Farwell, 1930). However, Margolin and Leton (1961), using paired comparison of pictures, reported blocks are among the least preferred play material of kindergarten children. The general agreement of the findings of the naturalistic observational studies, and the overall methodological weaknesses of Margolin and Leton's study pointed out above, provides strong evidence that kindergarten children are quite interested in blocks.

While the studies are divided in their findings concerning block preference in young children, careful examination of the methodology of all of these investigations leads one to believe that the evidence supports the conclusions of Bott (1928), Clark et al. (1969), Farwell (1930), Hartley et al. (1952), Hulson (1930a), Kinsman and Berk (1979), Parten (1933), and Van Alstyne (1932) that blocks are a preferred play material of young children.

If blocks are a preferred play material then what types of blocks are most popular with young children? A number of different kinds of blocks have been available for use in preschool and kindergarten classrooms since the 1920s, and a few early studies investigating the materials preferences of young children differentiated between several types of







25


blocks when ranking the materials chosen. These studies are reported below.


Young Children's Preference for Unit
and Large Hollow Blocks

Only four studies reported results distinguishing between children's preference for a certain type of blocks. Three of these investigations (Bott, 1928; Farwell, 1930; Vance & McCall, 1934) cited large hollow blocks as being the most preferred type of blocks while one study (Hulson, 1930b) found unit blocks to be the most popular with children. All four of these studies are about 50 years old and certainly children's preferences for blocks may have changed in that time. However, recent texts in the early childhood curriculum area (Cohen & Rudolph, 1977; Maxim, 1980; Spodek, 1978) and other literature pertaining to blocks (Bender, 1978; Benish, 1978; Cartwright, 1974; Hirsch, 1974) all state that unit and large hollow blocks are the most common types of blocks found in a preschool or kindergarten classroom. A summary of the studies which investigated young children's preference for blocks is presented in Table 1.

In summary, ifblocks are a preferred play material of

kindergarten and preschool children, then a thorough investigation into the block play of young children is needed. Since most of the cited studies are more than 20 years old, a need exists to find out more about the value of blocks as play material for children today. There is also a need to








26


Table 1. Summary of Studies Which Investigated Young Children's
Preference for Blocks



Investi- Date Subjects
gators of n m f age race SES
Study

9 2 to 6 -- --


Bott


Hulson 1930 10 4 -- -Farwell 1930 271 125 246 5 to 7 -- -Van Al- 1932 112 54 58 2 to 5 black, white, low, middle,
styne "2nd gen. imm." high


Parten 1933 34 19 15 2 to 4



Vance & 1934 32 15 17 32 to 62
McCall


Cockrell 1935 6 3 3 2 to 3





Hartley, 1952 217 2- to 5
Frank, &
Goldenson


Margolin
& Leton


low, middle, high


"professional & business classes"

"professional class"


"varied cultures & material backgrounds"


1961 200 100 100 42 to 52 --


low, middle, high


1928


0









27


Table 1. Extended


Duration Methodology Findings
of
Study


2 years




4-10 months


Naturalistic Observation



Naturalistic Observation


2 weeks Naturalistic
Observation



4 months Naturalistic
Observation

4 months Naturalistic
Observation


1 occasion Paired comparison of pictures


2 occasions


2 years


Subjects observed alone and in pairs in laboratory situation.


Naturalistic Observation


1 occasion Paired comparison of pictures


Category which included blocks ranked first by 2-4 year olds and second by most over 4 years old.

Blocks ranked first out of 13 materials for "times chosen," "number of minutes used," and "persistence in use."

Large hollow blocks "first in importance for boys"-kindergarten girls had fair interest in blocks.

Blocks were the most preferred of 25 play materials.

Blocks rated eighth out of 110 materials on the basis of "frequency of occurrence."

Blocks were rated as "low" preference among 48 play materials.

Blocks ranked fourth out of six materials for time "holding power"--(the length of time the children remained in the observation room).

Blocks ranked first in "general popularity" (the number of children using blocks on each occasion).

Non-block activities chosen much more often than block activities.








28


Continued



Date of
Study 1969 4


m


22


f 18


Subjects
age


3 to 5


Table 1.



Investigators



Clark, Wyon, & Richards


Vlietstra



Kinsman
& Berk


37 20 17 3 to 61


race SES


-- Middle
(British)



-- Middle



white Middle


20 10 10 4


1978 1979


n


0








29


Table 1. Extended


Duration Methodology Findings
of
Study

10 months Naturalistic Block play was the first
Observation choice of boys and ninth
choice of girls out of a possible 19 activities.

3-10 minute Observation in The children spent more time
sessions laboratory situ- with blocks than with pication tures.

6 weeks Naturalistic Children spent almost twice
Observation as much time in the block
area as they did in the housekeeping area.








30


investigate the differences in play behavior when young children use large hollow blocks as opposed to unit blocks, because of the availability and popularity of these two types of blocks in preschools and kindergartens today. A difference of opinion exists on the effect of sex on the interest of children in block play. Bott (1928) and Clark et al. (1969) found boys to be more interested in blocks than girls were, while Kinsman and Berk (1979) found no sex differences in the amount of time boys and girls played with blocks. Therefore, further study of the differences and similarities between the block play of boys and girls is indicated.

What is the significance of understanding the kindergarten child's preference for blocks? How will this help one to become a better kindergarten teacher? Van Alstyne (1932) aptly answered both of these questions. "Any interpretation of the results of this study must be based on the assumption that a child's spontaneous interests are a guide to his actual needs" (p. 84). Children's high interest level in blocks plus the need to update our knowledge and increase our understanding of how kindergarten boys and girls play with unit and large hollow blocks, warrants the further investigation into the behavior of children as they play with this popular material. Information from this investigation could aid teachers in making curriculum decisions pertaining to what type of block play has the potential to best meet the specific needs of different children.








31


Play and Social Development


The importance of play to the development of the young child has been emphasized by child development experts and early childhood educators alike (Piaget, 1962; Smilansky, 1968; Spodek, 1974; Sponseller, 1974; Vygotsky, 1978). Play is the medium in which children learn best (Spodek, 1974). According to Vygotsky, "The child moves forward [develops] essentially through play activity" (p. 103).

Play contributes to learning in all the developmental areas including social development (Sponseller, 1974). Isaacs (1972), Piaget (1962), and Smilansky (1968) stated that socio-dramatic play, through recognition of others and cooperation and participation in mutual activities with other children, aids in the transformation of an ego-centric child into a social individual. Forman and Hill (1980) provided a good example of this social learning process through play:


Dramatic play episodes allow children the freedom to expand their behaviors beyond an egocentric perspective. When pretending to be a rescue medic, a child develops ideas about another person's activities that are different from his
own. (p. 105)


Furthermore as Piaget (1932) pointed out, when a child plays with another child he/she may come to realize that the other child does not necessarily share his/her own point of view. When the child makes this discovery then he/she begins to question the other child's ideas and thus redefines








32


and clarifies his/her own thoughts. At this point social learning has taken place. Thus, Piaget believed that "one of the most important functions of social play may be the diminution of ego-centrism and the development of role-taking" (p. 484).

What about the relationship between social development and play involving preschool and kindergarten materials? Forman and Hill (1980) stated that "the child uses the same intelligence to solve problems of a social nature that she uses to solve other problems" (p. 68). In other words, a child's relationship to the physical world may help that child make "more accurate judgments about the social world" (p. 68). For example, if a child realizes that his/her wooden cylinder can roll down a ramp in the same manner as the wooden cylinder that another child is using, then he/she will not feel the need to take that other child's cylinder.

Cockrell (1935) found an interesting relationship between social interaction and the presence of play material. She reported that when the two- and three-year-old children were observed in pairs, they spent only 2% of their time "in attention to self" in the room containing "combined materials" (clay, crayons, books, pictures, blocks, and housekeeping materials) but spent 31% of the time in "self-play" when observed on another occasion in the same room empty of all equipment except a table and two chairs. Cockrell felt







33


these findings indicated that "depriving these children of play materials forced them much more to attend to themsevles than to play with their companion" (p. 463).

Play has been established by Issacs (1972), Piaget

(1962), Smilansky (1968), and others as crucial to the social development of young children. Forman and Hill (1980) suggested there is a relationship between social learning and the knowledge a child gains about the physical world through constructive play. A relationship between the amount of social interaction and the presence of play materials was observed in Cockrell's (1935) study of two- and three-year-old children.

The theories and research outlined above would appear to justify further investigation into the relaitonship between specific play materials and social play. The following statement by Van Alstyne (1932) provides additional support for studying this relationship.


Since play has these values in developing and
socializing the child, it is of considerable
importance to know which materials tend to provice the best setting for social participation.
(p. 2)


Is there a relationship between the social participation of a child and the activity in which that child is engaged? The findings from the following studies will help to answer this and other questions concerning the relationship between social behavior and the child's choice of play material.








34


Relationships B:tween the Use of Blocks and
Other Selected Materials and the Social
Participation of Young Children


The following investigations examined the relationship between materials and social play. These studies sought to find out what kind of social play occurred while young children were playing with various selected materials, one of these materials being blocks. Many of these studies used Parten's (1932) scale of social participation to determine a child's level of social play. Parten's levels of social participation are: (1) unoccupied behavior, (2) solitary play, (3) onlooker behavior, (4) parallel play, (5) associative play, and (6) cooperative play in that hierarchical order.

Parten (1933) utilized her six categories of social participation in a study of 34 preschool children observed daily at free-play until 60 one-minute behavior samples were recorded. The social situations which accompanied play with each type of material were analyzed for their social participation value. In order to ensure an unbiased sample, the last one or two instances of play with each material were chosen from each child's record until 50 instances were recorded for every material. The housekeeping area and dolls ranked highest in cooperative play. Block play occurred at almost equal frequencies at the solitary, parallel, associative and cooperative levels. Clay was found to elicit







35


primarily parallel play, a moderate amount of associative, and no cooperative or solitary play. Parten also assigned social participation scores for the 10 favorite materials by weighting each level of social play in the following manner: unoccupied behavior, -3; solitary play, -2; onlooker behavior, -1; parallel play, 1; associative play, 2; cooperative play, 3. The results of the social participation score for each material were the house and doll corner ranked first with a score of 103, and blocks and clay tied for third with scores of 51 each.

Brown (1942) reported 83% of the girls and 70% of the boys played alone with blocks. She recorded all the behaviors and conversations of 50 kindergartners for 10 weeks during self-chosen activity periods. Brown did not use Parten's (1932) social participation levels to classify the children's level of social play, so we cannot be sure how much of the self-play she observed was solitary and how much was parallel nor can we assume that the time boys and girls were not playing alone they were engaged in group play.

Parallel play was most often recorded by Clark et al.

(1969) during the table activities (finger painting, cutting, glueing, sewing, coloring, etc.) of three- and four-yearold middle-income British preschoolers. Cooperative play, "children participating together," however, was most commonly observed in the block area.







36


In accordance with Parten's (1932, 1933) findings, all levels of social play occurred in almost equal frequency during an investigation of the block play of five-year-olds conducted by Massey (1970). Each of the 32 kindergarten children, 16 middle-class white males and 16 females, participated in three separate 20-minute sessions in a laboratory observation room: (1) alone, (2) one boy and one girl, and (3) two boys and two girls. The children were asked to build a structure and were left alone and videotaped for 15 minutes. They were then presented with accessory items and left to build for five more minutes. Unit blocks in quantities of 90, 180 and 280 were present in the room for one, two, and four children, respectively. Photographs of the structures were taken after the session ended and the frequency of behaviors was recorded by a trained observer from the videotaped sessions.

Bender (1978), while investigating the large block play of six four-year-olds for a period of eight months, also observed parallel, cooperative, and solitary levels of play when 70 large hollow blocks were used. However, the children engaged in only solitary and parallel play when the number of blocks was reduced to 20.

"Intimate social arrangements of small clusters" and solitary play were observed by Kinsman and Berk (1979) during the housekeeping and block activity time of 37 middleclass white preschool and kindergarten children aged three








37


and one-half to six years. They did not report on the percentage of parallel play but stated that the children spent 37% of their time in solitary play while involved in these activity areas. They also observed more solitary play in the housekeeping area and more group play in blocks which is contrary to Parten's (1933) findings.

In a study of 15 male and 13 female preschool children ranging in age from three and one-half to five and one-half years, Vandenberg (1981) also found that the play environment influenced the type of social play. The children were allowed access to two different environments: (1) the large muscle room which contained a jungle gym, two slides, tumbling mats, and large blocks and (2) the fine motor room which contained tables with pencils, paints, crayons, scissors, and paste. Each child was observed for one 30-minute period each day. The child's play was scored in 10-second units for (1) types of play, (2) environment in which child was playing, (3) number of children playing with target child, and (4) whether child left or joined the play activity. Children were more likely to be involved in solitary or parallel play in the fine motor room and associative play in the large muscle room. No cooperative play was observed. Vandenberg attributed the lack of cooperative play to the "power of these environments to pull for physical exercise (large and small motor development) at the expense of social interaction" (p. 174). However, Bender (1978), Clark et al.








38


(1969), Kinsman and Berk (1979), Massey (1970), and Parten (1933) all observed cooperative play while children were playing with blocks. Large hollow blocks were present in the large muscle room in Vandenberg's (1981) study. An alternative explanation for the lack of cooperative play observed by Vandenberg is that it may have been a result of observer error. Johnson and Ershler (1981) and Rubin, Watson, and Jambor (1978) were forced to collapse Parten's associative and cooperative categories because of low interobserver reliability in differentiating between these categories. Furthermore, Clark and others' (1969) and Parten's (1933) findings would support the lack of cooperative play in the small muscle room reported by Vandenberg (1981).

In analyzing the findings of these studies there appears to be agreement on two major issues: (1) The type of play material has some relationship to the child's level of social participation. (2) There is the potential for solitary, parallel, and cooperative play to occur when young children use blocks in a preschool or kindergarten setting.

Clark et al. (1969), Parten (1933), and Vandenberg (1981) all found that children were most likely to be involved in either parallel or solitary play when using table materials like clay, glue, crayons, scissors, and paints, whereas cooperative play was commonly observed during block play by Clark et al. (1969) and Kinsman and Berk (1979). In addition, Bender (1978) observed mostly cooperative social







39


play when an adequate amount of large hollow blocks was present. Although Vandenberg (1981) observed no cooperative play, he did report that the play in the large muscle room was predominantly on the associative level as opposed to the predominance of solitary and parallel play observed in the small muscle room.

Bender (1978), Massey (1970), and Parten (1933) all observed solitary, parallel, and cooperative play in the block area. Kinsman and Berk (1979) reported that play in the block center consisted of "intimate social arrangements of small clusters and pairs" and about 35% in solitary play. Brown (1942), however, found boys spent 70% and girls 82% of their time in solitary play while using blocks.

Brown's (1942) findings, however, lend support to those of Green (1933), Parten (1933), Kinsman and Berk (1979), Bender (1978), Hulson (1930a), Massey (1970), and Van Alstyne (1932). That is, both solitary and group play were observed when children participated in block play. The relevance of this finding is best expressed by Kinsman and Berk (1979) who emphasized that the block area has the flexibility to meet "a variety of children's needs from retreat, withdrawal, and absorption in private activity to active group participation and cooperative efforts with other children" (p. 71). Results reported in studies by Moore, Evertson, and Brophy (1974), Roper and Hinde (1978), and Rubin, Maioni, and Hornung (1976) indicated that because a child is playing alone








40


does not mean the child lacks social skills. It could mean the child has the confidence to do so and thus needs the opportunity to be able to engage in solitary play.

All three of these levels of social play--social, parallel, and cooperative--are important for the social development of the young child. However, further investigation appears to be needed to determine the relationship between the use of blocks and the child's level of social participation.

In summary, Issacs (1972), Piaget (1932, 1962), and Smilansky (1968) have emphasized the importance of play to the social development of the young child. Numerous studies have established blocks as one of the most preferred play materials of young children (Bott, 1928; Clark et al., 1969; Farwell, 1930; Hulson, 1930a; Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Parten, 1933; Van Alstyne, 1932). Since blocks are of great interest to children and play is instrumental in providing children with the opportunity to practice and develop social skills, it seems logical that an in-depth study of social behavior occurring during block play needs to be initiated.

The following section will review the research concerning the relationships between children's social behavior and the materials used by them.







41


Relationships Between the Use of Blocks and Other
Selected Materials and the Social Behavior of Young Children


Block play was determinad to have the highest "social value" of 16 activities observed by Hulson (1930a) in her naturalistic observational investigation into the play behaviors of 10 four-year old preschool children during freeplay. The "social value" of a material was determined by the number of children playing with a child using a given material. Over twice as many children (517 as compared to 210) were observed playing with the target child during block activities than during play in the second-ranked house corner. The remaining scores ranged from 173 children involved in sand play to three children observed writing on the blackboard. Although this study indicated that blocks may promote social interaction between preschoolers, it did not provide any information as to the quality of this social interaction. Since Hulson did not define the terms "playing with," it is impossible to know whether these children were simply playing alongside the target child in a parallel fashion or the children were actually engaged in some form of group play. Van Alystne (1932) addressed the question of the "social value" of materials in a more qualitative fashion.

The social value of materials was studied by Van Alstyne (1932) by observing the "social reactions" of 112 three-, four-, and five-year-old children playing with one of 25 dif-








42


different materials. Observations were made of 15-second samplings of play behaviors for a period of four months, totaling approximately 10 hours of observation for each child. The "social value" of each material was rated in terms of "amountof talking," "social grouping" (how many children present), "interfering," and "watching." Contrary to Green (1933), who noted a high percentage of quarrels in the freeplay of 40 preschool children using various materials, Van Alstyne (1932) reported "comparatively little interfering" when compared to "cooperation" or "social grouping." The greatest percentage of cooperation for five-year-olds was recorded when they were playing with large hollow blocks.

Studying group play and quarreling during 40 30-second observations of 40 nursery school children, Green (1933) reached a somewhat different conclusion. She found that "dramatic play" (playing house, playing train and playing barber shop) was the most "social," while sand was the most "quarrelsome." "Construction work," which included sawing and using large building blocks, ranked sixth on the scale of sociability--defined as percentage of time playing with companions --and second in the percentage of time involving quarrels. However, several possible weaknesses in this study suggest that the findings should be interpreted with some degree of caution. First, many of the differences between the ratings of the materials are slight and may be a result of observation error or random error. For example, although the








43


block category ranked sixth in the pro-social grouping at 61.5%, the second-rated activity was only 64.5%, a statistically significant difference between the two may not exist. Furthermore, while blocks were rated as the second most quarrelsome activity at 20.2%, housekeeping was rated third at 20%, a difference of .2%, which may have been a result of observational error. Second, Green's definition of "sociability" (percentage of time playing with companions), like Hulson's (1930a), does not provide any information concerning the specific social behavior that occurred while children played with various materials. Third, the definition and interpretation of the "quarreling" category is subject to dispute. Quarreling is defined as "percent of time involved in quarrels," a vague and somewhat circular definition. It is impossible to interpret Green's results without knowing what constitutes a "quarrel."

Is quarreling necessarily an anti-social behavior? Can children learn certain social skills from some "quarrels?" Did the children resolve these "quarrels" themselves or did a teacher have to step in? Piaget (1932) stated that some degree of conflict is necessary to promote social learning and thus aid in the child's developmental progress in becoming a more social being. Through many naturalistic observations the researcher has found that "disagreements" are common in block play but "physical aggression" and "fights" are rare, and that the children usually solve their "disagreements"







44


in a mutually acceptable manner. If this is the case, then some "quarrels" may serve a positive function in the social development of the young child. Since Green (1933) never defined "quarrels," we have no way of knowing what kind of behavior she observed, thus making any interpretation difficult.

In a controlled laboratory study of 17 boys and 11 girls ages two and three, "sociability" and "cooperation" were found to occur more frequently while playing with clay than while playing with blocks (Updegraff & Herbst, 1933). The children were paired eight times with one other child and observed for five minutes playing in a room where only one play material was available, either clay or blocks. "Cooperativeness" was defined as "that quality in an individual which makes him willing to carry out with others without submerging his own individuality" (p. 385). "Sociability" was defined as "that quality in an individual which makes him display an interest in the activity of others, a desire to seek companionship, and to make contacts with them" (p. 383). The definitions of "sociability" and "cooperation" again, like those of Green (1933), Hulson (1930a), and Van Alstyne (1932), are vague and thus make it difficult to determine exactly what types of social behavior occurred during play with blocks and other materials.

In a series of studies, Patterson (1976) investigated the role of play materials in the social interaction of a







45


mixed-sex, -SES, and -race group of 25 four- and five-yearold preschool children. For 16 consecutive school days she made observations during free-play time at each of the four play areas: art, games, blocks, and dramatic play. The first two observational studies confirmed that "assertivedisruptive" interactions occurred most frequently in the block area and least frequently in the art center. "Assertive-disruptive" was defined as "those behaviors which interfere with the other children's activities or which disrupt the routine of the classroom" (p. 2). Patterson went on to further define "assertive-disruptive" as "not synonymous with aggressive" although this category included some of the same behaviors. The behaviors listed were hitting, pushing, throwing toys, taking toys, negative commands, name calling, and "others." The "positive-constructive" category was defined as including all behaviors other than those in the "assertive-disruptive" category.

Patterson points out that "there are differences in the physical materials in blocks and in art that would seem to support different kinds of interactions. The child must "restrain his body movement somewhat in order to use materials appropriately in art . [while] the activities in blocks allow more vigorous physical activity, here the normal course of play may lead to more assertive interactions" (p. 5).








46


These "assertive interactions" may have been misinterpreted by her as "disruptive" when they were actually a form of "rough and tumble play," as observed by Blurton Jones (1967, 1972b). Examples of "assertive" behavior in the block corner involved knocking over blocks and pushing trucks into another child which could have been a low-key form of what Blurton Jones termed "rough and tumble play," a highly pro-social behavior. In summary, Patterson's findings of the high incidences of "assertive-disruptive" interactions in the block area may be questioned on two counts:

(1) This category is broad, vague, and generally unclear.

(2) Some incidents of "assertive-disruptive" behavior may have been pro-social.

Kinsman and Berk (1979), in their naturalistic observational study of 37 middle-SES, white preschool and kindergarten children, reported a "very low" occurrence of "negative affect" in the housekeeping and block area. "Negative affect" is not defined, making interpretation of these results difficult.

To summarize, Hulson (1930a) and Van Alstyne (1932)

agreed that blocks rank high in "social value" using the number of individuals playing with blocks with the target child as the means of determination. Using a different criterion (percent of time with companion), Green's (1933) findings indicated blocks ranked sixth among 11 preschool activities, but only three percentage points behind the second-rated







47


activity in her "cooperative" or "friendship" category. Updegraff and Herbst (1933) found blocks to be lower in both "sociability" and "cooperation" than clay in a study of twoand three-year-olds in a controlled laboratory setting. Patterson (1976) observed more "assertive-disruptive" behavior in the block area than in either art, games, or dramatic play areas in her two observational studies of four- and five-year-olds. "Quarrels" occurred frequently in the block area according to Green (1933) but were seldom observed by Kinsman and Berk (1979).

In general, the evidence is conflicting in regard to the relationship between block play and social behavior of young children. However, the inability to make any educated hypothesis in regard to this question is not so much a result of the contrary findings of these studies but is instead becauseof the lack of clear, concise, and understandable definitions of the social behavior observed.



Sex Differences in the Materials Preference,
Social Participation, and Social Behavior of Young Children


This section will review those studies which have investigated the relationship between sex and materials preference, social participation, and social behavior of preschool and kindergarten children, especially those studies concerned with block play.








48


Sex Differences in the Materials Preference of
Young Children

The majority of both experimentally-manipulated and

naturalistic observational studies indicated that preschool and kindergarten boys were more likely to play with blocks than girls (Beeson & Williams, 1979; Bott, 1928; Clark et al., 1969; Farrell, 1957; Farwell, 1930; Margolin & Leton, 1961; Patterson, 1976; Rubin, 1977; Van Alstyne, 1932; Varma, 1980). However, Brenner (1976), Kinsman and Berk (1979), and Vandenberg (1981) found no sex differences existed in the preference for blocks of three- to six-yearold children. Brenner's (1976) sample was composed of 18 white middle class three and four years old, nine boys and nine girls. Kinsman and Berk (1979) observed 37 white middle-class three- to six-year-old children, 21 boys and 16 girls, in a university laboratory school while Vandenberg (1981) studied 15 male and 13 female, white middle-class three and one-half- to five and one-half-year-old children in an urban preschool. The small sample of white middleclass children investigated by Brenner (1976), Kinsman and Berk (1979), and Vandenberg (1981) as compared to larger samples (from 40 to 271) of Beeson and Williams (1979), Clark et al. (1969), Farrell (1957), Farwell (1930), Margolin and Leton (1961), Rubin (1977), and Van Alstyne (1932) would seem to indicate a good deal more support for the







49


findings that suggest there is a sex difference in young children's preference for blocks.

Although it would appear that blocks are probably not as popular with preschool and kindergarten girls as with boys, it is important to note that blocks did rank on an intermediate-to-high level with girls in most of the materials preference studies. More importantly, however, is the fact that, given the proper environment, girls choose to play with and use blocks as much as do boys (Brenner, 1976; Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Vandenberg, 1981). Varma's (1980) findings reiterated this point.

In a two-part study of eight male and eight female fouryear-old preschool children, Varma (1980) first observed the behavior of each child for six five-minute periods on 12 occasions. She found that boys were more likely to engage in block play than girls. She then arranged a new block area identical to the old block area but separated it by a threefoot divider. This new area was designed for the purpose of offering girls direct access to the blocks and to encourage block play among girls. Two observers then made six fiveminute observations of each child on eight occasions. The results of the intervention were as follows: (1) an increase in time spent by all girls in block play, (2) three girls who had not used blocks during the first set of observations initiated block play, and (3) five out of the eight boys increased the time spent with blocks when the number of blocks increased with the addition of the identical new block area.







50


Perhaps the most critical finding was the initiation of block play by three girls who had not previously been observed using blocks. Both Varma (1980) and Patterson (1976) believed the reason girls spent so little time in the block area was a result of boys or the teacher designating the block area as the boys 'territory," and not because they were not interested in blocks. Varma (1980) controlled for this variable of male "dominance" over the blocks by adding another area. This not only encouraged three previously observed female non-users to play in the block corner but also increased the amount of time spent by all the girls and five of the boys playing with blocks. Therefore, although a majority of the studies reported that blocks were used more often by boys than girls, the results of Brenner (1976), Kinsman and Berk (1979), Vandenberg (1981), and Varma (1980) indicated at least the potential for a high degree of interest in blocks by girls.

The next group of studies explored the effect of sex on the social participation of children during free-play. These studies examined social participation using Parten's (1932) levels of social participation. Sex Differences in the Social Participation of
Young Children

Moore, Evertson, and Brophy (1974) found kindergarten boys and girls showed "similar patterns" of solitary play in a naturalistic observational study of 116 white








51


middle-class children attending six private kindergartens. The teachers of these six classes were trained to observe their children during outdoor and indoor free-play sessions. The number of observations ranged from 7 to 21 with an average length of 35 minutes in a range of 15 to 60 minutes. The teachers recorded any solitary play observed for any child and coded it in one of eight categories. Spot checks on the reliability of the observers (teachers) showed 100% reliability. The only difference found was that girls exhibited more educationally-oriented solitary play. Moore et al. (1974) found no interaction between effects of sex and birth order on solitary play as hypothesized.

Although the sample size appeared adequate, the number of observations sufficient, and the "spot check" reliability high, the methodology of this study may be questioned on several levels. There was no standardization of the length of the observation period or of the number of observations made, thus it is possible some classes could have had many more observations than others. Additionally, the study made no mention of how often each child was observed; it is conceivable that some children were observed many times while others were never observed or observed only a few times. Most notably, it seems questionable to have the teacher as observer. It is difficult enough to be "in charge" of a large group of kindergarten children without the additional responsibility of being a researcher. Their role as







52


teachers would seemingly take precedence over another's research.

Roper and Hinde (1978) investigated the social participation of three- to five-year-old British preschool children in a naturalistic observational study. The 67 subjects, 37 males and 30 females, were from families whose SES ranged from upper-middle (professional) to lower-middle SES (partly skilled) with the majority from middle SES (skilled or managerial categories). Roper and Hinde found girls were more likely to engage in parallel play than group play while boys were "more involved with other children" when they were playing near them. Boys also were observed more often than girls participating in solitary play. They warned against "deriving a composite index of social participation from the categories of self, parallel and group [on the] assumption that these items lie equidistant along a linear dimension . [because] to be playing alone does not necessarily mean the child is lacking in social ability" (p. 577).

Roper and Hinde used what they termed "multiple-scan

sampling" to collect the data on these children. The procedure they followed was to observe each child for five seconds, record the data on a checklist, and then observe another child for five seconds. In this way, each child was observed every five minutes, or 11 times each morning. This observational technique was used to increase the probability of obtaining independent samples of behavior. If







53


observatiors are taken with short-time intervals in between then what the subject is doing at the time of observation will be affected by what he was doing on the previous observation. Multiple-scan sampling was used to reduce this difficulty and thus increase the chances for independent samples. However, a weakness of this methodology is the short intervals of time (five seconds) that children are observed to determine their level of social participation. Johnson, Ershler, and Bell (1980) defined a cognitive/social play "episode" as "a unit of observation of at least 15-second duration with only one type of cognitive/social play occurring" (p. 272). Although Roper and Hinde (1978) were recording only social play (social participation), five seconds would appear to be too little time to determine a child's level of social participation.

Vandenberg (1981) found no sex differences in the levels of social participation of 15 male and 13 female threeto five-year-old children using the "large muscle" room and the "fine motor" room in preschool. Both girls and boys were likely to participate in solitary and parallel play in the "fine motor" room and to participate in associative play (defined by Parten, 1932) in the "large muscle" room.

Roper and Hinde (1978) reported that three- to fiveyear-old girls were more likely to be involved in parallel than group play while the opposite was found to be true for boys of the same age. Moore et al. (1974) and Vandenberg








54


(1981) found no sex difference in the level of social participation of preschoolers and kindergartners. Moore et al. (1974) and Roper and Hinde (1978) pointed out there may be differences in the manner in which young children play at each of these levels. Moreover, Roper and Hinde (1978) emphasized the importance of solitary as well as parallel and group play for the development of the child. They further warned against calculating a composite index of social participation from the categories of solitary, parallel, and group play because solitary play does not necessarily indicate immature play. Play at each of these levels of social participation is important to the development of the child.

The following section will review those studies concerned with the sex differences in children's social behavior during play.


Sex Differences in the Social Behavior of Young Children

Massey (1970) found no significant sex differences in

the "social interaction" of 32 white middle-class, five-yearold kindergarten children, 16 male and 16 female. She defined "social interaction" as the total number of verbal contacts to another child, cooperative block building, verbal directions carried out, and physical directions carried out. She observed each child in three separate 20-minute sessions (individually, a boy and a girl, and two boys and two girls) in a specially designed observation room filled








55


with blocks and equipped with a hidden videotape camera. There were three major weaknesses of this study that should be considered in interpreting Massey's findings: (1) The definition of social interaction provides us with information about the quantity of verbal contacts and not the quality of them, and (2) she does not define her other categories of social interaction (cooperative block building, verbal and physical directions carried out), and (3) the possibility exists that the "social interaction" of Massey's (1970) subjects was influenced by the laboratory setting.

In a series of three studies Patterson (1976) investigated the effect of play materials on the social behavior of four- and five-year-old preschool children. The subjects, 14 boys and 11 girls, were from a variety of socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. Patterson found in the first observational study that boys exhibited more "assertive-disruptive" behavior than did girls when observed during the freeplay hour in the art, games, blocks and dramatic play areas. She also found that boys' "assertive-disruptive" behaviors occurred most frequently in the block area and least frequently in the art area. The second observational study confirmed the earlier findings. The same methodology was used; each child was observed for 30 seconds over a period of 16 consecutive school days during free-play hour.

In Patterson's (1976) third study the children were observed in same-sex groups of three, once with an art activity








56


and once with blocks, for an observation period of 10 minutes with each type of activity. The boys were found to exhibit more "assertive-disruptive" behavior than the girls, a finding consistent with the other studies. However, in the laboratory setting, the boys' "assertive-disruptive" behavior occurred more frequently during the art activity and less frequently with blocks which was contrary to the findings of Patterson's two other naturalistic observational studies. The frequency of the "assertive-disruptive" behavior of the girls was similar to that observed in the classroom setting.

Patterson's (1976) findings indicated a sex difference in the social behavior of boys and girls involved in art activities and block play in both naturalistic and laboratory situations. Her definition of "assertive-disruptive" behavior, "those behaviors which interfere with the other children's activities or which disrupt the routine of the classroom" (Patterson, 1976, p. 2), make it difficult to determine whether this category represents prosocial or antisocial behavior or some of both. For example, a child could "interfere" with another child's activity in a playful and very prosocial manner. Therefore, although Patterson's findings suggested a difference in the social behavior of boys and girls during art activities and block play, the specific social behaviors that accounted for this difference were not reported, thus limiting interpretation and implications of these findings.







57


Eisenberg-Berg and Hand (1979) found no overall sex

differences in the "sharing" and "helping/comforting" behavior of predominantly middle-class four- and five-year-old preschoolers. The subjects, 18 boys and 17 girls, were all white with the exception of two Chicanos and one American Indian and attended a university preschool. Each child was randomly observed for a minimum of 70 two-minute periods over 6-11 weeks. The observers recorded how often the children shared, helped, or comforted during each two minute period. "Comforting" was later combined with "helping" as a result of infrequent occurrence of this behavior.

In a meta-analysis of 32 observational studies on peerdirected aggression, Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) found highly significant sex differences in children six years of age and younger. The Z values suggested higher male aggression in 24 of the 32 studies, no difference in 3, and no study found higher rates of female aggression.

Tieger (1980) refuted the findings of Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) by using a meta-analysis technique suggested by Cooper (1979). Using Cooper's procedure Tieger (1980) chose to examine all studies which observed aggressive behaviors in children of six years or younger. Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) included two studies in which the subjects' ages ranged from four to seven and five to eight. Tieger (1980) also looked at studies which "measured aggression defined as behaviors involving attacks, fighting, interpersonal disputes,








58


or actions implying intent to harm" (p. 952). Most of the Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) studies were included because of the broad nature of their definition. Two other studies were excluded because one contained no relevant measure of aggression (Smith & Connolly, 1972) while the other did not report a main effect of sex differences (Langdois, Gottfried, & Seay, 1973). Tieger's (1980) meta-analysis revealed a weighted Z=1.148 with a probability of p=.125thus suggesting that sex differences in the aggressive behavior of children under six may not exist.

Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) claimed Tieger (1980) underestimated the significance of the combined set of results by misuse of the Stouffer weighted procedure (cited in Cooper, 1979). They asserted that Tieger converted the two-tailed values, published by Maccobv and Jacklin (1980), to onetailed-values only once when the procedure calls for the one-tailed-values for each case.

Another problem with the flaccoby and Jacklin (1980) metaanalysis was that in all but 2 of the 24 studies which showed boys under six to be more aggressive, aggression was categorized in a non-specific manner (i.e., "aggression," "agonistic intentions," and "direct physical aggression"). "Rough and tumble" play, found by Blurton Jones (1972b) to be a very physical but highly prosocial behavior, easily could have been coded as aggression under these general categories.








59


The findings from these studies suggested that sex differences may not exist in the presocial behavior of children under six (Massey, 1970; Eisenberg-Berg, 1979) but there remains a great debate as to the relationship of sex to the aggressive behavior of children under six years of age (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1980; Tieger, 1980).

In summary, the research suggested that boys prefer blocks (Beeson & Williams, 1979; Bott, 1928; Clark et al., 1969; Farrell, 1957; Farwell, 1930; Margolin & Leton, 1961; Patterson, 1976; Rubin, 1977; Van Alstyne, 1932) but girls are highly interested in blocks if provided the opportunity to use them (Brenner, 1976; Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Vandenberg, 1981; Varma, 1980). Moore et al. (1974) and Vandenberg (1981) found no sex differences in the social participation of young children while Roper and Hinde (1978) did. Contrary evidence also exists regarding sex differences in their social behavior. Massey (1970) and Eisenberg-Berg (1979) found no sex differences in prosocial behavior of four- and five-year-old children. However, results of two separate meta-analyses of observational studies of aggressive behavior of children under six conflicted. One study reported that sex differences were highly significant (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1980), while the other found no sex differences (Tieger, 1980). Patterson (1976) found sex differences in "assertivedisruptive" behavior with blocks.








60


Summary


The literature suggests that blocks are a highly preferred play material of preschool and kindergarten children. Blocks are more popular with boys but girls too are very interested in block play, especially when given equal access to the block area. In addition, most American kindergarten and preschool classrooms are equipped with either unit blocks, large hollow blocks, or both.

Isaacs (1972), Piaget (1962), and Smilansky (1968) emphasized the value of play for the social development of the child. Hymes (1968) stressed the goal of kindergarten education is to educate the "whole child" through experiences which allow the child to work and play in small groups. The use of blocks in a kindergarten classroom provides both the opportunity for play and small group interaction.

The research appears to indicate that there may be a relationship between certain materials and the level of social participation and the social behavior of children. However, the findings from these studies are of limited value to kindergarten teachers in planning appropriate social learning experiences for individual children primarily because of the vague definitions of social behaviors.

There exists a need to further examine the relationship between social behavior and play materials. An investigation into the block play of kindergarten children is both








61


logical and necessary. It is logical because children like blocks and they are available in most kindergartens. It is necessary because, although the area of social development is an integral part of the kindergarten curriculum, it has been overshadowed by the recent "first-grade prep" movement. Thus it is more important for the teacher to know more about the relationships between unit and large hollow block play and the social development of kindergarten children. This research will provide the teachers with information on which to base curriculum decisions concerning the appropriateness of these types of blocks for enhancing specific social learning situations.

The study of kindergarten play materials is as important today as it was in the early 1900s when Hill (1915) concluded:


It is sincerely believed that the time has
come when all materials and methods must be
carefully investigated and those selected
which prove to be of actual worth in the development of the kindergarten child. (p. 8)















CHAPTER III
METHODOLOGY



This study investigated the social behavior and levels of social participation of kindergarten children while they played with large hollow blocks and unit blocks. The vague manner in which social behaviors were defined in the previously reviewed studies investigating the relationship between social behavior and play material seriously limits the interpretation of their findings. Therefore, further investigation into this area was needed. Before this research was begun, clear guidelines for defining the social behavior of young children were set forth. The ethological methodology adapted by Appleton (1980), Blurton Jones (1967, 1972b), Hutt and Hutt (1970), Leach (1972), and Smith and Connolly (1972) to investigate the social behavior of preschool children during freeplay provided the guidelines needed for clearer definitions of the units of social behavior.



Defining Social Behavior


Ethology is characterized by its method of direct observation in a naturalistic setting and uses a particular zoological approach which differs from other observational approaches in that behavior is recorded "not in terms of


62








63


observables and activity statements" (Hutt & Hutt, 1970).

Ethologists place particular importance on the precise definition of the specific behaviors they plan to observe in an

attempt to not only bring more objectivity to the study but

also to make replication of the study possible. As Blurton

Jones (1972a), a noted ethologist, pointed out:


An incidental result of careful description is
the potential replicability of ethological studies. A worker in another laboratory on a different continent can, we claim, read the account of one ethologist and know exactly what
behavior to look for, and can therefore repeat
earlier studies. This is unfortunately not
true of most so-called observational studies of children. Until recently behavior was never described in terms of what the observer saw, but in terms much more of what he thought he meant, or in terms with an intermediate status but of
equal vagueness. The early observational studies reported on frequencies of "aggression," or frequencies of "affiliative behavior" but, for
example, there is no way to tell what occurrences Green (1933) recorded as "quarrels."
Those sorts of categories are still in use in
some quarters today, but how does one tell what
one observer called aggression or what another
called affiliativeness? (p. 12, 13)


In order to obtain more objectivity and precision in

observing and reporting the social behavior of young children, ethologists use categories of behavior that represent

what they term a unitary concept or unit of behavior. Leach

(1972) used the following criteria in determining the units

of behavior to use while studying the social behavior of normal and problem preschool children. "(1) The units should

be readily definable, and so recognizable to other workers,







64


and useable by them and (2) the units should have biological meaning, in terms of recognition of social signals between interactants" (p. 252). The definitions of the units of behavior to be observed in this study follow the criteria set forth above by Blurton Jones (1972a), Hutt and Hutt (1970), and Leach (1972). They are reported on page 85 of this chapter.



Naturalistic Observations


If children's play is to be the subject of
analysis it should be studied in some fairly spontaneous setting such as one obtains, for example, within the daily routine of a wellconducted nursery school, rather than under
conditions too meticulously controlled. (Bott,
1928, p. 44)


Bronfenbrenner (1979), too, believes if we are to gain a better understanding of children and the way they develop, it is necessary to observe their behavior while they are interacting in a natural setting. The ethological methodology is, as mentioned aboye, characterized by direct observation of behavior in a naturalistic setting. The ethological studies of Appleton (1980), Blurton Jones (1967, 1972b), Hutt and Hutt (1970), Leach (1972), McGrew (1972), and Smith and Connolly (1972) investigated the social behavior of young children in a naturalistic preschool setting. Hence, the researcher chose to examine the social behavior and social participation of kindergarten children as they played with








65


blocks in their own classroom. A description of the classroom setting and of the educational practices of the teacher follows.



The Setting


The kindergarten classroom used in this study was approximately 30'x25' with large windows on the north wall. These windows provided an abundance of natural light and offered a full view of the sandbox, garden, and large hollow block area located outside, adjacent to the north wall of the classroom. The other walls were covered with colorful artwork and stories written by the children. The diagram on page 66 illustrates the layout of the classroom. The room was divided into seven main sections: (1) the rug area,

(2) the reading corner, (3) the dramatic play corner, (4) the art area, (5) the unit block area, (6) the writing and drawing area, and (7) the math area.

The rug area, near the front door, was used for large group activities usually directed by the teacher. The reading corner contained big, soft pillows; a large, comfortable chair; and a wide selection of books. Teacher- and childproduced books were available as well as library books.

The dramatic play area provided men's and women's clothing for dressup, a small table with chairs, dolls, dishes, and wooden replicas of an electric range and sink as well as









66


garden large hol low b locks 1 SSrnd
water cale


a ,-t
unit blocks




X00 rttng&dawing dramaticmpla


amat c p ay group time

rug


reading


The Layout of the Classroom


I








67


puppets and a puppet stage. During one week of the study, this area was transformed into a "hospital," complete with surgical equipment and a cot.

The art area consisted of a large round table, two

easels, and numerous art supplies including tempera paint, crayons, clay, magic markers, construction paper, and scissors. This area was also used for cooking, which took place regularly in this class.

Located next to the windows, the unit block area was defined by a 10' x 12' blue carpet. Approximately 500 unit blocks were available to the children. Included were the basic unit (a 5 1/2" x 2 3/4" x 1 3/8" rectangle), the double unit (a rectangle twice as long as the unit), squares (half units), pillars (quarter units), arches, cylinders, and triangles. Small zoo and farm animals as well as toy planes, cars, and boats were also found here.

The writing and drawing area usually focused on an activity related to the current unit of study, and would include key-word cards, sentence strips, charts, paper and envelopes of various size and shape, markers, pencils, and crayons. Also found in this area were children's personal word lists, stimulating materials, and live animals, all designed to provide concrete, hands-on experiences to encourage language development, writing, and thinking. Aquariums, terrariums, and cages of many different species of plants and animals were also located on shelves and countertops throughout the room.







68


The math area centered around a small rectangular table and included manipulatives and games. The materials were located on a child-accessible shelf and always available for use.

The back door opened to a 8'x15' covered area where the large hollow blocks were located. This area in turn led to a 20'x15' outside play area which contained a small garden and sandbox. The outside play area was bounded by the classroom on one side, the covered large hollow block area on another, and a 3' serpentine brick wall on the other two sides. All of these inside and outside areas were used regularly by the children during learning center time. This learning center time was from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., Tuesday through Friday and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays.



Educational Practices of the Teacher


During the learning center time the teacher and an

aide were always present. Many times a parent volunteer, a student teacher from the University of Florida, or a high school student was also there.

The teacher's role during this activity time varied depending on the number of assistants she had that day and the kind of activities planned. She may have spent the whole period roaming from activity to activity, observing children and taking advantage of "teachable moments" to work with








69


individuals or groups of children. Specific lessons geared to the needs and interests of the children were carefully planned by the teacher and provided the foundation of the curriculum for the class. The teacher was extremely sensitive to the needs of the children and thus, many learning experiences took place in a meaningful context through spontaneous, indirect instruction. She also directed a cooking, writing, math, or art activity for a group or groups of children or just played with a child in the sandbox or dramatic play area.

The parents, aides, and high school volunteers usually were responsible for either a specific activity (one of the above) or an activity they designed for the children themselves. They read to, played with, or helped the children with specific lessons in math or writing.

The children chose from any of the activities available that day, the only restriction being that each activity was limited to a certain number of children, usually four, at one time. Children could come and go as they wished as long as they obeyed the rule limiting the number of participants and cleaned up before they left an area. Unit blocks, large hollow blocks, the sandbox, dramatic play, the book corner, and some kind of art activity were always available for them to choose from.

A description of the subjects observed and the procedures used for selection of the sample and collection of the data follow.







70


Subjects


The subjects used in this study were members of the

above-mentioned kindergarten class at P.K. Yonge, the laboratory school of the University of Florida in Gainesville. The class was composed of 15 boys, 4 black and 11 white, and 10 girls, 4 black and 6 white, from all three levels of SES: 8 low income, 12 middle income, and 5 high income. The age of the children ranged from five years four months, to six years two months. As is customary at this lab school, children were assigned to classes which are prototypical of Florida's population in terms of race and SES. This classroom was therefore as representative as possible of a typical kindergarten classroom in the State of Florida.

The children were in general rather sophisticated in their block play since they had had the opportunity to play with blocks for over 140 school days before the study began and since most of the children had attended preschools where blocks were available. All of the children had an equal opportunity to play with blocks because the teacher used a learning centers approach in teaching which allowed the children to choose the activity they wanted to do. Most of the activities were limited to four children participating at one time. The unit block and large hollow block areas were two of the learning centers children could choose from since the first day of school.








71


Selection of the Sample and Grouping


The sample was composed of 20 kindergarten children, all 10 girls in the class and 10 of the 15 boys. The subjects were observed while playing with unit blocks and large hollow blocks in assigned groups, composed of two boys and two girls each. The children were assigned by the teacher to one of five of these mixed-sex groups. In an attempt to maintain naturalistic groupings, the group assignment was made on the basis of what the teacher believed would be the child's probable choice of playmates. The teacher based her decision on her own observations in addition to an earlier questionnaire in which she asked the name of the child's best friend and "who else you would like to play with?"

The best friend and fifth choice (if named) were discarded in an attempt to eliminate those who were too close emotionally or were possibly questionable as really desirable playmates. This procedure hopefully reduced the chances for interpersonal "powerplays" between very close friends or the social uncomfortableness that may occur between less familiar classmates.

This assignment strategy was used in an attempt to make the groups less artificial and contrived than if this relatively small number of subjects had been randomly assigned to groups. The choice of four as the size of each group was decided upon because. (1) this was the number of children







72


that were allowed to play in both the unit and large hollow block areas at one time and (2) observations by the teacher in November and December, 1981, revealed that two boys and two girls commonly played together in both block areas.

Since one of the questions this study investigated was differences between boys' and girls' social behavior and social participation as they played with blocks, it was necessary to have an equal number of children from both sexes in each group. This ensured that the group composition by sex would not affect the observed behavior of the individual children.

Although the researcher was extremely concerned about investigating in a "naturalistic setting" (Bott, 1982; Bronfenbrenner, 1979), he also felt it was more important to observe the social behavior and social participation of those children w;ho played with blocks infrequently. By assigning both boys and girls to groups and by controlling their choice of activity within the context of their normal "learning center time," it allowed the researcher to observe those children who used blocks infrequently as well as the frequent- and non-users of blocks.



Procedure for Observation


The children were observed for a total of 60 minutes

per child, 30 minutes for each type of blocks, using a timesampling technique similar to the one used by Smith and







73


Connolly (1972). Every child was observed on eight different occasions for 7 1/2 minutes per occasion, four times with unit blocks and four times with large hollow blocks. On each of these eight occasions two observers, the researcher and a trained graduate student, made observations. Each observed the social behavior of one child for a 15-second period, recorded the observed behavior on the checklist then observed another child for 15 seconds. After recording that child's behavior, the observer then observed the first child again for 15 seconds and recorded the behavior exhibited by him/her for that 15-second period. Both observers continued this procedure of alternating 15-second observations until 7 1/2 minutes of data were coded for each child. Each observation session lasted about 30 minutes.

These observations were made during the 8:30 a.m. 10:10 a.m. learning center time Tuesday through Friday or between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday over the seven week period from April 17 to June 2, 1982. An attempt was made to alternate observations of the groups' use of the two types of blocks. No groups were observed more than once a day or twice each week. The researcher drew lots to decide which group was observed first with unit blocks and which group was observed first with large hollow blocks.

The two observers sat in chairs close enough to the

block areas in order to have an unobstructed view of the children and to be able to hear their speech and vocalizations







74


as clearly as possible. One can never discount the effect of an observer on the behavior of the children (Blurton Jones, 1967), therefore each observer attempted to follow the suggestions set forth by McGrew (1972). McGrew suggested that the observers should not intentionally "initiate interaction" with the children nor should they become "totally detached" or "withdrawn" or what he termed "unnaturally wooden," but should instead "attempt to compromise" by not initiating the social contact with children. If a child initiated social interaction with the observer, however, he/she did not refuse, but rather tried to terminate it "as gracefully as possible." In addition, both observers spent several weeks prior to the beginning of the study observing in the classroom so the children would become familiar with them and their role as "unresponsive" adult visitors. It should also be mentioned that adult visitors and student observers were quite common in this particular classroom.

The observed behavior was recorded on a checklist developed by the researcher. A compilation of the social behavior of preschool children observed by Appleton (1980), Blurton Jones (1967, 1972b), Leach (1972), McGrew (1972), Parten (1932), and Smith and Connolly (1972) during freeplay was included on this checklist. The potential for these behaviors occurring in the context of kindergartners' block play was substantiated by the researcher during frequent








75


observations of kindergarten children playing with large hollow and unit blocks, made in late 1981 and early 1982. In addition, the researcher has expanded the units of behavior in the "speech" categories of Leach (1972) and Smith and Connolly (1972) to include units of verbal behavior observed during the above-mentioned observations of the block play of kindergarten boys and girls.



Inter-Observer Agreement

The mean inter-observer agreement on all categories of this checklist was 76.5% for unit blocks and 81.5% for large hollow blocks between two independent judges, the author and a graduate student assistant. The agreement ranged from 71% to 86.5% for unit blocks and 75.5% to 87% for large hollow blocks. The calculations were based on the number of agreements divided by the total of the greatest number of behaviors scored by one observer for each 15-second period.

Two agreement checks were made for each type of blocks before the coding began. Additionally, six more agreement checks with unit blocks and four more checks with large hollow blocks were made during the study.

In order to collect data in an accurate, objective, and consistent manner an observational technique appropriate for the setting, the situation, and the questions posed by this study had to be found. The following section describes the choice of observation techniques and the reason for this choice.








76


The Time-Sampling Technique

The time-sampling technique was chosen as the most appropriate method of data collection for observing the social behavior and social participation of kindergarten children during block play. According to Vasta (1979) the timesampling technique is:

the most advanced and most sophisticated of
our current observational approaches. It objectifies human observational procedure
more than any other method, more importantly, it permits an accurate assessment of the reliability of the observations. (p. 173)


Besides bringing objectivity and reliability to the observational procedure, another advantage of the time-sampling technique is that, used in conjunction with ethological methodology, it "allows a comparison of measures of behavior frequency, obviously defined, for different individuals and different settings" (Smith & Connolly, 1972, p. 70).

Leach (1972) maintained that using a time-sampling technique with the predetermined behaviors listed on a checklist has certain advantages: (1) "It should provide a more consistent record because the items being recorded are constantly before one's eyes; and (2) the data are recorded in a form which is easy to analyze" (p. 250). However, as Leach pointed out, a checklist does have three limitations:

(1) it is somewhat inflexible--since a complete list of the behaviors to be recorded is listed in advance, (2) it must








77


be relatively brief, so as not to become unwieldy, and (3) it doesn't readily allow for recording the sequence of behavior.

The checklist to record the behaviors observed during the 15-second time intervals was designed by the researcher to reduce the limitations cited by Leach. A space was provided on the checklist, marked Other Behavior, to record any unlisted social behavior that might occur during each 15second period. Although having the predetermined units of behavior listed right in front of the observer is certain to influence his/her coding behavior; providing the opportunity to record behavior not listed on the checklist gives it more flexibility. Leach is certainly correct in pointing out that a checklist should be somewhat brief; however, as explained in greater detail below, the researcher's checklist was designed with the smaller units of behavior listed under more global behavioral categories in order to aid the observers and simplify the recording procedure. The major weakness of the researcher's checklist and the time-sampling technique is that it does not allow for recording the sequence of behavior.

In deciding on an observational technique, all of the above factors were carefully weighed by the researcher. The use of the time-sampling technique and a checklist to record the observed behavior was deemed to be the most appropriate method for observing and recording the social behavior of








78


kindergarten children because of the objectivity, consistency, and accuracy that characterize this observational procedure. The choice of 15 seconds as the length of time interval will be discussed below.


Length of the Time Interval

The choice of the 15-second time intervals was primarily based on the following guidelines set forth by Hutt and Hutt (1970): (1) "how often the sampling is done will depend on how rapidly the changes in behavior occur" (p. 68), (2) in general, the smaller the time sample, the more representative the sampling, (3) fractions of a minute (10, 15, 20, or 30 seconds) are preferable in terms of computational ease, and (4) although the more frequent the sampling the more comprehensive and reliable the record, a large number of categories requires the frequency to be reduced.

Taking Hutt and Hutt's first quideline into consideration, it should be noted that many of the units of social behavior listed on the researcher's checklist (for example, Hit/Push, Give, Smile), occur very quickly and change rappidly within a few seconds. A child may hit and push, then grab another child's block within a three-second period of time.

Using Hutt and Hutt's second, third, and fourth ouidelines, a 15-second--as opposed to a 10-second--time interval was chosen because of the moderately large number of








79


behaviors listed. Larger time intervals (20 or 30 seconds) were not selected because, although the number of specific units of social behavior on this checklist are fairly large, the chances of more than one unit of social behavior in the Facial Expressions and Vocalizations and Level of Social Participation categories occurring during any 15-second period was highly unlikely. Hence, by grouping the specific units of social behavior under the four major behavioral categories (Action Behavior, Verbal Behavior, and Facial Expression and Vocalizations, and Levels of Social Participation), the list of predetermined behaviors was organized in such a manner so as to reduce the problems involved in

scanning the large number of behavioral categories found in a checklist of comparable length.

Gottfried and Seay (1973), in a direct observational study of peer-social and object-directed behavior of preschool children, recorded the occurrence of social and object-directed behavior once during each 15-second interval. Their checklist contained many of the same social behaviors the researcher included on his checklist (i.e., "hit," "touch," "smile," "frown," "vocalize," "verbalize"), adding support for the use of a 15-second time interval for observing the social behavior of young children.

For the purpose of studying the social and cognitive play behavior of preschool children, Johnson, Ershler, and Bell (1980) defined a "play episode" as being a "unit of








80


observation of at least 15-seconds duration with only one type of social/cognitive play occurring" (p. 272). Their definition of "play episode" upholds the use of a 15-second time interval as an appropriate length of time to determine the observed child's level of social participation (social play), whereas a 10-second interval may not be enough time to reveal the particular level of social participation in which the child is engaged.

In summary, the 15-second time interval was selected

because it was deemed the smallest unit of time (Hutt & Hutt, 1970) appropriate for the observation of social behavior (Gottfried & Seay, 1973) and social participation (Johnson et al., 1980) of young children. Also, the fact that a minute can easily be divided into 15-second periods makes this time length preferable in terms of computational ease (Hutt & Hutt, 1970).

The following section will discuss the method of observing social participation and further define this term and the behaviors associated with it.


Observation of Social Participation and Block Area
Participation

In addition to recording the units of social behavior, the observers also recorded the children's level of social participation and block area participation. All levels of social participation except Inside Structure were adapted from those developed by Parten (1932) and used by Smith and








81


Connolly (1972). The block area participation variable (Not Present) was utilized bv the researcher to measure the amount of time the children spent in each block area. The procedure used to score these two categories is outlined below.

During each 15-second period the target child's play behavior was scored by codina it either as Group, Parallel, Solitary, Onlooker, Unoccupied, or Inside Structure. For example, if the target child was a girl building a house by herself with blocks while the other three children were building a road, and she showed no observable interest in the others or in their structure, she was scored for Solitary play during that 15-second period. If the next target child happened to be a boy playing next to, but not interacting with, the other two children and all were building a road, he was scored as participating in Parallel play for that 15-second period. Inside Structure was scored only during large hollow block play when a child could not be seen because he/she was inside a block structure.

Not Present, was coded if: (1) the child left the block area before 10 seconds of the 15-second period had elapsed,

(2) the child was not in the block area during the 15-second period in which that child was scheduled to be observed, or

(3) the child was not present and did not appear before the first 5 seconds of the scheduled 15-second coding period had elapsed. The child had to be engaged in play or non-play








82


behavior at one of these social levels of participation for a period of 10 seconds before the observer scored him/her at a level of social participation.

Inside Structure is a category developed by the researcher for observing children in one specific activity area, the block corner. Parten did not need this category since she observed the children in the context of the entire preschool classroom. Parten's associative and cooperative play categories were collapsed into Group play because previous studies (Johnson & Ershler, 1981; Johnson et al., 1980; Rubin, Watson, & Jambor, 1978; Smith & Connolly, 1972) reported observers had a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between the associative and cooperative play behaviors and thus interobserver agreement was very low for these two categories. Solitary and Parallel play were redefined to fit the block play situation while Unoccupied and Onlooker, also taken from Parten's (1932) study, were used as redefined by Smith and Connolly (1972). More detailed definitions of the levels of social participation follow.




Definitions of Levels of Social Participation


Unoccupied is recorded when the child is engaged in minimal activity, either physically or socially, such as







83


standing around, talking softly to self, looking around the room, sucking fingers, or doing some simple, repetitious, non-essential task unrelated to the activity of the other children in the block area. The Unoccupied child does not interact with the other children or take part in the play behavior of these children.

Onlooker is recorded when the child watches others

play, follows them around the block area, or stands or sits within speaking distance so that he/she can easily see and hear what is taking place. The child may talk to the children whom he/she is observing, ask questions, or give suggestions but does not overtly enter into the play of the others.

Solitary is recorded when the child plays alone and independently. There is no interaction with or interest in other children or with their block structures or designs; the child makes no effort to keep close to or speak to other children. The child's interest is centered on his/her own behavior which is pursued without reference to what others are doing. If the child is building a structure or making a pattern or design with blocks, it is different than what the others are doing and there is no evidence that he/she was influenced by the other children's block-building behavior.

Parallel is recorded when the child plays independently but the behavior chosen naturally brings the child among







84


other children. The child does not attempt to influence the behavior of nearby children but exhibits an interest in what the nearby children are doing, exemplified by occasional glances and similarity of block structure or building technique. The child plays beside, rather than with, other children.

Group is recorded when the child plays with other children, interacting with them. Interactions here include conversation, borrowing or sharing blocks or accessories, following or chasing one another in the block area, physical contact, building a structure together, and organized play involving different roles.

Inside Structure is recorded when the child climbs inside a block structure and cannot be seen by the observer. This only occurs during play with large hollow blocks.



Definition of Block Area Participation


Not Present is recorded when: (1) the child is not in the block area during any part of the 15-second time interval for which the child is scheduled to be observed, (2) the child leaves the block area before 10 seconds of the 15-second time interval have elapsed, or (3) the child is not present in the block area and does not appear before the first

5 seconds of the scheduled 15-second time interval have elapsed.








85


Definitions of the Units of Social Behavior


As mentioned earlier, many of these definitions were taken from the ethological studies of the social behavior of preschool children. The source for each definition is cited after each unit of social behavior is defined. Where no source is cited, the unit of behavior has been defined by the researcher.

The specific units of social behavior are listed under three major behavioral categories (Action Behavior, Verbal Behavior, and Facial Expressions and Vocalizations) for organizational ease in coding and analyzing the data.


Verbal Behavior

Accept is recorded when the child verbally agrees with a comment or suggestion of another child.

Announce is recorded when the child verbally makes known to others what he/she is about to do or has done.

Apologize is recorded when the child verbally acknowledges regret for a fault, injury, or insult to another.

Ask/Offer/Suggest is recorded when the child utters a string of words, usually with a rising inflection (i.e. asking a question, "May I have that block?"), when the child verbally volunteers aid to help solve a problem, or when the child volunteers ideas for the use of blocks or accessories.








86


Blame/Complain/Condemn is recorded when the child verbally accuses another child, verbally expresses discontent, or verbally declares another child's action or block structure as being substandard.

Comfort/Praise is recorded when the child verbally consoles another child or verbally commends or applauds the actions of another child.

Command is recorded when the child utters a string of words conveying an order, spoken emphatically and usually rather loudly (Leach, 1972).

Refuse/Deny/Negate is recorded when the child verbally attempts to stop another child entering the group or playing with the blocks or accessories.

Talk is a blanket term that is recorded when the child utters one or more recognizable words obviously aimed at communicating with another child but not including Ask/Offer/ Suggest, Call for Teacher, Comfort/Praise, Command, Refuse/ Deny/Negate, and Thank.

Threat is recorded when the child verbally expresses the intention to: (1) inflict injury to another child,

(2) damage another child's block structure, or (3) tattle to the teacher.


Action Behavior

Give is recorded when an object, held in the child's hand or hands, is held out for another person to grasp and







87


is then released; when an object is placed on another child's lap (Leach, 1972); or, in the case of large hollow blocks, when an object is placed at another's feet.

Fight is recorded when the child engages in repeated pushing or pulling or exchanges several blows with another child.

Help is recorded when the child assists another to perform some manipulative game or task by a complex array of actions (showing, taking from and doing for, giving, arranging blocks or other small objects), often accompanied by verbal instructions as well (Leach, 1972).

Hit at is recorded when the child attempts to strike

another child in an agonistic context but does not make contact with the attempted blow.

Hit/Push is recorded when the child strikes another

child in an agonistic context or when a child repels another child by flexing the arm(s) and then extending it.

Imitate/Take Turns is recorded when the child copies

the behavior of another child or alternates using the blocks, using a block structure, or portraying a fantasy role in a play situation.

Receive is recorded when the child holds out his/her hands in order to grasp an object which is being given by someone. It involves coordinated movements with the giver (Leach, 1972).








88


Reject is recorded when the child physically (not

verbally) refuses physical contact or an object held out by another child.

Rough and Tumble is recorded when the child engages in

non-agonistic physical roughhousing with another child such as a play fight.

Take/Tug/Pull is recorded when the child either grabs an object from someone's hands (or an object that child is

obviously using) when they have not held it out towards the subject or when the child is holding and attempting to draw toward him- or herself an object which another is holding.

Throw is recorded when the child has an object in its

grasp; the arm is flexed and then abruptly extended, and the object is released.

Touch is recorded when the child places one hand on another child's body, without grasping it. The hand may be placed just for a moment, or it may be rested on the person

for a long period (up to a minute) (Leach, 1972).


Facial Expressions and Vocalizations

Cry/Scream is recorded when the child vocalizes in a repeated, usually low-pitched manner ("waah," "aaah-hah") or vocalizes in a single or repeated high-pitched manner, excluding squeals occurring in a play context (Smith & Connolly, 1972).







89


Frown is recorded when the child's brows are drawn down at center, making vertical creases in the forehead while the eyes are usually well open (Leach, 1972).

Laugh is recorded when the child exhibits open-mouthed smile together with audible vocalization (rapid or staccato expulsions of breath) (Smith & Connolly, 1972).

Playnoise is recorded when the child vocally imitates such things as machines: shooting, planes, rockets, trains, car. It is a "blanket term" to cover a range of noises used by the child during play. Stereotyped chants, such as "I am a dalek, I am a dalek," also come under this heading (Leach, 1972).

Pout is recorded when the child protrudes the lips and squints the eyes in a gesture of obvious displeasure.

Smile is recorded when the corners of the mouth are

withdrawn and turned upwards. No distinction is made as to mouth open or closed, teeth visible or not. No audible vocalization (Smith & Connolly, 1972).



Definitions of Teacher-Directed Behavior and
Teacher Intervention Behavior


The teacher may be an influence on children's social behavior. If a child has a problem, one possible solution is to appeal to the teacher for help. The two teacherdirected behavior variables were included in the observation







90


checklist so this type of behavior could be recorded. Similarly, a teacher may notice a problem in a play area and intervene to prevent a potential disruption. Because teacher intervention may be related to the content of the play or to potentially unacceptable behavior, two teacher intervention behavior variables were included. These four variables are defined below.

Call Teacher is recorded when the child verbally

requests or demands that the teacher give help to or aid the child in some way.

Get Teacher is recorded when the child leaves the block area to go after the teacher.

Teacher-Behavior is recorded when the teacher intervenes in the group because of what she considers unacceptable behavior by the child(ren).

Teacher-Content is recorded when the teacher intervenes to comment on or ask questions about the children's block structures or their play activities.



Description of Observational Checklist


An example of the checklist used by the author is presented in Appendix A. This example represents one 15-second time interval. One check mark is made in the appropriate box if the behavior occurs one or more times during that 15second period. The author reduced this format so that four







91


of these checklists could be included on one page. Each observer then alternately recorded two 15-second time intervals before turning to a new page.



Summary


The use of vague definitions of social behavior and inconsistent observation procedures made the findings of earlier studies investigating the relationship between play materials and social behavior hard to interpret and difficult to replicate. The present study was designed with these weaknesses in mind, in order to supplement the findings from these other studies.

Bronfenbrenner (1979) believed it necessary to observe children in a naturalistic environment to gain a better understanding of the nature and function of their behavior. An ethological approach to studying the social behavior of kindergarten children during block play was deemed the most appropriate methodology for this study because it utilizes direct observation in a naturalistic setting and because of the particular importance ethologists place on the precise definition of the social behaviors to be studied.

The time-sampling technique, described by Vasta (1979) as "the most advanced and sophisticated of our current observational approaches" (p. 173) was used for data collection because it provides an accurate, consistent, and




Full Text
OTHER BEHAVIOR:
Child
Date
Time
Observer
Large Hollow Blocks Unit Blocks
SOCIAL AND BLOCK AREA PARTICIPATION
SOLITARY
ONLOOKER
PARALLEL
UNOCCUPIED
GROUP
NOT PRESENT
INSIDE
STRUCTURE
VERBAL
COMMAND
ASK/OFFER/
SUGGEST
BLAME/COMPLAIN/
CONDEMN
APOLOGIZE
REFUSE/DENY/
NEGATE
ACCEPT.
TALK
ANNOUNCE
THREAT
COMFORT/PRAISE
ACTION
HIT AT
HELP
HIT/PUSH
TOUCH
FIGHT
ROUGH AND
TUMBLE
REJECT
RECEIVE
TAKE/TUG/
PULL
GIVE
THROW
IMITATE/
TAKE TURNS
FACIAL EXPRESSIONS AND VOCALIZATIONS
CRY/SCREAM
LAUGH
FROWN
SMILE
POUT
PLAYNOISE
TEACHER-DIRECTED
AND
TEACHER INTERVENTION
CALL TEACHER
GET TEACHER
TEACHER-BEHAVIOR
TEACHER-CONTENT
144


19
for large group activities (it was common practice at that
time in the Los Angeles Public Schools to have 25 to 30 chil
dren simultaneously playing with blocks) and not their dis
like of blocks per se.
Blocks were of intermediate rank among children's pref
erence in play materials according to Cockrell (1935) Cock
rell observed six "professional class" two- and three-year-
old children, three males and three females, in a laboratory
situation with no adult present. The children were observed
through a one-way mirror individually and in pairs with each
of the following: (1) combined materials, (2) clay and cray
ons, (3) pictures and books, (4) blocks, (5) housekeeping ma
terials, and (6) only a table and two chairs in the otherwise
bare room. The children could terminate the session them
selves. The materials were ranked in terms of interest, or
"holding power," which was measured by the length of time
the children voluntarily remained in the observation room.
Combined materials, clay and crayons, pictures and books all
ranked ahead of blocks, housekeeping, and bare room in that
order.
Vlietstra (1978) presented 10 male and 10 female four-
year-old middle-SES children and 20 college students with
boxes containing "incongruous" animal pictures and Bristle
Blocks. Both groups spent more time playing with the blocks
than looking at the pictures during three 10-minute sessions
on different days.


Dependent
Variable
BoysLarge Hollow
BoysUnit
Tj T3
GirlsLarge Hollow
T1 T2 T3 T)
GirlsUnit
Grand
Mean
Get Teacher
X
SD
0.20
0.27
0.30
0.45
0.10
0.22
0.10
0.22
0.50
0.50
0.00
0.00
0.30
0.67
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.20
0.45
0.20
0.27
0.20
0.45
0.20
0.45
0.00
0.00
0.20
0.27
0.20
Teacher-
0.30 0.00
0.67 0.00
0.10
0.22
0.20
0.27
0.00
0.00
0.20
0.45
0.30
0.67
0.00
0.00
0.30
0.45
0.60
0.65
0.20
0.27
0.00
0.00
0.40
0.42
0.00
0.00
0.40
0.89
0.20
0.27
TeacherContent
0.80
1.10
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.20
0.45
0.20
0.45
0.80
1.25
1.10
1.52
0.70
0.67
2.00 0.40 0.80
2.26 0.42 1.15
*Tj = First Observation
T2 Second Observation
T3 = Third Observation
T4 = Fourth Observation
**X = Cell Means
SD = Standard Deviation
150


87
is then released; when an object is placed on another
child's lap (Leach, 1972); or, in the case of large hollow
blocks, when an object is placed at another's feet.
Fight is recorded when the child engages in repeated
pushing or pulling or exchanges several blows with another
chiId.
Help is recorded when the child assists another to per
forin some manipulative game or task by a complex array of
actions (showing, taking from and doing for, giving, arrang
ing blocks or other small objects), often accompanied by ver
bal instructions as well (Leach, 1972).
Hit at is recorded when the child attempts to strike
another child in an agonistic context but does not make con
tact with the attempted blow.
Hit/Push is recorded when the child strikes another
child in an agonistic context or when a child repels another
child by flexing the arm(s) and then extending it.
Imitate/Take Turns is recorded when the child copies
the behavior of another child or alternates using the blocks
using a block structure, or portraying a fantasy role in a
play situation.
Receive is recorded when the child holds out his/her
hands in order to grasp an object which is being given by
someone. It involves coordinated movements with the giver
(Leach, 1972).


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Dependent BoysLarge Hollow BoysUnit GirlsLarge Hollow GirlsUnit Grand
Variable T. T, T, T. T. T, T, T. T, T. T, T. T, T. T, T. Mean
1 J 4 1234 1234 1234
Ask/Offer/Suggest
Blame/Complain/
Condemn
Comfort/Praise
0.00
0.00
7.40
2.13
1.20
0.27
0.20
0.27
0.00
0.00
9.80
3.75
2.10
1.56
0.10
0.22
0.10 0.20
0.22 0.27
6.00 10.10
3.12 3.31
1.70
1.92
0.00
0.00
0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.10 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.03
0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.22 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2.50 3.90 4.40 7.60 6.90 8.10 6.50 8.10 5.50 8.90 5.40 4.70 6.63
1.27 4.71 1.43 5.77 6.78 2.61 3.39 5.41 6.60 5.98 5.35 3.53
1.50
0.87
0.10
0.22
1.60
1.81
0.00
0.00
0.20
0.27
1.50
0.94
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
2.30 1.60 1.20 1.50 1.90 1.10 1.10 0.80
2.11 1.64 1.44 1.12 2.86 1.19 0.65 1.09
0.00 0.30 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.10 0.00 0.00 0.69
0.00 0.27 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.22 0.00 0.00
1.60
1.88
1.20 1.70
0.76 1.30
0.60
0.82
0.70
0.57
0.80 0.70 1.30 1.90 0.20 0.50 0.80 0.50 0.96
0.67 0.84 1.15 1.67 0.45 0.50 1.04 0.61
1.30
1.60
1.90
1.02
1.70
1.44
0.60
0.65
1.10
0.82
0.90
0.74
2.20 1.40 2.10 2.40 0.80 1.50 1.00 1.20
1.52 0.42 0.96 1.95 0.97 1.46 0.79 0.67
5.40
3.94
3.10 4.10
3.31 4.08
2.50
2.67
4.00
3.98
3.30 5.20 5.00 3.30 0.90 2.90 2.70 1.60 3.24
3.53 4.75 5.16 3.85 0.41 3.78 1.60 0.89
0.40
0.65
0.40 0.30
0.42 0.27
0.30
0.45
0.20
0.27
0.40 0.20 0.40 0.30 0.00 0.40 0.20 0.30 0.31
0.65 0.45 0.42 0.44 0.00 0.42 0.27 0.45
1.70
2.16
0.80
1.04
1.20 0.40
0.76 0.55
0.90
1.34
0.20
0.27
1.70 1.10 1.10 1.60 0.50 0.30 0.60 0.80 0.90 0.60 0.90
1.72 1.08 1.19 1.29 0.50 0.27 0.55 0.76 0.89 1.08
147


26
Table 1. Summary of Studies Which Investigated Young Children's
Preference for Blocks
Investi- Date Subjects
gators
of
Study
n
m
f
age
race
SES
Bott
1928
9
-
-
2 to 6


Hulson
1930
10
-
-
4


Farwell
1930
271
125
246
5 to 7


Van Al-
styne
1932
112
54
58
2 to 5 black, white,
"2nd gen. imm."
low, middle,
high
Parten
1933
34
19
15
2 to 4

low, middle,
high
Vance &
McCall
1934
32
15
17
. 1 ,1
32 t0 6I

"profession
al & business
classes"
Cockrell
1935
6
3
3
2 to 3
"profes
sional
class"
Hartley,
Frank, &
Goldenson
1952
217
-
-
2^ to 5-j
"varied cul
tures &
material
backgrounds"

Margolin
& Letn
1961
200
100
100
4 to 4

low, middle,
high


36
In accordance with Parten's (1932, 1933) findings, all
levels of social play occurred in almost equal frequency
during an investigation of the block play of five-year-olds
conducted by Massey (1970). Each of the 32 kindergarten
children, 16 middle-class white males and 16 females, par
ticipated in three separate 20-minute sessions in a labora
tory observation room: (1) alone, (2) one boy and one girl,
and (3) two boys and two girls. The children were asked to
build a structure and were left alone and videotaped for 15
minutes. They were then presented with accessory items and
left to build for five more minutes. Unit blocks in quan
tities of 90, 180 and 280 were present in the room for one,
two, and four children, respectively. Photographs of the
structures were taken after the session ended and the fre
quency of behaviors was recorded by a trained observer from
the videotaped sessions.
Bender (1978), while investigating the large block play
of six four-year-olds for a period of eight months, also ob
served parallel, cooperative, and solitary levels of play
when 70 large hollow blocks were used. However, the chil
dren engaged in only solitary and parallel play when the
number of blocks was reduced to 20.
"Intimate social arrangements of small clusters" and
solitary play were observed by Kinsman and Berk (1979) dur
ing the housekeeping and block activity time of 37 middle-
class white preschool and kindergarten children aged three


23
the experimenters were showing a picture of something they
had already seen.
At first glance, Vlietstra's (1978) findings would ap
pear to support the findings of the naturalistic observa
tional studies that indicate young children generally pre
fer blocks to other play materials. However, because this
study used Bristle Blocks, which differ greatly in form and
function from both unit and large hollow blocks, the use of
Vlietstra's findings as support for the preference of blocks
by young children may be somewhat tenuous.
The findings of Vlietstra and Cockrell (1935), are weak
ened by the fact the children were observed alone (for part
of Cockrell's study), in a laboratory setting, and not with
other children in their own classroom. Cockrell's results
might also be questioned not simply because blocks were not
ranked higher, but because housekeeping, rated extremely
high by most of the naturalistic observational studies, was
ranked fifth out of six. The ages of the six children ob
served in Cockrell's study, two- and three-year-olds, may
also have affected their choice of materials.
In examining those studies where some or all of the
subjects were kindergarten children the following conclu
sions can be reached. The naturalistic observational stud
ies indicate that: (1) blocks are the number one choice of
kindergartners (Hartley et al., 1952; Van Alstyne, 1932);
(2) middle-class kindergarten boys and girls prefer blocks


73
Connolly (1972). Every child was observed on eight differ
ent occasions for 7 1/2 minutes per occasion, four times
with unit blocks and four times with large hollow blocks.
On each of these eight occasions two observers, the re
searcher and a trained graduate student, made observations.
Each observed the social behavior of one child for a 15-sec
ond period, recorded the observed behavior on the checklist
then observed another child for 15 seconds. After recording
that child's behavior, the observer then observed the first
child again for 15 seconds and recorded the behavior exhib
ited by him/her for that 15-second period. Both observers
continued this procedure of alternating 15-second observa
tions until 7 1/2 minutes of data were coded for each child.
Each observation session lasted about 30 minutes.
These observations were made during the 8:30 a.m. -
10:10 a.m. learning center time Tuesday through Friday or
between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday
over the seven week period from April 17 to June 2, 1982.
An attempt was made to alternate observations of the groups'
use of the two types of blocks. No groups were observed
more than once a day or twice each week. The researcher drew
lots to decide which group was observed first with unit blocks
and which group was observed first with large hollow blocks.
The two observers sat in chairs close enough to the
block areas in order to have an unobstructed view of the chil
dren and to be able to hear their speech and vocalizations


38
(1969) Kinsman and Berk (1979) Massey (1970), and Parten
(1933) all observed cooperative play while children were
playing with blocks. Large hollow blocks were present in
the large muscle room in Vandenberg's (1981) study. An al
ternative explanation for the lack of cooperative play ob
served by Vandenberg is that it may have been a result of
observer error. Johnson and Ershler (1981) and Rubin, Wat
son, and Jambor (1978) were forced to collapse Parten's as
sociative and cooperative categories because of low inter
observer reliability in differentiating between these cate
gories. Furthermore, Clark and others' (1969) and Parten's
(1933) findings would support the lack of cooperative play
in the small muscle room reported by Vandenberg (1981) .
In analyzing the findings of these studies there ap
pears to be agreement on two major issues: (1) The type of
play material has some relationship to the child's level of
social participation. (2) There is the potential for soli
tary, parallel, and cooperative play to occur when young
children use blocks in a preschool or kindergarten setting.
Clark et al. (1969) Parten (1933), and Vandenberg
(1981) all found that children were most likely to be in
volved in either parallel or solitary play when using table
materials like clay, glue, crayons, scissors, and paints,
whereas cooperative play was commonly observed during block
play by Clark et al. (1969) and Kinsman and Berk (1979).
In addition. Bender (1978) observed mostly cooperative social


16
second interval then recorded the behavior of another child.
The observation periods were spread across the school year
and normally lasted about one hour. The findings indi
cated that of 19 preschool activities, blocks ranked first
with boys and ninth with girls. The preference was deter
mined by the amount of time each child spent with a particu
lar material or was involved in a particular activity.
Kinsman and Berk (1979) found that "children preferred
the block area and were observed playing there almost twice
as often as the housekeeping setting" (p. 70). In a univer
sity laboratory school, the 21 boys and 16 girls were aged
three and one-half to six and one-half years. The observer
focused on the block and housekeeping areas, alternating be
tween the two every five minutes and dictating the following
information into a tape recorder every 20 seconds: identity
of each child in the setting, group size and composition,
type of play, location of child's activity, and child's af
fective expression. For six weeks the children were ob
served a total of nine hours a week, four hours in the pre
school and five in the kindergarten. Kinsman and Berk
found no sex differences in the amount of time boys and
girls spent in the block area.
In summary, the naturalistic observational studies ap
pear to indicate that when preschool and kindergarten chil
dren are given the opportunity to choose play materials,
their first or second choice will be blocks (Clark et al.,


139
Green, E.H. Group play and quarrelling among preschool chil
dren. Child Development, 1933, 4, 302-307.
Hartley, R.E., Frank, L.K., & Goldenson, R.M. Understanding
children's play. New York: Columbia University Press,
1952.
Hill, P. Experimental studies in kindergarten education.
New York: Teachers College Press, 1915.
Hirsch, E. The block book. Washington, D.C.: NAEYC, 1974.
Hulson, E.L. An analysis of the freeplay behaviors of ten
four-year-old children through consecutive observations.
The Journal of Juvenile Research, 1930a, 14_, 188-208.
Hulson, E.L. Block constructions of four-year-old children.
The Journal of Juvenile Research, 1930b, _14, 209-222.
Hutt, S.J., & Hutt, C. Direct observation and measurement
of behavior. Springfield, Ill.: Thomas, 1970.
Hymes, J.L. The goals of kindergarten education. In ENKE
(Ed.), Kindergarten education. Washington, D.C.: Amer-
ical Association for Elementary, Kindergarten, and Nurs
ery Educators, 1968.
Issacs, S. Social development in young children. New York:
Schoken Books, 1972.
Johnson, H.M. The art of block building. New York: John
Day Company, 1933.
Johnson, J.E., Ershler, J., & Bell, C. Play behavior in a
discovery-based and formal education preschool program.
Child Development, 1980, 271-274.
Johnson, J.E., & Ershler, J. Developmental trends in pre
school play as a function of classroom program and child
gender. Child Development, 1981, 52, 995-1004.
Kinsman, C.A., & Berk, L.E. Joining the block and house
keeping areas: Changes in play and social behavior.
Young Children, 1979, y5(1) 66-75.
Langlois, J.H., Gottfried, N.W., & Seay, B. The influence
of sex of peer on the social behavior of preschool chil
dren. Developmental Psychology, 1973, 8^ 93-98.
Layman, A.E. Block playAn essential. Elementary School
Journal, 1940, 40, 607-613.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iv
ABSTRACT viii
CHAPTER
I INTRODUCTION
Statement of the Problem .
Definition of Terms
Need for the Study
Limitations to the Study .
Summary
II REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH
Young Children's Preference for Blocks
Play and Social Development .
Relationships Between the Use of
Blocks and Other Selected Materials
and the Social Participation of
Young Children
Relationships Between the Use of
Blocks and Other Selected Materials
and the Social Behavior of Young
Children .
Sex Differences in the Materials
Preference, Social Participation,
and Social Behavior of Young
Children
Summary ...
III METHODOLOGY
Defining Social Behavior .
Naturalistic Observations .
Setting
Educational Practices of the Teacher.
Subjects
Selection of the Sample and Grouping.
Procedure for Observation .
Definitions of Levels of Social
Participation ......
1
2
3
5
9
11
12
12
31
34
41
47
60
62
62
64
65
68
70
71
72
82
v l


UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1262 08554 9961


30
investigate the differences in play behavior when young
children use large hollow blocks as opposed to unit blocks,
because of the availability and popularity of these two
types of blocks in preschools and kindergartens today. A
difference of opinion exists on the effect of sex on the in
terest of children in block play. Bott (1928) and Clark et
al. (1969) found boys to be more interested in blocks than
girls were, while Kinsman and Berk (1979) found no sex dif
ferences in the amount of time boys and girls played with
blocks. Therefore, further study of the differences and
similarities between the block play of boys and girls is
indicated.
What is the significance of understanding the kindergar
ten child's preference for blocks? How will this help one
to become a better kindergarten teacher? Van Alstyne (1932)
aptly answered both of these questions. "Any interpretation
of the results of this study must be based on the assumption
that a child's spontaneous interests are a guide to his ac
tual needs" (p. 84). Children's high interest level in
blocks plus the need to update our knowledge and increase
our understanding of how kindergarten boys and girls play
with unit and large hollow blocks, warrants the further in
vestigation into the behavior of children as they play with
this popular material. Information from this investigation
could aid teachers in making curriculum decisions pertaining
to what type of block play has the potential to best meet
the specific needs of different children.


Table 7. Continued
DV
SV
SS
Action Behavior
Give
Type of Blocks
0.20
Error
1.86
Fight
Type of Blocks
0.00
Error
0.00
Help
Type of Blocks
6.05
Error
4.17
Hit at
Type of Blocks
0.003
Error
0.04
Hit/Push
Type of Blocks
0.25
Error
0.14
Imitate/Take Turns
Type of Blocks
46.51
Error
28.77
Receive
Type of Blocks
0.45
Error
1.39
Reject
Type of Blocks
0.003
Error
0.01
Rough and Tumble
Type of Blocks
0.11
Error
0.20
Take/Tug/Pull
Type of Blocks
0.01
Error
4.27
Throw
Type of Blocks
0.03
Error
1.58
DF
MS
F
P
i
0.20
0.43
0.5480
4
1
0.00
0.00
1.0000
4
0.00
1
6.05
5.81
0.0736
4
1.04
1
0.003
0.29
0.6213
4
0.01
1
0.25
7.36
0.0533
4
0.03
1
46.51
6.47
0.0638
4
7.19
1
0.45
1.29
0.3192
4
0.35
1
0.003
1.00
0.3739
4
0.003
1
0.11
2.25
0.2080
4
0.05
1
1.01
0.95
0.3852
4
1.07
1
0.03
0.07
0.8029
4
0.40
103


110
Table 11. Summary of Time ANOVAs for Unoccupied,
Ask/Offer/Suggest, Comfort/Praise, and
Cry/Scream.
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Unoccupied
Time
1.06
3
0.35
3.58
0.0468
Error
1.19
12
0.10
Ask/Offer/Suggest
Time
88.20
3
29.40
5.43
0.0136
Error
64.96
12
5.41
Comfort/Praise
Time
0.33
3
0.11
4.86
0.0194
Error
0.28
12
0.02
Cry/Scream
Time
0.08
3
0.03
3.69
0.0431
Error
0.08
12
0.01
Table 12.
Time Marginal Means for Unoccupied,
Ask/Offer/Suggest, Comfort/Praise,
and Cry/Scream.
DV
Time 1
Time 2 Time 3
Time 4
Unoccupied
0.50
0.28 0.45
0.23
Ask/Offer/Suggest
5.58
7.68 5.58
7.68
Comfort/Praise
0.05
0.18 0.00
0.05
Cry/Scream
0.30
0.00 0.03
0.00


85
Definitions of the Units of Social Behavior
As mentioned earlier, many of these definitions were
taken from the ethological studies of the social behavior
of preschool children. The source for each definition is
cited after each unit of social behavior is defined. Where
no source is cited, the unit of behavior has been defined by
the researcher.
The specific units of social behavior are listed under
three major behavioral categories (Action Behavior, Verbal
Behavior, and Facial Expressions and Vocalizations) for or
ganizational ease in coding and analyzing the data.
Verbal Behavior
Accept is recorded when the child verbally agrees with
a comment or suggestion of another child.
Announce is recorded when the child verbally makes
known to others what he/she is about to do or has done.
Apologize is recorded when the child verbally acknowl
edges regret for a fault, injury, or insult to another.
Ask/Offer/Suggest is recorded when the child utters a
string of words, usually with a rising inflection (i.e. ask
ing a question, "May I have that block?"), when the child
verbally volunteers aid to help solve a problem, or when
the child volunteers ideas for the use of blocks or acces
sories .


53
observations are taken with short-time intervals in between
then what the subject is doing at the time of observation
will be affected by what he was doing on the previous obser
vation. Multiple-scan sampling was used to reduce this dif
ficulty and thus increase the chances for independent sam
ples. However, a weakness of this methodology is the short
intervals of time (five seconds) that children are observed
to determine their level of social participation. Johnson,
Ershler, and Bell (1980) defined a cognitive/social play
"episode" as "a unit of observation of at least 15-second
duration with only one type of cognitive/social play occur
ring" (p. 272). Although Roper and Hinde (1978) were re
cording only social play (social participation), five seconds
would appear to be too little time to determine a child's
level of social participation.
Vandenberg (1981) found no sex differences in the lev
els of social participation of 15 male and 13 female three-
to five-year-old children using the "large muscle" room and
the "fine motor" room in preschool. Both girls and boys were
likely to participate in solitary and parallel play in the
"fine motor" room and to participate in associative play
(defined by Parten, 1932) in the "large muscle" room.
Roper and Hinde (1978) reported that three- to five-
year-old girls were more likely to be involved in parallel
than group play while the opposite was found to be true for
boys of the same age. Moore et al. (1974) and Vandenberg


10
social development was not examined. However, in an effort
to control for the above-mentioned variables, this study
was designed to compare each child's social behavior occur
ring during unit block play to the social behavior of that
same child occurring during large hollow block play. A
thorough description of the classroom setting and the edu
cational practices of the teacher, in addition to the de
tailed demographic information pertaining to the children,
is included in Chapter III to provide information for the
interpretation of the results of this investigation.
An observation checklist was used in the collection of
data. A checklist has the advantage of providing a more
consistent record than other observational techniques and
the checklist format reduces the chance of errors during
analysis. The use of a checklist, however, may limit the
findings because of its brevity and relative inflexibility.
The presence of two observers may have affected the
children's behavior. However, observers are very common in
this classroom and probably had little effect on the chil
dren 's behavior.
Finally, the size and composition of the groups play
ing with the blocks may have had an impact on the behavior
of the children. The group selection process was carefully
planned in an attempt to control these confounding variables.
Total control over these variables was impossible and fur
ther research is needed to study the effect of both group


REFERENCES
Appleton, P.L. A factor analytic study of behavior group
ings in young children. Ethology and Sociobiology,
1980, 1, 93-97.
Beeson, B.S., & Williams, R.A. A study of sex stereotyping
in child-selected play activities of preschool chil
dren^ Muncie, Indiana: Ball State University, 1979.
(ERIC Document Service No. 186-102)
Bender, J. Large hollow blocks: Relationship of quantity
to block building behaviors. Young Children, 1978, 33
(6), 17-23.
Benish, J. Blocks: Essential equipment for young children.
Charleston, W.V.: West Virginia State Department of
Education, 1978. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service
No. 165 901)
Blackwell, J. The kindergarten concept: A necessary com
ponent of the educational system. Reading Improvement,
1980, 3/7(1), 6-9.
Blurton Jones, N. An ethological study of some aspects of
social behavior of children in nursery school. In D.
Morris (Ed.), Primate Ethology. Chicago: Aldine, 1967.
Blurton Jones, N. Characteristics of ethological studies of
child behavior. In N. Blurton Jones (Ed.), Ethological
studies of child behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni
versity Press, 1972a.
Blurton Jones, N. Categories of child-child interaction.
In N. Blurton Jones (Ed.), Ethological studies of child
behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1972b.
Bott, H. Observation of play activities in a nursery school.
Genetic Psychology Monographs, 1928, £, 44-88.
Brenner, M. The effects of sex, structure, and social inter
action on preschoolers' make-believe in a naturalistic
settingI Urbana-Champaign, Ill.: University of Illi
nois, 1976. (ERIC Document Service No. 128 103)
137


This dissertation is dedicated to
my family
Amy, Gail, and Nora.


122
Discussion
The findings from this study indicate that kinder
garten children engaged in a great range of social behavior
and in all levels of social participation during large
hollow and unit block play. Large hollow blocks were pre
ferred over unit blocks when time spent in the block area
was used to measure children's preference.
These results also revealed children engaged in
solitary, parallel, and group play with both types of blocks.
They were more likely to participate in group play with
large hollow blocks but unit blocks offered a greater
opportunity for solitary and parallel play. Several social
behavior variables (Accept, Apologize, Ask/Offer/Suggest,
Refuse/Deny/Negate, Talk, Smile) occurred significantly
more often during large hollow block play. This was
probably because 1) children spent more time playing
with large hollow blocks and 2) the greater occurrence
of group play with large hollow blocks increased the
likelihood of certain social behaviors occurring more
frequently.
Discussion of Levels of Social Participation
The results from this study appear to indicate that
one might expect group play to occur frequently with large
hollow blocks. Dnit blocks may provide children with the


94
Findings
The presentation of findings which follows includes
four major sections. The first section analyzes the six
social participation, one block area participation vari
able, and 28 social behavior variables comparing differ
ences by type of blocks. The differences and similarities
in the social participation and social behaviors of boys
versus girls with each type of blocks are presented in the
second section. The third section reports all other sta
tistically significant effects for the 2 (type of blocks)
x 2 (sex) x 4 (time) ANOVAs of the six social participa
tion, one block area participation, and 28 social behavior
variables. The fourth reports and discusses the results
of the 2 (type of blocks) x 4 (time) ANOVAs of the two
teacher intervention variables.
Social Participation, Block Area Participation, and
Social Behavior by Type of Blocks
Social participation by type of blocks. For each of
the six social participation variables, Table 2 reports the
marginal means for each type of blocks. The marginal means
indicate the frequency of occurrence of each level of social
participation per observation. For example. Group has a
marginal mean frequency of 17.00 for large hollow blocks.
This indicates that over four sessions of large hollow
block play Group was scored an average of 17 times for each
child per 7 1/2 minute observation period. In other words,


25
blocks when ranking the materials chosen. These studies are
reported below.
Young Children's Preference for Unit
and Large Hollow Blocks
Only four studies reported results distinguishing be
tween children's preference for a certain type of blocks.
Three of these investigations (Bott, 1928; Farwell, 1930;
Vance & McCall, 1934) cited large hollow blocks as being
the most preferred type of blocks while one study (Hulson,
1930b) found unit blocks to be the most popular with chil
dren. All four of these studies are about 50 years old and
certainly children's preferences for blocks may have changed
in that time. However, recent texts in the early childhood
curriculum area (Cohen & Rudolph, 1977; Maxim, 1980; Spodek,
1978) and other literature pertaining to blocks (Bender,
1978; Benish, 1978; Cartwright, 1974; Hirsch, 1974) all state
that unit and large hollow blocks are the most common types
of blocks found in a preschool or kindergarten classroom.
A summary of the studies which investigated young children's
preference for blocks is presented in Table 1.
In summary, if blocks are a preferred play material of
kindergarten and preschool children, then a thorough inves
tigation into the block play of young children is needed.
Since most of the cited studies are more than 20 years old,
a need exists to find out more about the value of blocks as
play material for children today. There is also a need to


27
Table 1. Extended
Duration Methodology
of
Study
Findings
2 years Naturalistic
Observation
Category which included
blocks ranked first by 2-4
year olds and second by most
over 4 years old.
4-10 months Naturalistic
Observation
Blocks ranked first out of
13 materials for "times cho
sen," "number of minutes
used," and "persistence in
use."
2 weeks Naturalistic
Observation
Large hollow blocks "first
in importance for boys"
kindergarten girls had fair
interest in blocks.
4 months Naturalistic
Observation
Blocks were the most pre
ferred of 25 play materials.
4 months Naturalistic
Observation
Blocks rated eighth out of
110 materials on the basis
of "frequency of occurrence.'
1 occasion Paired compar
ison of pictures
Blocks were rated as "low"
preference among 48 play ma
terials .
2 occasions Subjects observed
alone and in
pairs in labora
tory situation.
Blocks ranked fourth out of
six materials for time "hold
ing power"(the length of
time the children remained
in the observation room).
2 years Naturalistic
Observation
Blocks ranked first in "gen
eral popularity" (the number
of children using blocks on
each occasion).
1 occasion Paired compar
ison of pictures
Non-block activities chosen
much more often than block
activities.


121
Children were more likely to engage in Group play or
be scored as Inside Structure or Onoccupied with large
hollow blocks than unit blocks. However, the children were
observed significantly more often in Solitary and Parallel
play with unit rather than large hollow blocks. Further
more, the children spent more time with large hollow blocks
than with unit blocks as indicated by the significant
difference in the Not Present category. Accept, Apologize,
Ask/Offer/Suggest, Laugh, Refuse/Deny/Negate, Smile, and
Talk were all observed significantly more often during large
hollow block play than unit block play.
4. What are the sex differences for levels of social
participation, block area participation, and
social behavior for unit blocks and large hollow
blocks?
There were no significant sex differences in the
levels of social participation, block area participation,
or social behavior of these kindergarten children for
either type of blocks. Girls spent approximately the
same amount of time playing with blocks as boys did. Both
sexes were present more often in the large hollow block
area than the unit block area.


Table 10. Continued.
DV
sv
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Touch
Sex
0.50
i
0.50
1.88
0.2420
Error
0.11
4
0.03
Facial Expre
ssions and
Vocalizations
Cry/Scream
Sex
0.01
1
0.01
2.67
0.1778
Error
0.02
4
0.01
Frown
Sex
0.01
1
0.01
0.12
0.7489
Error
0.42
4
0.11
Laugh
Sex
10.88
1
10.88
0.73
0.4415
Error
59.73
4
14.93
Playnoise
Sex
147.15
1
147.15
4.24
0.1087
Error
139.00
4
34.75
Pout
Sex
0.01
1
0.01
1.00
0.3739
Error
0.05
4
0.01
Smile
Sex
0.70
1
0.70
0.02
0.8846
Error
117.53
4
29.38
108


37
and one-half to six years. They did not report on the per
centage of parallel play but stated that the children spent
37% of their time in solitary play while involved in these
activity areas. They also observed more solitary play in
the housekeeping area and more group play in blocks which is
contrary to Parten's (1933) findings.
In a study of 15 male and 13 female preschool children
ranging in age from three and one-half to five and one-half
years, Vandenberg (1981) also found that the play environ
ment influenced the type of social play. The children were
allowed access to two different environments: (1) the large
muscle room which contained a jungle gym, two slides, tum
bling mats, and large blocks and (2) the fine motor room
which contained tables with pencils, paints, crayons, scis
sors, and paste. Each child was observed for one 30-minute
period each day. The child's play was scored in 10-second
units for (1) types of play, (2) environment in which
child was playing, (3) number of children playing with tar
get child, and (4) whether child left or joined the play ac
tivity. Children were more likely to be involved in solitary
or parallel play in the fine motor room and associative play
in the large muscle room. No cooperative play was observed.
Vandenberg attributed the lack of cooperative play to the
"power of these environments to pull for physical exercise
(large and small motor development) at the expense of social
interaction" (p. 174) However, Bender (1978), Clark et al.


24
to the housekeeping area (Kinsman & Berk, 1979); (3) kinder
garten boys prefer large hollow blocks over all other mate
rial while the interest in blocks by girls decreases from
"fair" in kindergarten to "no interest" in second-grade (Far-
well, 1930). However, Margolin and Letn (1961), using
paired comparison of pictures, reported blocks are among the
least preferred play material of kindergarten children. The
general agreement of the findings of the naturalistic obser
vational studies, and the overall methodological weaknesses
of Margolin and Letn's study pointed out above, provides
strong evidence that kindergarten children are quite inter
ested in blocks.
While the studies are divided in their findings concern
ing block preference in young children, careful examination
of the methodology of all of these investigations leads one
to believe that the evidence supports the conclusions of
Bott (1928), Clark et al. (1969), Farwell (1930), Hartley
et al. (1952), Hulson (1930a), Kinsman and Berk (1979),
Parten (1933) and Van Alstyne (1932) that blocks are a pre
ferred play material of young children.
If blocks are a preferred play material then what types
of blocks are most popular with young children? A number of
different kinds of blocks have been available for use in
preschool and kindergarten classrooms since the 1920s, and
a few early studies investigating the materials preferences
of young children differentiated between several types of


59
The findings from these studies suggested that sex dif
ferences may not exist in the prosocial behavior of chil
dren under six (Massey, 1970; Eisenberg-Berg, 1979) but there
remains a great debate as to the relationship of sex to the
aggressive behavior of children under six years of age (Mac-
coby & Jacklin, 1980; Tieger, 1980).
In summary, the research suggested that boys prefer
blocks (Beeson & Williams, 1979; Bott, 1928; Clark et al.,
1969; Farrell, 1957; Farwell, 1930; Margolin & Letn, 1961;
Patterson, 1976; Rubin, 1977; Van Alstyne, 1932) but girls
are highly interested in blocks if provided the opportunity
to use them (Brenner, 1976; Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Vandenberg,
1981; Varma, 1980). Moore et al. (1974) and Vandenberg
(1981) found no sex differences in the social participation
of young children while Roper and Hinde (1978) did. Con
trary evidence also exists regarding sex differences in their
social behavior. Massey (1970) and Eisenberg-Berg (1979)
found no sex differences in prosocial behavior of four- and
five-year-old children. However, results of two separate
meta-analyses of observational studies of aggressive behavior
of children under six conflicted. One study reported that
sex differences were highly significant (Maccoby & Jacklin,
1980), while the other found no sex differences (Tieger,
1980). Patterson (1976) found sex differences in "assertive-
disruptive" behavior with blocks.


124
The amount of time spent with large hollow blocks as
compared to unit blocks may indicate that large hollow blocks
are a more interesting material. However, it may also in
dicate that children were seeking the chance for group play
and not the particular material. A less congenial or less
socially competent group of children may have spent more
time with unit blocks than the children in this study did.
The fact that large hollow blocks were outside while unit
blocks were inside also may have accounted for the differ
ences in participation.
Social Behavior
Seven of the 14 social behavior variables occurring
an average of at least once each seven and one-half minute
observation period could be thought of as prosocial (Ask/
Offer/Suggest, Smile, Imitate/Take Turns, Accept, Laugh,
Help, and Give), while only three (Refuse/Deny/Negate,
Blame/Complain/Condemn, and Command) could be classified
as antisocial. The other four (Playnoise, Talk, Announce,
and Receive) are certainly not negative behaviors but may
be thought of as neutral. The larger number of prosocial
behaviors exhibited by the children during both types of
block play, may have been a result of this particular
sample of children and their teacher. This teacher had


78
kindergarten children because of the objectivity, consis
tency, and accuracy that characterize this observational pro
cedure. The choice of 15 seconds as the length of time inter
val will be discussed below.
Length of the Time Interval
The choice of the 15-second time intervals was primar
ily based on the following guidelines set forth by Hutt and
Hutt (1970): (1) "how often the sampling is done will depend
on how rapidly the changes in behavior occur" (p. 68), (2)
in general, the smaller the time sample, the more represen
tative the sampling, (3) fractions of a minute (10, 15, 20,
or 30 seconds) are preferable in terms of computational ease,
and (4) although the more frequent the sampling the more
comprehensive and reliable the record, a large number of
categories requires the frequency to be reduced.
Taking Hutt and Hutt's first guideline into considera
tion, it should be noted that many of the units of social be
havior listed on the researcher's checklist (for example,
Hit/Push, Give, Smile), occur very quickly and change rap-
pidly within a few seconds. A child may hit and push, then
grab another child's block within a three-second period of
time.
Using Hutt and Hutt's second, third, and fourth guide
lines, a 15-secondas opposed to a 10-secondtime interval
was chosen because of the moderately large number of


88
Reject is recorded when the child physically (not
verbally) refuses physical contact or an object held out by
another child.
Rough and Tumble is recorded when the child engages in
non-agonistic physical roughhousing with another child such
as a play fight.
Take/Tug/Pull is recorded when the child either grabs
an object from someone's hands (or an object that child is
obviously using) when they have not held it out towards the
subject or when the child is holding and attempting to draw
toward him- or herself an object which another is holding.
Throw is recorded when the child has an object in its
grasp; the arm is flexed and then abruptly extended, and the
object is released.
Touch is recorded when the child places one hand on an
other child's body, without grasping it. The hand may be
placed just for a moment, or it may be rested on the person
for a long period (up to a minute) (Leach, 1972).
Facial Expressions and Vocalizations
Cry/Scream is recorded when the child vocalizes in a
repeated, usually low-pitched manner ("waah," "aaah-hah")
or vocalizes in a single or repeated high-pitched manner,
excluding squeals occurring in a play context (Smith & Con
nolly, 1972).


7
involved in their learning through a multitude of "hands-on"
experiences, according to Piaget (Bringuier, 1980). Blocks
are one of the "tools" for learning readily available in most
kindergarten classrooms and thus we need to discover more
about the power of this "tool" to promote both cognitive and
social learning.
To get a more complete understanding of the relation
ship between block play and social development, the two most
commonly found types of blocks in kindergarten classrooms,
unit blocks and large hollow blocks, need to be studied.
Although unit and large hollow blocks are both predominantly
rectangular wooden blocks, they also have many different
physical properties. For example, the large hollow blocks
are much larger and heavier than the unit blocks. The stan
dard unit block is 5 1/2" x 2 3/4" x 1 3/8" and weighs only
a few ounces; the standard large hollow block is 24" x 12"
x 6" and weighs several pounds. While a kindergarten child
can easily transport and manipulate several unit blocks at
a time he or she can probably carry only one large hollow
block. Some children require the assistance of another
child when transporting or building with large hollow blocks.
The large hollow blocks are big enough for children to make
structures that they can actually crawl into or climb. Un
like large hollow blocks, the unit block set contains a va
riety of differently shaped blocks as well as squares, tri
angles, and rectangles.


15
materials ranked fifth through seventh had scores so similar
so as not to be statistically significant. Although Parten
did not find blocks to be as popular as Van Alstyne (1932)
and Hulson (1930a), she did establish them as a much preferred
material, rated eighth out of 110.
Hartley, Frank, and Goldenson (1952), found blocks to
be the most popular play material of 217 preschool children
from "varied cultures and national backgrounds" and ranging
in age from two and one-half to five and one-half years.
These children were observed in 20 different preschools dur
ing free-play as part of a comprehensive study on children's
play. Observers kept running records of the activities, con
text, language, interactions with others, and time of events.
Of the 217 children studied over a two-year period, 97 were
observed choosing blocks, while 83 chose to paint, and 75
chose clay. Blocks also ranked first in general popularity
(the number of children using blocks on each occasion).
Blocks attained this number one ranking despite the differ
ing methods and attitudes of the various teachers and the
wide variety of physical environments of the 20 preschools
involved in this study.
Clark, Wyon, and Richards (1969) observed 40 middle-
class English preschool children during their free-play pe
riod. The 18 boys and 22 girls, from two different pre
schools, were observed for approximately 13 hours. An unob
trusive observer recorded one child's behavior for a 10-


140
Leach, G.M. A comparison of the social behavior of some
normal and problem children. In N. Blurton Jones (Ed.),
Ethological studies of child behavior. Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 1972.
Maccoby, E.E., & Jacklin, C.N. Sex differences in aggres
sion: A rejoinder and reprise. Child Development,
1980, 51, 964-980.
Margolin, E.B., & Letn, D.A. Interest of kindergarten pu
pils in block play. The Journal of Educational Re
search^ 1961, 55^ 13-18.
Massey, J. Kindergarten children's behavior in block build
ing situations. (Doctoral dissertation, Florida State
University, 1969). Dissertation Abstracts International,
1970, 3£, 5574-B. (University Microfilms No. 70-11, 143)
Maxim, G. The very young. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth,
1980.
McGrew, W.C. An ethological study of children's behavior.
New York: Academic Press, 1972.
Moore, N.V., Evertson, C.M., & Brophy, J.E. Solitary play:
Some functional reconsiderations. Developmental Psy
chology, 1974, 10, 830-834.
Mueller, E., s Brenner, J. Origins of social skills and in
teraction among playgroup toddlers. Child development,
1977, 48, 854-861.
Parten, M.B. Social participation among preschool children.
Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1932, 27,
243-269.
Parten, M.B. Social play among preschool children. Journal
of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1933, 2_8, 136-147.
Patterson, D.S. Social ecology and social behavior: The de
velopment of the differential usage of play materials.
Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina, T5T6.
(ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 128 106)
Piaget, J. The moral judgment of the child. New York: Har-
court, Brace, and Jovanovich, 1932.
Piaget, J. Play, dreams and imitation in childhood. New
York: Norton, 1962.


42
different materials. Observations were made of 15-second
samplings of play behaviors for a period of four months, to
taling approximately 10 hours of observation for each child.
The "social value" of each material was rated in terms of
"amountof talking," "social grouping" (how many children
present), "interfering," and "watching." Contrary to Green
(1933), who noted a high percentage of quarrels in the free-
play of 40 preschool children using various materials, Van
Alstyne (1932) reported "comparatively little interfering"
when compared to "cooperation" or "social grouping." The
greatest percentage of cooperation for five-year-olds was
recorded when they were playing with large hollow blocks.
Studying group play and quarreling during 40 30-second
observations of 40 nursery school children. Green (1933)
reached a somewhat different conclusion. She found that
"dramatic play" (playing house, playing train and playing
barber shop) was the most "social," while sand was the most
"quarrelsome." "Construction work," which included sawing
and using large building blocks, ranked sixth on the scale
of sociabilitydefined as percentage of time playing with
companions and second in the percentage of time involving
quarrels. However, several possible weaknesses in this study
suggest that the findings should be interpreted with some de
gree of caution. First, many of the differences between the
ratings of the materials are slight and may be a result of
observation error or random error. For example, although the


123
opportunity to engage in group, parallel, or solitary play.
The high incidence of group play with both types of blocks
may also suggest that the children in this study were highly
social. The socio-emotional climate of this classroom cer
tainly encouraged group interactions.
Group play may occur more frequently with large hollow
blocks because their size and weight encourages children to
build together. Additionally, the small number of blocks
(60 to 70) in a standard set creates a supply and demand di
lemma that must be solved cooperatively if structures are to
be built with the large hollow blocks. Conversely, unit
blocks would seem to encourage more solitary and parallel
play because they are easily manipulated by one child and a
set usually contains more than enough blocks for several chil
dren to build independent structures simultaneously.
Social Participation
Not Present accounted for 14% of the large hollow block
observation time and 32% of the unit block observation time.
As a measure of interest, these figures may be misleading
because Not Present was scored during any period of time when
children left a block area. This included times when the
children went to the bathroom, were called by a friend, or
had to clean up before the observation ended. In these sit
uations the child may have wanted to continue to play with
blocks. Thus the level of interest may have actually been
higher than the data indicated.


Table 7. Summary of Type of Blocks ANOVAs for
Social Behavior
DV
Accept
Announce
Apologize
Ask/Offer/Suggest
Blame/Complain/Condemn
Comfort/Praise
Command
Refuse/Deny/Negate
Talk
Threat
SV SS DF
Verbal Behavior
Type of
Blocks
24.75
1
Error
8.86
4
Type of
Blocks
11.63
1
Error
8.54
4
Type of
Blocks
0.05
1
Error
0.01
4
Type of
Blocks
122.51
1
Error
61.96
4
Type of
Blocks
3.83
1
Error
8.56
4
Type of
Blocks
0.03
1
Error
0.18
4
Type of
Blocks
13.61
1
Error
9.48
4
Type of
Blocks
16.65
1
Error
0.77
4
Type of
Blocks
66.61
1
Error
18.11
4
Type of
Blocks
0.53
1
Error
1.02
4
MS
F
P
24.75
2.21
11.18
0.0287
11.63
2.14
5.44
0.0800
0.05
0.003
16.00
0.0161
122.51
15.49
7.91
0.0482
3.83
2.14
1.79
0.2521
0.03
0.04
0.64
0.4676
13.61
2.37
5.74
0.0746
16.65
0.19
86.65
0.0007
66.61
4.53
14.72
0.0185
0.53
0.25
2.07
0.2233
102


11
size and composition on the social behaviors of young chil
dren playing with blocks.
Summary
This study investigated the social behavior of kinder
garten children during play with large hollow blocks and
unit blocks. It also compared the differences and similar
ities in the social behavior and social participation dur
ing the unit and large hollow block play of kindergarten
boys and girls. This study was designed to add to the ex
isting knowledge of block play and its relationship to so
cial development. The findings from this study provide kin
dergarten teachers with a better understanding of the social
behaviors that are likely to occur when kindergarten boys
and girls play with each of these types of blocks. The re
sults of this study furnish teachers with information needed
to assist them in making curriculum and instruction deci
sions in order to provide suitable social learning experi
ences to meet the needs of individual kindergarten children.


138
Bringuier, J. Conversations with Jean Piaget. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1980.
Bronfenbrenner, U. The ecology of human development. Cam
bridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979.
Brown, J. Block play and the growing child. California
Journal of Elementary Education, 1942, 107 177-192.
Cartwright, S. Blocks and learning. Young Children, 1974,
29(3), 141-146.
Clark, A.H., Wyon, S.M., & Richards, M.P.M. Freeplay in
nursery children. Journal of Child Psychology and
Psychiatry, 1969, 10, 205-216.
Cockrell, D.L. A study of the play of children of preschool
age by an unobserved observer. Genetic Psychology Mono
graphs^, 1935, r7, 377-469.
Cohen, D.H., & Rudolph, M. Kindergarten in early schooling.
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1977.
Cooper, H.M. Statistically combining independent studies:
A meta-analysis of sex differences in conforming re
search. Journal of Personality of Social Psychology,
1979, 37, 131-146.
Eisenberg-Berg, N., & Hand, M. The relationship of preschool
ers' reasoning about pro-social moral conflicts to pro
social behavior. Child Development, 1979, 50_, 356-363.
Elkind, D. The child and society. New York: Oxford Univer
sity Press, 1979.
Farrell, M. Sex differences in block play in early child
hood education. Journal of Educational Research, 1957,
51, 279-284.
Farwell, L. Reactions of kindergarten, first-, and second-grade
children to constructive play materials. Genetic Psy-
chology Monographs, 1930, £, 431-562.
Forman, G.E., & Hill, F. Constructive play. Belmont, Calif.:
Wadsworth, 1980.
Gottfried, N.W., & Seay, B. An observational technique for
preschool children. Journal of Genetic Psychology,
1973, 122, 263-268.


115
Table 19. Summary ANOVA Table for Call Teacher
sv
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Type of Blocks
0.003
i
0.003
0.29
0.6213
Error
0.04
4
0.01
Sex
0.03
1
0.03
1.38
0.3046
Error
0.08
4
0. 02
Type of Blocks
X
Sex
0.003
1
0.003
0.29
0.6213
Error
0.04
4
0.01
Time
0.08
3
0.03
1.38
0.2949
Error
0.24
12
0.02
Sex x Time
0.03
3
0.01
0.47
0.7100
Error
0.29
12
0.02
Type of Blocks
X
Time
0.01
3
0.003
0.29
0.8348
Error
0.13
12
0.01
Type of Blocks
X
Sex x Time
0.01
3
0.003
0.29
0.8348
Error
0.13
12
0.01
Table 20. Summary ANOVA
Table
for
Get Teacher
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Type of
Blocks
0.05
4
0.05
0.23
0.6541
Error
0.86
4
0.21
Sex
0.01
1
0.01
0.03
0.8700
Error
1.64
4
0.41
Type of
Blocks and Sex
0.11
1
0.11
1.26
0.3239
Error
0.36
4
0.09
Time
0.13
3
0.04
0.22
0.8812
Error
2.28
12
0.19
Sex and
Time
0.86
3
0.29
1.86
0.1904
Error
1.86
12
0.15
Type of
Blocks and Time
0.58
3
0.19
0.96
0.4427
Error
2.39
12
0.20
Type of
Blocks, Sex and Time
0.36
3
0.12
0.63
0.6083
Error
2.29
12
0.19


79
behaviors listed. Larger time intervals (20 or 30 seconds)
were not selected because, although the number of specific
units of social behavior on this checklist are fairly large,
the chances of more than one unit of social behavior in the
Facial Expressions and Vocalizations and Level of Social
Participation categories occurring during any 15-second pe
riod was highly unlikely. Hence, by grouping the specific
units of social behavior under the four major behavioral
categories (Action Behavior, Verbal Behavior, and Facial
Expression and Vocalizations, and Levels of Social Partici
pation) the list of predetermined behaviors was organized
in such a manner so as to reduce the problems involved in
scanning the large number of behavioral categories found in
a checklist of comparable length.
Gottfried and Seay (1973), in a direct observational
study of peer-social and object-directed behavior of pre
school children, recorded the occurrence of social and ob
ject-directed behavior once during each 15-second interval.
Their checklist contained many of the same social behaviors
the researcher included on his checklist (i.e., "hit,"
"touch," "smile," "frown," "vocalize," "verbalize"), adding
support for the use of a 15-second time interval for observ
ing the social behavior of young children.
For the purpose of studying the social and cognitive
play behavior of preschool children, Johnson, Ershler, and
Bell (1980) defined a "play episode" as being a "unit of


126
play most frequently in same-sex dyads. Moreover, the
boys and girls utilize the blocks differently. The boys
spent more time building with blocks and frequently did
not play with their construction. Playing with the struc
ture, not building it, appeared to be the primary focus
of the girls. Kinsman and Berk (1979) also reported that
although boys and girls spent equal time playing with
blocks they utilized them in different ways.
The lack of sex differences in these children's social
behavior may be a result of the composition of the groups
(two boys and two girls). Children's social behavior in
same-sex groups may differ from those in mixed-sex groups.
Further investigation into the relationship between the
sex composition of children's play groups and their social
behavior is needed.
The following section presents additional suggestions
for further research. These suggestions are drawn from the
methodology, the findings, and discussion of the present
study.
Suggestions for Further Research
A need exists for further research into the area of
social development and its importance to the overall
development of the kindergarten child. The present study
focused on the social behavior of kindergarteners during


RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN BLOCK PLAY AND THE
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF KINDERGARTEN CHILDREN
BY
DWIGHT L. ROGERS, III
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1982


128
imposed play group was philosophically contrary to the
educational practices of this classroom, yet, for many
children, it appeared to provide the means for equal
rights to blocks, new friends, and a sense of belonging
to a special group. Questions need to be raised and
investigated in regard to assigning children to teacher-
selected play groups and to the influence of these groups
on the social behavior of the child.
Another area of additional study was suggested by the
methodology. The methodology of the present study was well
suited for the observation of children engaged in block play
activities. It is very possible this procedure could be
adapted to study kindergarten or preschool children's
social behavior during other play activities and with other
play materials. There is a need for additional knowledge
in this area to provide teachers with information necessary
to make curriculum decisions regarding the appropriateness
of certain activities and materials for individual
children.
Finally, further research is needed to discover more
about the social behavior observed in this study during
block play and its relationship to the social development
of the kindergarten child. The small sample size of the
present study and the dearth of research in these areas
would suggest that larger samples of children from several
classrooms need to be observed playing with blocks over an


64
and useable by them and (2) the units should have biolog
ical meaning, in terras of recognition of social signals be
tween interactants" (p. 252). The definitions of the units
of behavior to be observed in this study follow the criteria
set forth above by Blurton Jones (1972a), Hutt and Hutt
(1970), and Leach (1972). They are reported on page 85 of
this chapter.
Naturalistic Observations
If children's play is to be the subject of
analysis it should be studied in some fairly
spontaneous setting such as one obtains, for
example, within the daily routine of a well-
conducted nursery school, rather than under
conditions too meticulously controlled. (Bott,
1928, p. 44)
Bronfenbrenner (1979), too, believes if we are to gain
a better understanding of children and the way they develop,
it is necessary to observe their behavior while they are in
teracting in a natural setting. The ethological methodology
is, as mentioned above, characterized by direct observation
of behavior in a naturalistic setting. The ethological stud
ies of Appleton (1980), Blurton Jones (1967, 1972b), Hutt
and Hutt (1970), Leach (1972), McGrew (1972) and Smith and
Connolly (1972) investigated the social behavior of young
children in a naturalistic preschool setting. Hence, the
researcher chose to examine the social behavior and social
participation of kindergarten children as they played with


4
with or in the presence of (within three feet) at least one
other child. This category includes behaviors that are both
antisocial and prosocial. The specific behaviors to be ob
served are defined in Chapter III.
Social Participation is the degree of play involvement
and interaction with others, as exhibited by a child in the
block area. Six levels of social participation have been
adapted from Parten (1932). They are: (1) Inside Structure,
(2) Unoccupied, (3) Onlooker, (4) Solitary, (5) Parallel,
and (6) Group. These levels of social participation are de
fined in Chapter III.
Block Area Participation is the amount of time a child
spends in each block area.
Unit Blocks are solid,hardwood blocks of which the ba
sic "unit" is twice as wide as it is thick, and twice as
long as it is wide. The dimensions of the basic unit are
5 1/2" x 2 3/4" x 1 3/8", and all other blocks are either
multiples or divisions of the unit's width, thickness, or
length. The basic unit and double unit comprise 80% of the
set of blocks in addition to an assortment of other shapes
and sixes.
Large Hollow Blocks are wooden blocks much larger than
unit blocks, hollow as opposed to solid, and particularly
suited for outdoor use. The dimensions of the large hollow
blocks are 12" x 12" x 6" and 12" x 6" x 6". They are


17
1969; Hartley et al., 1952; Hulson, 1930a; Van Alstyne,
1932), especially large blocks (Bott, 1928; Farwell, 1930).
While Bott (1928) and Clark et al. (1969) found boys ex
pressed more interest in blocks than did girls. Kinsman and
Berk (1979) found boys and girls spent equal time in the
block area. Out of 110 activities observed by Parten (1933)
blocks ranked eighth, behind second-ranked housekeeping.
Kinsman and Berk (1979), however, found children played in
the block area twice as much as in the housekeeping. In
analyzing the findings of these studies, there is evidence
to support preference of blocks as a play material for young
children.
The following section describes a number of studies
that did not use naturalistic observational methodology to
study the play materials preferences of children. These
studies are a composite of various methodologies and designs.
Other Studies Investigating the Play Materials Preferences
of Young Children "" ~~
The following four studies examined young children's
preference for materials and found conflicting evidence for
the popularity of blocks. Vance and McCall (1934) and Mar
golin and Letn (1961) found blocks were rated as least pre
ferred by children. Cockrell's (1935) findings indicated
blocks were of intermediate rank in young children's choice
of materials, while Vlietstra (1978) found blocks to be more
popular than pictures.


136
an investigation into the relationship between
the specific social needs of a child and
specific play materials that may help meet
those needs;
an investigation into the effects of block play
on social development.


Table 10. Summary of ANOVA's for Social Behavior
DV
Accept
Announce
Apologize
Ask/Offer/Suggest
Blame/Complain/Condemn
Comfort/Praise
Command
Refuse/Deny/Negate
Talk
Threat
sv
SS
DF
Verbal Behavior
Sex
9.45
i
Error
25.66
4
Sex
8.13
1
Error
32.48
4
Sex
0 U1
1
Error
0 .05
4
Sex
1.51
1
Error
124.26
4
Sex
0.03
1
Error
18.55
4
Sex
0.03
1
Error
0.11
4
Sex
1.25
1
Error
11.91
4
Sex
2.63
1
Error
17.64
4
Sex
1.25
1
Error
72.28
4
Sex
0.08
1
Error
0.22
4
MS
F
P
9.45
6 .41
1.47
0.2915
8.13
8.12
1.00
0.3737
0.01
0.01
1.00
0.3739
1.51
31.07
0.05
0.8362
0.03
4.64
0.01
0.9417
0.03
0.03
1.00
0.3739
1.25
2.98
0.42
0.5523
2.63
4.43
0.59
0.4843
1.25
18.07
0.07
0.8055
0.08
0.05
15.64
0.0167
106


125
established a very positive social climate in her class
room. Consequently, a group of children in a different
classroom environment might exhibit a higher level of
social behavior.
Despite the positive social climate and the possi
bility that this is an extremely prosocial group of
children, informal observation during other periods of
the school day indicated evidence of antisocial behavior
during other activities. Therefore, the extremely low
occurrence of these antisocial behaviors (Cry/Scream,
Fight, Hit at, Hit/Push, Take/Tug/Pull, and Threat)
suggest that block play may encourage positive social
development through prosocial behavior.
Furthermore, three of the five most frequently
occurring social behavior variables were verbal behaviors
(Ask/Offer/Suggest, Talk, and Announce). This suggests
that block play may provide a meaningful context for
practicing language and communications skills. Investi
gation into the nature and function of the language of
young children and its relationship to social development
is needed.
Sex Differences
Although this study found no sex differences in the
amount of time the children played with blocks or in the
levels of social participation, the children appeared to


84
other children. The child does not attempt to influence
the behavior of nearby children but exhibits an interest
in what the nearby children are doing, exemplified by occa
sional glances and similarity of block structure or build
ing technique. The child plays beside, rather than with,
other children.
Group is recorded when the child plays with other chil
dren, interacting with them. Interactions here include con
versation, borrowing or sharing blocks or accessories, fol
lowing or chasing one another in the block area, physical
contact, building a structure together, and organized play
involving different roles.
Inside Structure is recorded when the child climbs in
side a block structure and cannot be seen by the observer.
This only occurs during play with large hollow blocks.
Definition of Block Area Participation
Not Present is recorded when: (1) the child is not in
the block area during any part of the 15-second time inter
val for which the child is scheduled to be observed, (2) the
child leaves the block area before 10 seconds of the 15-sec-
ond time interval have elapsed, or (3) the child is not pres
ent in the block area and does not appear before the first
5 seconds of the scheduled 15-second time interval have
elapsed.


113
Table 16.
Sex x Time Marginal Means
Cry/Scream and Frown.
for
DV
Sex
Time 1
Time 2
Time 3
Time 4
Cry/Scream
M
0.00
0.00
0.03
0.00
F
0.08
0.00
0.00
0.00
Frown
M
0.15
0.05
0.35
0.05
F
0.13
0.10
0.10
0.23
Table 17.
Summary of Type of Blocks
ANOVA for Take/Tug/Pull
x Sex
x Time
sv
SS
DF
MS
F P
Type of Blocks
x Sex x Time 2.23
3
0.75
4.82 0.0199
Error
1.86
12
0.15
Table 18.
Type of Blocks x Sex Marginal Means
for Take/Tug/Pull
Type of Blocks
Sex
Time 1
Time 2
Time 3
Time 4
Large Hollow
M
0.08
0.10
0.08
0.03
F
0.03
0.00
0.05
0.03
Unit
M
0.08
0.03
0.15
0.33
F
0.08
0.08
0.08
0.03


29
Table 1. Extended
Duration
of
Study
Methodology
Findings
10 months
Naturalistic
Observation
Block play was the first
choice of boys and ninth
choice of girls out of a
possible 19 activities.
3-10 minute
sessions
Observation in
laboratory situ
ation
The children spent more time
with blocks than with pic
tures .
6 weeks
Naturalistic
Observation
Children spent almost twice
as much time in the block
area as they did in the
housekeeping area.


89
Frown is recorded when the child's brows are drawn down
at center, making vertical creases in the forehead while the
eyes are usually well open (Leach, 1972).
Laugh is recorded when the child exhibits open-mouthed
smile together with audible vocalization (rapid or staccato
expulsions of breath) (Smith & Connolly, 1972).
Playnoise is recorded when the child vocally imitates
such things as machines: shooting, planes, rockets, trains,
car. It is a "blanket term" to cover a range of noises used
by the child during play. Stereotyped chants, such as "I am
a dalek, I am a dalek," also come under this heading (Leach,
1972) .
Pout is recorded when the child protrudes the lips and
squints the eyes in a gesture of obvious displeasure.
Smile is recorded when the corners of the mouth are
withdrawn and turned upwards. No distinction is made as to
mouth open or closed, teeth visible or not. No audible
vocalization (Smith S Connolly, 1972).
Definitions of Teacher-Directed Behavior and
Teacher Intervention Behavior
The teacher may be an influence on children's social
behavior. If a child has a problem, one possible solution
is to appeal to the teacher for help. The two teacher-
directed behavior variables were included in the observation


32
and clarifies his/her own thoughts. At this point social
learning has taken place. Thus, Piaget believed that "one
of the most important functions of social play may be the
diminution of ego-centrism and the development of role-tak
ing" (p. 484).
What about the relationship between social development
and play involving preschool and kindergarten materials?
Forman and Hill (1980) stated that "the child uses the same
intelligence to solve problems of a social nature that she
uses to solve other problems" (p. 68). In other words, a
child's relationship to the physical world may help that
child make "more accurate judgments about the social world"
(p. 68). For example, if a child realizes that his/her
wooden cylinder can roll down a ramp in the same manner as
the wooden cylinder that another child is using, then he/she
will not feel the need to take that other child's cylinder.
Cockrell (1935) found an interesting relationship be
tween social interaction and the presence of play material.
She reported that when the two- and three-year-old children
were observed in pairs, they spent only 2% of their time
"in attention to self" in the room containing "combined ma
terials" (clay, crayons, books, pictures, blocks, and house
keeping materials) but spent 31% of the time in "self-play"
when observed on another occasion in the same room empty of
all equipment except a table and two chairs. Cockrell felt


100
Social behavior by type of blocks. The marginal means
for each type of blocks for each of the 28 social behavior
variables are reported in Table 6. The marginal means for
each variable for large hollow blocks are listed by rank
order of frequency of occurrence from most to least fre
quently occurring behavior. The unit block marginal means
are listed opposite the large hollow block means to facili
tate comparison between the two types of blocks.
Table 7 summarizes the ANOVAs for differences between
types of blocks for all 28 social behavior variables. When
comparing the two types of blocks there are significant
differences at a .05 level for Accept. Apologize. Ask/Offer/
Suggest. Refuse/Denv/Negate. and Smile. Each of these social
behavior variables occurred more often with large hollow
blocks than with unit blocks. As has been noted, however,
the rank orders of frequency of occurrence of these
variables are similar for the two types of blocks.
Social Participation, Block Area Participation,
and Social Behavior of Children by Sex
There are no sex differences for each of the six levels
of social participation, for block area participation, or for
the 28 social behavior variables (see Tables 8, 9, and 10
for the ANOVAs with regard to gender). Table 9 indicates
that there was no significant difference in the amount of
time girls and boys spent playing with blocks. Tables 8


CHAPTER IV
RESULTS
Introduction
A 2 (type of blocks) x 2 (sex) x 4 (time) completely
repeated measures of analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used
to analyze the data. This analysis was conducted for each
of the six social participation variables, one block area
participation variable, 28 social behavior variables, and 2
teacher-directed behavior variables. The scores used in the
analysis were the average boys' score and the average girls'
score for each of the five groups. This procedure was used
because the behavior of any one child within a group is
likely to be dependent on the behavior of the other children
within the group and the statistical procedure takes this de
pendency into account. Observations of groups of children
during this study supported the use of this procedure. In
addition, two teacher intervention behavior variables were
analyzed by a 2 (type of blocks) x 4 (time repeated mea
sures ANOVA procedure. For each type of blocks and occasion
(time) the score on each variable was the number of inter
ventions to a group as a whole, not the number of interven
tions to a particular child. All variables were tested at
a .05 level of significance.
93


58
or actions implying intent to harm" (p. 952). Most of the
Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) studies were included because of
the broad nature of their definition. Two other studies
were excluded because one contained no relevant measure of
aggression (Smith & Connolly, 1972) while the other did not
report a main effect of sex differences (Langdois, Gottfried,
& Seay, 1973). Tieger's (1980) meta-analysis revealed a
weighted Z=1.148 with a probability ofp=.125thus suggesting
that sex differences in the aggressive behavior of children
under six may not exist.
Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) claimed Tieger (1980) under
estimated the significance of the combined set of results by
misuse of the Stouffer weighted procedure (cited in Cooper,
1979). They asserted that Tieger converted the two-tailed
values, published by Maccoby and Jacklin (1980), to one-
tailed-values only once when the procedure calls for the
one-tailed-values for each case.
Another problem with the Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) meta
analysis was that in all but 2 of the 24 studies which showed
boys under six to be more aggressive, aggression was cate
gorized in a non-specific manner (i.e., "aggression," "ago
nistic intentions," and "direct physical aggression").
"Rough and tumble" play, found by Blurton Jones (1972b) to
be a very physical but highly prosocial behavior, easily could
have been coded as aggression under these general catego
ries.


129
entire school year. This would provide a more thorough
understanding of the social behavior of boys and girls
during large hollow and unit block play. This design will
also help answer questions about possible teacher effect
and the lack of sex differences found in the present study.
The following section discusses implications for kinder
garten teaching derived from this study. It presents the
teacher with suggestions for instruction and curriculum
development.
Implications for Kindergarten Teaching
The implications for kindergarten teaching that may
be derived from this study are based on the premise that
the area of social development is an integral part of the
kindergarten curriculum. Hymes (1968) supported this
premise and emphasized the importance of providing oppor
tunities and experiences to promote social growth in the
kindergarten child. The findings of this study, when
examined in conjunction with other studies in this area,
suggest that kindergarten teachers should 1) provide
time for block play, 2) have both unit and large hollow
blocks in their classroom, and 3) provide girls with
encouragement to play with blocks. These suggestions
will be discussed below.
The recent trend of emphasizing readiness skills may
mean there is less time available for activities in the


127
unit and large hollow block play. During the process of
conducting this study many questions arose which need to
be investigated more thoroughly.
The behavior observed in this study was generally pro
social and relatively peaceful; however, social conflict
situations were not uncommon. Although the children
exhibited a good deal of antisocial behavior during some
of their conflicts, they usually worked out a mutually
agreeable solution without the aid of the teacher. These
conflict situations raise several interesting questions
which may be answered by further investigation. Do
children need to engage in some antisocial behavior to
promote positive social development? When should the
teacher intervene during a conflict situation? Should the
teacher intervene at all? Do children need conflict
experiences to ensure proper social development?
The assignment of children to groups raises some
questions for future study. As part of the methodology
of the present study, children were assigned to mixed-
sex groups in order to control for the effect of the group
on the behavior of individual children. These groups ap
peared to have some influence on the forming of new friend
ships and on the development of a sense of comradeship or
group camaraderie. The groups also ensured the girls of
equal access to the block areas. The idea of a teacher-


76
The Time-Sampling Technique
The time-sampling technique was chosen as the most ap
propriate method of data collection for observing the social
behavior and social participation of kindergarten children
during block play. According to Vasta (1979) the time
sampling technique is:
the most advanced and most sophisticated of
our current observational approaches. It
objectifies human observational procedure
more than any other method, more importantly,
it permits an accurate assessment of the re
liability of the observations. (p. 173)
Besides bringing objectivity and reliability to the obser
vational procedure, another advantage of the time-sampling
technique is that, used in conjunction with ethological meth
odology, it "allows a comparison of measures of behavior
frequency, obviously defined, for different individuals and
different settings" (Smith & Connolly, 1972, p. 70).
Leach (1972) maintained that using a time-sampling tech
nique with the predetermined behaviors listed on a checklist
has certain advantages: (1) "It should provide a more con
sistent record because the items being recorded are con
stantly before one's eyes; and (2) the data are recorded in
a form which is easy to analyze" (p. 250) However, as
Leach pointed out, a checklist does have three limitations:
(1) it is somewhat inflexiblesince a complete list of the
behaviors to be recorded is listed in advance, (2) it must


74
as clearly as possible. One can never discount the effect
of an observer on the behavior of the children (Blurton
Jones, 1967), therefore each observer attempted to follow
the suggestions set forth by McGrew (1972). McGrew sug
gested that the observers should not intentionally "initiate
interaction" with the children nor should they become "to
tally detached" or "withdrawn" or what he termed "unnatu
rally wooden," but should instead "attempt to compromise"
by not initiating the social contact with children. If a
child initiated social interaction with the observer, how
ever, he/she did not refuse, but rather tried to terminate
it "as gracefully as possible." In addition, both observ
ers spent several weeks prior to the beginning of the study
observing in the classroom so the children would become fa
miliar with them and their role as "unresponsive" adult vis
itors. It should also be mentioned that adult visitors and
student observers were quite common in this particular class
room.
The observed behavior was recorded on a checklist de
veloped by the researcher. A compilation of the social be
havior of preschool children observed by Appleton (1980),
Blurton Jones (1967, 1972b), Leach (1972), McGrew (1972),
Parten (1932), and Smith and Connolly (1972) during freeplay
was included on this checklist. The potential for these be
haviors occurring in the context of kindergartners' block
play was substantiated by the researcher during frequent


Table 10. Continued.
DV
SV
ss
DF
MS
F
P
Action Behavior
Give
Sex
0.80
i
0.80
0.21
0.6720
Error
15.39
4
3.85
Fight
Sex
0.00
1
0.00
0.00
1.0000
Error
0.00
4
0.00
Help
Sex
0.05
1
0.05
0.03
0.8775
Error
7.42
4
1.85
Hit at
Sex
0.003
1
0.003
0.29
0.6213
Error
0.04
4
0.01
Hit/Push
Sex
0.003
1
0.003
0.02
0.9001
Error
0.70
4
0.18
Imitate, Take Turns
Sex
6.05
1
6.05
2.79
0.1701
Error
8.76
4
2.17
Receive
Sex
0.05
1
0.05
0.04
0.8562
Error
5.36
4
1.34
Reject
Sex
0.003
1
0.003
1.00
0.3739
Error
0.01
4
0.003
Rough and Tumble
Sex
0.11
1
0.11
6.00
0.0705
Error
0.08
4
0.02
Take/Tug/Pull
Sex
1.25
1
1.25
3.72
0.1260
Error
1.34
4
0.34
Throw
Sex
1.38
1
1.38
2.87
0.1653
Error
1.92
4
0.48
107


90
checklist so this type of behavior could be recorded.
Similarly, a teacher may notice a problem in a play area
and intervene to prevent a potential disruption. Because
teacher intervention may be related to the content of the
play or to potentially unacceptable behavior, two teacher
intervention behavior variables were included. These four
variables are defined below.
Call Teacher is recorded when the child verbally
requests or demands that the teacher give help to or aid
the child in some way.
Get Teacher is recorded when the child leaves the
block area to go after the teacher.
Teacher-Behavior is recorded when the teacher inter
venes in the group because of what she considers unaccept
able behavior by the child(ren).
Teacher-Content is recorded when the teacher intervenes
to comment on or ask questions about the children's block
structures or their play activities.
Description of Observational Checklist
An example of the checklist used by the author is pre
sented in Appendix A. This example represents one 15-second
time interval. One check mark is made in the appropriate box
if the behavior occurs one or more times during that 15-
second period. The author reduced this format so that four


Dependent Boys--Large Hollow BoysUnit GirlsLarge Hollow GirlsUnit Grand
Variable T ^ T2 T3 T4 T2 T4 Tj T2 T3 Tj T2 Tj T4 Mean
Fight
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00
Help
0.90
0.82
0.80
0.27
0.60
0.89
1.00
1.00
0.60
1.08
0.30
0.27
0.90
0.74
1.20
0.83
2.40
4.29
0.90
0.65
0.20 0.80 0.10 0.20 0.81
0.27 0.91 0.22 0.45
Hit at
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.02
Hit/Push
X 0.30 0.00
SD 0.67 0.00
0.10 0.10 0.20
0.22 0.22 0.45
0.00 0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00 0.00
0.40 0.10 0.20
0.55 0.22 0.45
0.00 0.00 0.10
0.00 0.00 0.20
0.00 0.00 0.09
0.00 0.00
Imitate/Take Turns
X 0.50 0.90 2.60
SD 0.35 0.82 2.04
3.10
4.83
0.50
0.61
0.30
0.67
1.00
0.71
0.10
0.22
1.90
1.29
2.70
2.11
4.20
4.75
0.10
0.22
1.20
0.91
1.00
1.00
0.90
1.24
1.40
Receive
0.50
0.50
0.70
0.57
0.60
0.65
0.50
0.71
0.20
0.45
0.10
0.22
1.30
1.72
0.70
0.76
1.40 0.40 0.90
2.04 0.55 0.65
0.40 1.10 0.50
0.55 1.52 0.35
0.10 0.20 0.60
0.22 0.27
Reject
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.01
Rough and Tumble
X
SD
0.10
0.22
0.20
0.27
0.20
0.27
0.20
0.45
Take/Tug/Pull
X
SD
0.30
0.45
0.40
0.42
0.30
0.67
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.06
0.10
0.22
0,60
1.08
1.30
1.25
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.20
0.27
0.10
0.22
0.30
0.67
0.30
0.45
0.30
0.67
0.10
0.22
0.30
148


134
adequate supply of blocks and an area large enough for a
small group of children to play with their structures.
Finally, some form of encouragement from the teacher may
be necessary to allow girls equal access to blocks.
Conclusion
The aim of kindergarten is to educate the "whole
child" by providing a well-balanced curriculum which in
cludes materials and activities that promote cognitive,
affective, motor, and social development (Hymes, 1968).
The recent trend of emphasizing readiness skills may mean
there is less time for activities related to social de
velopment. The exclusion of play activities is contrary
to the social development theories of Isaacs (1974),
Piaget (1962), and Smilansky (1968) and conflicts with
the kindergarten curriculum advocated by Hymes (1968) .
The findings of the present study suggest that unit and
large hollow block play provides a medium for positive
social interaction. Furthermore, boys and girls behave
similarly in block play which provides them the opportunity
to engage in solitary, parallel, and group play. The small
sample used for the present study added to the lack of


75
observations of kindergarten children playing with large
hollow and unit blocks, made in late 1981 and early 1982.
In addition, the researcher has expanded the units of be
havior in the "speech" categories of Leach (1972) and Smith
and Connolly (1972) to include units of verbal behavior ob
served during the above-mentioned observations of the block
play of kindergarten boys and girls.
Inter-Observer Agreement
The mean inter-observer agreement on all categories of
this checklist was 76.5% for unit blocks and 81.5% for large
hollow blocks between two independent judges, the author and
a graduate student assistant. The agreement ranged from
71% to 86.5% for unit blocks and 75.5% to 87% for large hol
low blocks. The calculations were based on the number of
agreements divided by the total of the greatest number of be
haviors scored by one observer for each 15-second period.
Two agreement checks were made for each type of blocks
before the coding began. Additionally, six more agreement
checks with unit blocks and four more checks with large hol
low blocks were made during the study.
In order to collect data in an accurate, objective, and
consistent manner an observational technique appropriate for
the setting, the situation, and the questions posed by this
study had to be found. The following section describes the
choice of observation techniques and the reason for this
choice.


CHAPTER III
METHODOLOGY
This study investigated the social behavior and levels
of social participation of kindergarten children while they
played with large hollow blocks and unit blocks. The vague
manner in which social behaviors were defined in the pre
viously reviewed studies investigating the relationship be
tween social behavior and play material seriously limits the
interpretation of their findings. Therefore, further inves
tigation into this area was needed. Before this research
was begun, clear guidelines for defining the social behavior
of young children were set forth. The ethological methodol
ogy adapted by Appleton (1980), Blurton Jones (1967, 1972b),
Hutt and Hutt (1970), Leach (1972), and Smith and Connolly
(1972) to investigate the social behavior of preschool chil
dren during freeplay provided the guidelines needed for
clearer definitions of the units of social behavior.
Defining Social Behavior
Ethology is characterized by its method of direct ob
servation in a naturalistic setting and uses a particular
zoological approach which differs from other observational
approaches in that behavior is recorded "not in terms of
62


60
Summary
The literature suggests that blocks are a highly pre
ferred play material of preschool and kindergarten children.
Blocks are more popular with boys but girls too are very in
terested in block play, especially when given equal access
to the block area. In addition, most American kindergarten
and preschool classrooms are equipped with either unit blocks,
large hollow blocks, or both.
Isaacs (1972), Piaget (1962), and Smilansky (1968) em
phasized the value of play for the social development of the
child. Hymes (1968) stressed the goal of kindergarten educa
tion is to educate the "whole child through experiences
which allow the child to work and play in small groups. The
use of blocks in a kindergarten classroom provides both the
opportunity for play and small group interaction.
The research appears to indicate that there may be a
relationship between certain materials and the level of so
cial participation and the social behavior of children. How
ever, the findings from these studies are of limited value
to kindergarten teachers in planning appropriate social
learning experiences for individual children primarily be
cause of the vague definitions of social behaviors.
There exists a need to further examine the relationship
between social behavior and play materials. An investiga
tion into the block play of kindergarten children is both


69
individuals or groups of children. Specific lessons geared
to the needs and interests of the children were carefully
planned by the teacher and provided the foundation of the
curriculum for the class. The teacher was extremely sensi
tive to the needs of the children and thus, many learning ex
periences took place in a meaningful context through sponta
neous, indirect instruction. She also directed a cooking,
writing, math, or art activity for a group or groups of chil
dren or just played with a child in the sandbox or dramatic
play area.
The parents, aides, and high school volunteers usually
were responsible for either a specific activity (one of the
above) or an activity they designed for the children them
selves. They read to, played with, or helped the children
with specific lessons in math or writing.
The children chose from any of the activities available
that day, the only restriction being that each activity was
limited to a certain number of children, usually four, at
one time. Children could come and go as they wished as long
as they obeyed the rule limiting the number of participants
and cleaned up before they left an area. Unit blocks, large
hollow blocks, the sandbox, dramatic play, the book corner,
and some kind of art activity were always available for them
to choose from.
A description of the subjects observed and the proce
dures used for selection of the sample and collection of the
data follow.


Table 7. Continued.
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Touch
Type of Blocks
1.01
i
1.01
2.91
0.1635
Error
1.39
4
0.35
Facial Expressions and
Vocalizations
Cry/Scream
Type of Blocks
1.01
1
0.01
2.67
0.1778
Error
0.02
4
0.01
Frown
Type of Blocks
0.05
1
0.05
0.35
0.5870
Error
0.58
4
0.14
Laugh
Type of Blocks
34.45
1
34.45
24.10
0.0080
Error
5.72
4
1.43
Playnoise
Type of Blocks
0.03
1
0.03
0.00
0.9741
Error
94.11
4
23.53
Pout
Type of Blocks
0.01
1
0.01
1.00
0.3739
Error
0.05
4
0.01
Smile
Type of Blocks
131.33
1
131.33
10.74
0.0306
Error
48.91
4
12.23
104


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
Block play has been an integral part of the kindergar
ten curriculum since the kindergarten reform movement of the
early 1900s (Robinson & Spodek, 1965). The invention of
unit blocks (small, solid,hardwood blocks) by Pratt and the
influence of Johnson's 1933 book The Art of Blockbuilding
were instrumental reasons for the initial popularity of
blocks as a kindergarten play material in the United States
(Hirsch, 1974). Today unit blocks and large hollow blocks
are still common equipment in most American kindergartens
(Bender, 1978; Benish, 1978; Cohen & Rudolph, 1977; Maxim,
1980; Robinson & Spodek, 1965).
Blocks have been described as the "most important" ma
terial found in a preschool or kindergarten classroom (Ben
ish, 1978; Starks, 1960). Their adaptable qualities provide
children with "opportunities for growth" and the choice of
playing alone or with a group (Starks, 1960). Blocks are
"nonthreatening" and a more desirable material for children
who feel uncomfortable with messy materials such as clay
and fingerpaints (Cartwright, 1974) Early childhood edu
cators maintain blocks can stimulate physical, cognitive,
emotional, and social development (Benish, 1978; Cartwright,
1


92
objective record of the behaviors observed. This technique
also complements the precise behavioral definitions and the
naturalistic observation procedure of the ethological
methodology. Together they provide a strong and sophisti
cated methodological approach that has been successfully
utilized in observing the social behavior of young children
(Smith & Connolly, 1972).
In summary, the method of direct observation in the
classroom setting, using a time-sampling technique and a
checklist of predetermined, precisely defined units of
social behavior and levels of social participation, was
used in this study. The methods described above were
appropriate for the investigation of social behavior
occurring during block play and provided the necessary
information for future replication.


72
that were allowed to play in both the unit and large hollow
block areas at one time and (2) observations by the teacher
in November and December, 1981, revealed that two boys and
two girls commonly played together in both block areas.
Since one of the questions this study investigated was
differences between boys' and girls' social behavior and so
cial participation as they played with blocks, it was neces
sary to have an equal number of children from both sexes in
each group. This ensured that the group composition by sex
would not affect the observed behavior of the individual
children.
Although the researcher was extremely concerned about
investigating in a "naturalistic setting" (Bott, 1982; Bron-
fenbrenner, 1979), he also felt it was more important to ob
serve the social behavior and social participation of those
children who played with blocks infrequently. By assigning
both boys and girls to groups and by controlling their choice
of activity within the context of their normal "learning
center time," it allowed the researcher to observe those
children who used blocks infrequently as well as the fre
quent- and non-users of blocks.
Procedure for Observation
The children were observed for a total of 60 minutes
per child, 30 minutes for each type of blocks, using a time
sampling technique similar to the one used by Smith and


51
middle-class children attending six private kindergartens.
The teachers of these six classes were trained to observe
their children during outdoor and indoor free-play sessions.
The number of observations ranged from 7 to 21 with an av
erage length of 35 minutes in a range of 15 to 60 minutes.
The teachers recorded any solitary play observed for any
child and coded it in one of eight categories. Spot checks
on the reliability of the observers (teachers) showed 100%
reliability. The only difference found was that girls ex
hibited more educationally-oriented solitary play. Moore
et al. (1974) found no interaction between effects of sex
and birth order on solitary play as hypothesized.
Although the sample size appeared adequate, the number
of observations sufficient, and the "spot check" reliabil
ity high, the methodology of this study may be questioned
on several levels. There was no standardization of the
length of the observation period or of the number of obser
vations made, thus it is possible some classes could have had
many more observations than others. Additionally, the study
made no mention of how often each child was observed; it is
conceivable that some children were observed many times
while others were never observed or observed only a few
times. Most notably, it seems questionable to have the
teacher as observer. It is difficult enough to be "in charge"
of a large group of kindergarten children without the addi
tional responsibility of being a researcher. Their role as


98
statistical significance since this behavior could occur
only with large hollow blocks. Group and Unoccupied oc
curred more often with large hollow blocks. Solitary and
Parallel were recorded more often when children played with
unit blocks.
Block area participation by type of blocks. The
marginal means for each type of blocks for the block area
participation variable (Not Present) are reported in Table 4.
During each of the four observations, children were Not
Present in the large hollow block area an average of 4.16
out of 30 15 second-intervals. In the unit block area the
children were Not Present for an average of 9.57 out of 30
15-second intervals. Therefore, the children were present
an average of 25.84 and 20.43 out of 30 15-second inter
vals for large hollow and unit blocks, respectively.
Table 5 summarizes the ANOVA for the differences be
tween types of blocks for the block area participation
variable (Not Present). There is a significant difference
at a .05 level between the Not Present scores for large
hollow blocks and unit blocks. Children were recorded as
Not Present significantly more frequently for unit block
play than for large hollow block play. Stated another way,
children were present significantly more often for large
hollow block play than for unit block play.


20
While the naturalistic observational studies are in
general agreement as to the preference of young children for
block play, the other studies are divided in their findings
about children's preference for blocks. These other studies
reported the following contradictory findings: (1) blocks
are among the least preferred of the preschool and kinder
garten materials (Margolin & Letn, 1961; Vance & McCall,
1934); (2) blocks are only of intermediate interest to two-
and three-year-old children (Cockrell, 1935) ,' and (3) pre
school children would rather play with blocks than look at
pictures (Vlietstra, 1978).
In analyzing the findings of both the naturalistic ob
servational studies and the other materials preference inves
tigations, it is important to carefully examine the methodol
ogy used in each study. The naturalistic observational stud
ies differed from the other studies in two ways (1) they
attempted to preserve the natural setting, and (2) a large
number of observations were extended over a period of time.
Bott (1928), Clark et al. (1969), Farwell (1930), Hartley
et al. (1952), Hulson (1930a), Kinsman and Berk (1979), Par-
ten (1933), and Van Alstyne (1932) all observed children in
their free-play period without interfering with their play
or altering the environment of the school (with the excep
tion of Farwell [1930] who brought the materials into the
various classrooms and Kinsman and Berk [1979] who, as a
part of their study, combined the block and housekeeping


50
Perhaps the most critical finding was the initiation of
block play by three girls who had not previously been ob
served using blocks. Both Varma (1980) and Patterson (1976)
believed the reason girls spent so little time in the block
area was a result of boys or the teacher designating the
block area as the boys "territory," and not because they were
not interested in blocks. Varma (1980) controlled for this
variable of male "dominance" over the blocks by adding an
other area. This not only encouraged three previously ob
served female non-users to play in the block corner but also
increased the amount of time spent by all the girls and five
of the boys playing with blocks. Therefore, although a ma
jority of the studies reported that blocks were used more
often by boys than girls, the results of Brenner (1976),
Kinsman and Berk (1979), Vandenberg (1981), and Varma (1980)
indicated at least the potential for a high degree of inter
est in blocks by girls.
The next group of studies explored the effect of sex
on the social participation of children during free-play.
These studies examined social participation using Parten's
(1932) levels of social participation.
Sex Differences in the Social Participation of
Young Children
Moore, Evertson, and Brophy (1974) found kindergarten
boys and girls showed "similar patterns" of solitary play
in a naturalistic observational study of 116 white


65
blocks in their own classroom. A description of the class
room setting and of the educational practices of the teacher
follows.
The Setting
The kindergarten classroom used in this study was ap
proximately 30'x25' with large windows on the north wall.
These windows provided an abundance of natural light and of
fered a full view of the sandbox, garden, and large hollow
block area located outside, adjacent to the north wall of
the classroom. The other walls were covered with colorful
artwork and stories written by the children. The diagram
on page 66 illustrates the layout of the classroom. The
room was divided into seven main sections: (1) the rug area,
(2) the reading corner, (3) the dramatic play corner, (4)
the art area, (5) the unit block area, (6) the writing and
drawing area, and (7) the math area.
The rug area, near the front door, was used for large
group activities usually directed by the teacher. The read
ing corner contained big, soft pillows; a large, comfortable
chair; and a wide selection of books. Teacher- and child-
produced books were available as well as library books.
The dramatic play area provided men's and women's cloth
ing for dressup, a small table with chairs, dolls, dishes,
and wooden replicas of an electric range and sink as well as


70
Subjects
The subjects used in this study were members of the
above-mentioned kindergarten class at P.K. Yonge, the labora
tory school of the University of Florida in Gainesville.
The class was composed of 15 boys, 4 black and 11 white, and
10 girls, 4 black and 6 white, from all three levels of SES:
8 low income, 12 middle income, and 5 high income. The age
of the children ranged from five years four months, to six
years two months. As is customary at this lab school, chil
dren were assigned to classes which are prototypical of Flor
ida's population in terms of race and SES. This classroom
was therefore as representative as possible of a typical kin
dergarten classroom in the State of Florida.
The children were in general rather sophisticated in
their block play since they had had the opportunity to play
with blocks for over 140 school days before the study began
and since most of the children had attended preschools where
blocks were available. All of the children had an equal op
portunity to play with blocks because the teacher used a
learning centers approach in teaching which allowed the chil
dren to choose the activity they wanted to do. Most of the
activities were limited to four children participating at
one time. The unit block and large hollow block areas were
two of the learning centers children could choose from since
the first day of school.


63
observables and activity statements" (Hutt & Hutt, 1970).
Ethologists place particular importance on the precise def
inition of the specific behaviors they plan to observe in an
attempt to not only bring more objectivity to the study but
also to make replication of the study possible. As Blurton
Jones (1972a), a noted ethologist, pointed out:
An incidental result of careful description is
the potential replicability of ethological stud
ies. A worker in another laboratory on a dif
ferent continent can, we claim, read the ac
count of one ethologist and know exactly what
behavior to look for, and can therefore repeat
earlier studies. This is unfortunately not
true of most so-called observational studies of
children. Until recently behavior was never de
scribed in terms of what the observer saw, but
in terms much more of what he thought he meant,
or in terms with an intermediate status but of
equal vagueness. The early observational stud
ies reported on frequencies of "aggression," or
frequencies of "affiliative behavior" but, for
example, there is no way to tell what occur
rences Green (1933) recorded as "quarrels."
Those sorts of categories are still in use in
some quarters today, but how does one tell what
one observer called aggression or what another
called affiliativeness? (p. 12, 13)
In order to obtain more objectivity and precision in
observing and reporting the social behavior of young chil
dren, ethologists use categories of behavior that represent
what they term a unitary concept or unit of behavior. Leach
(1972) used the following criteria in determining the units
of behavior to use while studying the social behavior of nor
mal and problem preschool children. "(1) The units should
be readily definable, and so recognizable to other workers,


21
areas). In all of the naturalistic observational studies,
the children were observed a number of times over an extended
time period of at least one month and as much as two years.
For example, Hartley et al. (1952) observed 217 two and one-
half- to five and one-half-year old children for two years in
20 preschools during free-play. Kinsman and Berk (1979) re
corded the play behaviors of 37 preschool and kindergarten
children for nine hours a week for six consecutive weeks.
Van Alstyne (1932) studied 112 children from five preschools
and two kindergartens over a four month period by means of
naturalistic observation of each child for at least 10 hours.
All three of these studies found blocks to be children's
most preferred play material.
The methodology used in the other studies investigating
the play materials preference of children differed greatly
from the above in that children were (1) asked on one oc
casion only to make choices about their preference for play
materials by choosing pictures of the material they liked
best (Margolin & Letn, 1961; Vance & McCall, 1934) as op
posed to observers recording what material the children used;
(2) observed in an artificial setting (Cockrell, 1935; Vliet-
stra, 1978), or (3) observed only on a small number of occa
sions for short periods of time (Vlietstra, 1978).
Vance and McCall (1934) and Margolin and Letn (1961)
used a method of paired comparison of pictures depicting pre
school activities to determine preference of materials. This


57
Eisenberg-Berg and Hand (1979) found no overall sex
differences in the "sharing" and "helping/comforting" behav
ior of predominantly middle-class four- and five-year-old
preschoolers. The subjects, 18 boys and 17 girls, were all
white with the exception of two Chicanos and one American
Indian and attended a university preschool. Each child was
randomly observed for a minimum of 70 two-minute periods
over 6-11 weeks. The observers recorded how often the chil
dren shared, helped, or comforted during each two minute
period. "Comforting" was later combined with "helping" as
a result of infrequent occurrence of this behavior.
In a meta-analysis of 32 observational studies on peer-
directed aggression, Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) found highly
significant sex differences in children six years of age
and younger. The Z values suggested higher male aggression
in 24 of the 32 studies, no difference in 3, and no study
found higher rates of female aggression.
Tieger (1980) refuted the findings of Maccoby and Jack
lin (1980) by using a meta-analysis technique suggested by
Cooper (1979). Using Cooper's procedure Tieger (1980) chose
to examine all studies which observed aggressive behaviors
in children of six years or younger. Maccoby and Jacklin
(1980) included two studies in which the subjects' ages
ranged from four to seven and five to eight. Tieger (1980)
also looked at studies which "measured aggression defined as
behaviors involving attacks, fighting, interpersonal disputes,


132
1977) Group play provides the opportunity for meaningful
social interaction in what the child views as a relevant
social context.
Therefore, the availability of both types of blocks
is suggested because it gives children the opportunity to
engage in all levels of social play. Solitary and parallel
play are most likely to occur with unit blocks. The
children have more opportunity to practice their social
interaction skills with large hollow blocks because group
play occurs more frequently with them. Since large hollow
blocks seem to be the most popular with children, they will
probably spend more time engaged in block play using them,
consequently providing more time for social interaction.
Unit blocks are recommended for the kindergarten
classroom to ensure the opportunity for solitary, parallel,
and group play. Large hollow blocks are suggested because
of their popularity and the greater chance of group play
occurring. Little antisocial behavior is likely to happen
during either type of block play if an adequate supply of
blocks and enough space to build is provided by the teacher.
The block literature suggests about 500 unit blocks and 70
large hollow blocks for an average kindergarten class
(Hirsch, 1974; Starks, 1960). A final suggestion is that
teachers may need to provide some encouragement for girls
to play with blocks.


34
Relationships Between the Use of Blocks and
Other Selected Materials and the Social
Participation of Young Children
The following investigations examined the relationship
between materials and social play. These studies sought to
find out what kind of social play occurred while young chil
dren were playing with various selected materials, one of
these materials being blocks. Many of these studies used
Parten's (1932) scale of social participation to determine
a child's level of social play. Parten's levels of social
participation are: (1) unoccupied behavior, (2) solitary
play, (3) onlooker behavior, (4) parallel play, (5) asso
ciative play, and (6) cooperative play in that hierarchical
order.
Parten (1933) utilized her six categories of social
participation in a study of 34 preschool children observed
daily at free-play until 60 one-minute behavior samples were
recorded. The social situations which accompanied play with
each type of material were analyzed for their social partic
ipation value. In order to ensure an unbiased sample, the
last one or two instances of play with each material were
chosen from each child's record until 50 instances were re
corded for every material. The housekeeping area and dolls
ranked highest in cooperative play. Block play occurred at
almost equal frequencies at the solitary, parallel, asso
ciative and cooperative levels. Clay was found to elicit


119
Summary of Findings
A mixed-SES and mixed-race sample of 20 kindergarten
children, 10 boys and 10 girls, was observed while playing
with unit and large hollow blocks. The subjects were assigned
by the teacher to five groups, each consisting of two boys
and two girls. These groups remained intact for the entire
study. Each child was observed four different times with
each type of blocks for a total of 60 minutes. Although they
were encouraged to enter the block area during the observation
periods, the children could leave the block area and return
whenever they wished. Children also could choose not to come
to the block area if they so desired.
The findings from this study help provide answers to the
five questions posed in Chapter I. Those questions are sum
marized in the four areas of discussion outlined below.
1. What levels of social participation occur as
kindergarten children play with unit and large
hollow blocks?
All levels of social participation occurred during both
types of block play with the exception of Inside Structure,
which is only applicable to large hollow blocks. With large
hollow blocks Group occurred about 57% of the time while
Inside Structure, Parallel, Solitary, and Onlooker were
observed between 6% and 7% of the time. Unoccupied was
recorded 2% of the time and Not Present accounted for the
remaining 14% of observation time.


67
puppets and a puppet stage. During one week of the study,
this area was transformed into a "hospital," complete with
surgical equipment and a cot.
The art area consisted of a large round table, two
easels, and numerous art supplies including tempera paint,
crayons, clay, magic markers, construction paper, and scis
sors. This area was also used for cooking, which took place
regularly in this class.
Located next to the windows, the unit block area was
defined by a 10' x 12' blue carpet. Approximately 500 unit
blocks were available to the children. Included were the
basic unit (a 5 1/2" x 2 3/4" x 1 3/8" rectangle), the double
unit (a rectangle twice as long as the unit), squares (half
units), pillars (quarter units), arches, cylinders, and tri
angles. Small zoo and farm animals as well as toy planes,
cars, and boats were also found here.
The writing and drawing area usually focused on an ac
tivity related to the current unit of study, and would in
clude key-word cards, sentence strips, charts, paper and en
velopes of various size and shape, markers, pencils, and
crayons. Also found in this area were children's personal
word lists, stimulating materials, and live animals, all de
signed to provide concrete, hands-on experiences to encour
age language development, writing, and thinking. Aquariums,
terrariums, and cages of many different species of plants
and animals were also located on shelves and countertops
throughout the room.


13
Naturalistic Observational Studies
Large blocks ranked second in popularity among 25 play
materials in an observational study of nine preschool chil
dren conducted by Bott (1928). She divided the children
into three groups (two- to three-year-olds, three- to four-
year-olds, and over four), reporting the findings of only
three children at each age level. Materials were assigned
to five categories: patterned, raw materials, locomotor,
mechanical, and unclassified. She found that the category
of raw materials, which included blocks, was used for the
longest periods of time by the two- to three- and three- to
four-year-old groups and for the second longest periods of
time by the over four-year-old group. Bott acknowledged
that the small number of cases limits generalizability, but
the results suggested the importance of the availability of
raw materials, including blocks, for preschool children.
Hulson (1930a) gained similar results by studying ten
four-year-old preschoolers, six over a period of one school
year and four over a four-month period, for an hour during
free-play each day. When the 13 materials investigated were
"ranked in order according to the number of times chosen,
number of minutes used, persistence in use, and social value,
it was found that blocks held first rank in all four" (p.
208). Hulson, like Bott (1928), observed only a small num
ber of subjects. However, she used a method of consecutive


68
The math area centered around a small rectangular table
and included manipulatives and games. The materials were
located on a child-accessible shelf and always available for
use.
The back door opened to a 8'xl5' covered area where the
large hollow blocks were located. This area in turn led to
a 20'xl5' outside play area which contained a small garden
and sandbox. The outside play area was bounded by the class
room on one side, the covered large hollow block area on an
other, and a 3' serpentine brick wall on the other two sides.
All of these inside and outside areas were used regularly by
the children during learning center time. This learning
center time was from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., Tuesday
through Friday and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Mondays and
Thursdays.
Educational Practices of the Teacher
During the learning center time the teacher and an
aide were always present. Many times a parent volunteer, a
student teacher from the University of Florida, or a high
school student was also there.
The teacher's role during this activity time varied de
pending on the number of assistants she had that day and the
kind of activities planned. She may have spent the whole
period roaming from activity to activity, observing children
and taking advantage of "teachable moments" to work with


114
Teacher-directed behavior. There were no differences
between type of blocks x sex x time for Call Teacher and
Get Teacher as reported in Tables 19 and 20. Neither sex
was more likely to call for the teacher or to go get the
teacher. The children exhibited similar behavior for these
two variables during unit and large hollow block play.
Teacher Intervention Behavior
As reported in Tables 21 and 22, there were no dif
ferences or interactions between types of blocks over time.
The teacher or teacher's aide intervened during the chil
dren's unit block play as often as during their large hol
low block play. This was true for both teacher interven
tion variables. Sex differences were not reported because
of the score on each variable was the number of interven
tions for the group as a whole, not the number of inter
ventions by a particular child.
Summary
The findings indicated that the children in this study
(1) engaged in more group play with large hollow blocks and
in more parallel and solitary play with unit blocks, (2)
spent more time playing with large hollow blocks, and (3) ex
hibited similar social behaviors with both types of blocks


39
play when an adequate amount of large hollow blocks was pres
ent. Although Vandenberg (1981) observed no cooperative
play, he did report that the play in the large muscle room
was predominantly on the associative level as opposed to the
predominance of solitary and parallel play observed in the
small muscle room.
Bender (1978), Massey (1970), and Parten (1933) all ob
served solitary, parallel, and cooperative play in the block
area. Kinsman and Berk (1979) reported that play in the
block center consisted of "intimate social arrangements of
small clusters and pairs" and about 35% in solitary play.
Brown (1942), however, found boys spent 70% and girls 82% of
their time in solitary play while using blocks.
Brown's (1942) findings, however, lend support to those
of Green (1933), Parten (1933), Kinsman and Berk (1979),
Bender (1978), Hulson (1930a), Massey (1970), and Van Alstyne
(1932). That is, both solitary and group play were observed
when children participated in block play. The relevance of
this finding is best expressed by Kinsman and Berk (1979) who
emphasized that the block area has the flexibility to meet
"a variety of children's needs from retreat, withdrawal, and
absorption in private activity to active group participation
and cooperative efforts with other children" (p. 71). Re
sults reported in studies by Moore, Evertson, and Brophy
(1974), Roper and Hinde (1978), and Rubin, Maioni, and Horn-
ung (1976) indicated that because a child is playing alone


55
with blocks and equipped with a hidden videotape camera.
There were three major weaknesses of this study that should
be considered in interpreting Massey's findings: (1) The
definition of social interaction provides us with informa
tion about the quantity of verbal contacts and not the qual
ity of them, and (2) she does not define her other categories
of social interaction (cooperative block building, verbal and
physical directions carried out), and (3) the possibility
exists that the "social interaction" of Massey's (1970) sub
jects was influenced by the laboratory setting.
In a series of three studies Patterson (1976) investi
gated the effect of play materials on the social behavior of
four- and five-year-old preschool children. The subjects,
14 boys and 11 girls, were from a variety of socioeconomic
and racial backgrounds. Patterson found in the first obser
vational study that boys exhibited more "assertive-disrup
tive" behavior than did girls when observed during the free-
play hour in the art, games, blocks and dramatic play areas.
She also found that boys' "assertive-disruptive" behaviors
occurred most frequently in the block area and least fre
quently in the art area. The second observational study con
firmed the earlier findings. The same methodology was used;
each child was observed for 30 seconds over a period of 16
consecutive school days during free-play hour.
In Patterson's (1976) third study the children were ob
served in same-sex groups of three, once with an art activity


109
and 10 provide evidence that the boys' and girls' levels
of social participation and social behavior were similar
during their play with these two types of blocks.
Other Findings
Time. The results of the ANOVA with regard to date of
observation showed that the variables Unoccupied, Ask/Offer/
Suggest, Comfort/Praise, and Cry/Scream exhibit statisti
cally significant changes in frequency over time. Table
11 reports the summary of the ANOVAs with regard to time
for these four variables.
The marginal means for Unoccupied, Ask/Offer/Suggest,
Comfort/Praise and Cry/Scream for each observation time are
reported in Table 12. These results would appear to indi
cate that there was no consistent change in behavior over
time and that differences were more dependent on the occa
sion and not on the experience with blocks or the group.
For example, Unoccupied Time 1 is similar to Time 3 and
Time 2 is similar to Time 4, which may indicate that the
particular occasion influenced the behavior and not that
the behavior changed consistently over time. It is impor
tant to note the children in this study were observed for
only seven weeks.
Interactions. Table 13 indicates a significant type
of blocks x sex interaction for Help. The marginal means
in Table 14 indicate that girls were more likely to help


2
1974; Hirsch, 1974; Layman, 1940; Tarrants, 1950; Winston &
Fleiss, 1966).
The selection of play materials which encourage the de
velopment of the child is a major role of the kindergarten
teacher. If blocks are capable of providing opportunities
for practicing social skills, then it is important for the
teacher to know the potential of this material for enhancing
specific learning situations. A better understanding of the
relationships between kindergarten children's block play and
their social development will provide teachers with the in
formation necessary to make curricular decisions that pro
mote the social growth of kindergarten children.
Statement of the Problem
This study investigated the social behavior that oc
curred while kindergarten children played with unit and large
hollow blocks. The results provide information about the
levels of social participation and specific social behaviors
that may occur when kindergarten children play with these
two types of blocks. This information adds to the present
knowledge of the value of blocks as a play material and the
relationships between block play and the social development
of the kindergarten child.
Specifically, the purpose of this study was to examine
the following research questions:


33
these findings indicated that "depriving these children of
play materials forced them much more to attend to them-
sevles than to play with their companion" (p. 463).
Play has been established by Issacs (1972), Piaget
(1962), Smilansky (1968), and others as crucial to the so
cial development of young children. Forman and Hill (1980)
suggested there is a relationship between social learning
and the knowledge a child gains about the physical world
through constructive play. A relationship between the
amount of social interaction and the presence of play mate
rials was observed in Cockrell's (1935) study of two- and
three-year-old children.
The theories and research outlined above would appear
to justify further investigation into the relaitonship be
tween specific play materials and social play. The follow
ing statement by Van Alstyne (1932) provides additional sup
port for studying this relationship.
Since play has these values in developing and
socializing the child, it is of considerable
importance to know which materials tend to pro-
vice the best setting for social participation.
(p. 2)
Is there a relationship between the social participa
tion of a child and the activity in which that child is en
gaged? The findings from the following studies will help
to answer this and other questions concerning the relation
ship between social behavior and the child's choice of play
material.


43
block category ranked sixth in the pro-social grouping at
61.5%, the second-rated activity was only 64.5%, a statis
tically significant difference between the two may not ex
ist. Furthermore, while blocks were rated as the second
most quarrelsome activity at 20.2%, housekeeping was rated
third at 20%, a difference of .2%, which may have been a re
sult of observational error. Second, Green's definition of
"sociability" (percentage of time playing with companions),
like Hulson's (1930a), does not provide any information con
cerning the specific social behavior that occurred while
children played with various materials. Third, the defini
tion and interpretation of the "quarreling" category is sub
ject to dispute. Quarreling is defined as "percent of time
involved in quarrels," a vague and somewhat circular defini
tion. It is impossible to interpret Green's results without
knowing what constitutes a "quarrel."
Is quarreling necessarily an anti-social behavior? Can
children learn certain social skills from some "quarrels?"
Did the children resolve these "quarrels" themselves or did
a teacher have to step in? Piaget (1932) stated that some
degree of conflict is necessary to promote social learning
and thus aid in the child's developmental progress in becom
ing a more social being. Through many naturalistic observa
tions the researcher has found that "disagreements" are com
mon in block play but "physical aggression" and "fights" are
rare, and that the children usually solve their "disagreements"


CHAPTER V
DISCUSSION
Despite the fact that both unit and large hollow blocks
have traditionally been popular kindergarten materials, little
is known about the social behavior that occurs while children
play with these two types of blocks. The purpose of this
study was three-fold: 1) to describe the levels of social
participation and the social behavior of 20 kindergarten
children during block play, 2) to compare the children's
levels of social participation and social behavior occur
ring during large hollow block play and unit block play,
and 3) to investigate the sex differences in the levels of
social participation and social behavior of kindergarten
children occurring during unit and large hollow block play.
It is hoped that the information gathered in this investi
gation will 1) aid teachers in making curriculum decisions
relevant to the social development of their kindergarten
students and 2) stimulate interest in future investigation
into the relationships between block play and the social
development of young children.
118


35
primarily parallel play, a moderate amount of associative,
and no cooperative or solitary play. Parten also assigned
social participation scores for the 10 favorite materials
by weighting each level of social play in the following
manner: unoccupied behavior, -3; solitary play, -2; on
looker behavior, -1; parallel play, 1; associative play, 2;
cooperative play, 3. The results of the social participa
tion score for each material were the house and doll corner
ranked first with a score of 103, and blocks and clay tied
for third with scores of 51 each.
Brown (1942) reported 83% of the girls and 70% of the
boys played alone with blocks. She recorded all the behav
iors and conversations of 50 kindergartners for 10 weeks
during self-chosen activity periods. Brown did not use Par-
ten's (1932) social participation levels to classify the
children's level of social play, so we cannot be sure how
much of the self-play she observed was solitary and how much
was parallel nor can we assume that the time boys and girls
were not playing alone they were engaged in group play.
Parallel play was most often recorded by Clark et al.
(1969) during the table activities (finger painting, cutting,
glueing, sewing, coloring, etc.) of three- and four-year-
old middle-income British preschoolers. Cooperative play,
"children participating together," however, was most commonly
observed in the block area.


18
Vance and McCall (1934) used a method of paired compar
ison of pictures to investigate children's preferences among
48 materials. They found blocks ranked low with preschool
and kindergarten children. The 15 boys and 17 girls stud
ied ranged in age from three and one-half to six and one-half
years old. The subjects' families were members of "profes
sional and business classes." The blocks rated low by the
children were similar to unit blocks. In addition, the
findings indicated girls enjoyed materials which involved
"more passive play," while the boys preferred wood working,
large blocks, and materials which involved "more strenuous
activity."
In a similar study, Margolin and Letn (1961) randomly
selected 200 mixed-SES kindergartners, five boys and five
girls from 20 classrooms in Los Angeles. The purpose of
this study was "to investigate children's interest in block
play where the situation requires total class participation"
(p. 13). Ten photographs portraying a block activity were
paired with a photo portraying another activity and the chil
dren were asked, "Which of these would you rather be doing?"
(p. 14). Non-block activities were chosen much more often
than block activities. Girls exhibited a significant pref
erence for the non-block activities. The authors concluded
that the use of blocks in the kindergarten classroom should
be questioned; however, they also hypothesized that the low
blocks rating may have been attributed to children's dislike


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Dwight L. Rogers, III, was born on April 28, 1948, in
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and obtained his primary and sec
ondary education there. He first attended the University
of Florida in 1966, graduating in 1970 with a Bachelor of
Science in journalism and in 1974 with a Master of Arts in
education.
Dwight was a Teacher Corps Volunteer and taught in
kindergarten and child care for five years. After entering
graduate school he worked as a graduate instructor teaching
courses in early childhood curriculum and art. In Septem
ber, 1982, he will begin teaching at Ohio University in
Athens, Ohio.
Dwight is married to Gail Gillespie Rogers and they
have two children, Amy and Nora. His major outside inter
ests include playing old time fiddle tunes with Gail and
the Bucksnort Barndance Band and running several miles a
day.
151


31
Play and Social Development
The importance of play to the development of the young
child has been emphasized by child development experts and
early childhood educators alike (Piaget, 1962; Smilansky,
1968; Spodek, 1974; Sponseller, 1974; Vygotsky, 1978). Play
is the medium in which children learn best (Spodek, 1974).
According to Vygotsky, "The child moves forward [develops]
essentially through play activity" (p. 103).
Play contributes to learning in all the developmental
areas including social development (Sponseller, 1974) .
Isaacs (1972), Piaget (1962), and Smilansky (1968) stated
that socio-dramatic play, through recognition of others and
cooperation and participation in mutual activities with other
children, aids in the transformation of an ego-centric child
into a social individual. Forman and Hill (1980) provided
a good example of this social learning process through play:
Dramatic play episodes allow children the free
dom to expand their behaviors beyond an egocen
tric perspective. When pretending to be a res
cue medic, a child develops ideas about another
person's activities that are different from his
own. (p. 105)
Furthermore as Piaget (1932) pointed out, when a child
plays with another child he/she may come to realize that the
other child does not necessarily share his/her own point of
view. When the child makes this discovery then he/she be
gins to question the other child's ideas and thus redefines


61
logical and necessary. It is logical because children like
blocks and they are available in most kindergartens. It is
necessary because, although the area of social development
is an integral part of the kindergarten curriculum, it has
been overshadowed by the recent "first-grade prep" movement.
Thus it is more important for the teacher to know more about
the relationships between unit and large hollow block play
and the social development of kindergarten children. This
research will provide the teachers with information on which
to base curriculum decisions concerning the appropriateness
of these types of blocks for enhancing specific social learn
ing situations.
The study of kindergarten play materials is as impor
tant today as it was in the early 1900s when Hill (1915) con
eluded:
It is sincerely believed that the time has
come when all materials and methods must be
carefully investigated and those selected
which prove to be of actual worth in the de
velopment of the kindergarten child. (p. 8)


48
Sex Differences in the Materials Preference of
Young Children
The majority of both experimentally-manipulated and
naturalistic observational studies indicated that preschool
and kindergarten boys were more likely to play with blocks
than girls (Beeson & Williams, 1979; Bott, 1928; Clark et
al., 1969; Farrell, 1957; Farwell, 1930; Margolin & Letn,
1961; Patterson, 1976; Rubin, 1977; Van Alstyne, 1932;
Varma, 1980). However, Brenner (1976), Kinsman and Berk
(1979), and Vandenberg (1981) found no sex differences ex
isted in the preference for blocks of three- to six-year-
old children. Brenner's (1976) sample was composed of 18
white middle class three and four years old, nine boys and
nine girls. Kinsman and Berk (1979) observed 37 white mid
dle-class three- to six-year-old children, 21 boys and 16
girls, in a university laboratory school while Vandenberg
(1981) studied 15 male and 13 female, white middle-class
three and one-half- to five and one-half-year-old children
in an urban preschool. The small sample of white middle-
class children investigated by Brenner (1976), Kinsman and
Berk (1979), and Vandenberg (1981) as compared to larger
samples (from 40 to 271) of Beeson and Williams (1979),
Clark et al. (1969), Farrell (1957), Farwell (1930), Margo
lin and Letn (1961), Rubin (1977), and Van Alstyne (1932)
would seem to indicate a good deal more support for the


CHAPTER II
REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH
A survey of the literature related to the study of the
social behavior of young children during block play revealed
three distinct areas of investigation: (1) the materials
preference of kindergarten and preschool children, (2) the
relationships between the choice of play material, the so
cial behavior and social participation of children, and
(3) the sex differences in the materials preference, social
behavior, and social participation of the child. The fol
lowing review will examine studies reported in these three
areas focusing on the relationships between block play and
the social development of the child.
Young Children's Preference for Blocks
Since the late 1920s, a number of studies have been
conducted in order to determine the preferred play materials
and activities of young children. These studies are re
ported below. The reader should note that many of the ear
lier studies made no reference to the socio-economic status
(SES) or race of their subjects. Race, age, sex, and SES
will be reported in this review only for those studies that
contained this demographic information.
12


This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty
of the Division of Curriculum and Instruction in the
College of Education and to the Graduate Council, and
was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
December, 1982
Dean for Graduate Studies and Research


RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN BLOCK PLAY AND THE
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF KINDERGARTEN CHILDREN
BY
DWIGHT L. ROGERS, III
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1982

Copyright 1982
by
Dwight L. Rogers, III
f

This dissertation is dedicated to
my family
Amy, Gail, and Nora.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
One of the most difficult yet satisfying portions of
the dissertation process is the writing of these acknowl
edgements. Although technically I receive the credit for
this study, it could not have been completed without the
assistance of many giving individuals.
First I would like to thank my committee: Dr. Dorene
Ross, for her eternal guidance, insightful suggestions, and
stimulating discussions and more importantly for her friend
ship, understanding, and willingness to give of her self and
her time; Dr. Linda Lamme, for her academic and personal
support throughout my graduate years and for her thorough
criticisms and thoughtful suggestions which made this a
better dissertation; Dr. Jamie Algina, for his creative and
intelligent approach to data analysis, his patience, and
his concern for the investigation and the investigator; Dr.
Pat Ashton, for her infectious enthusiasm for child study
and providing the confidence, encouragement and intellectual
stimulation to pursue the study of children; Dr. Suzanne
Krogh, for her penetrating questions and intriguing ideas
which were a constant source of stimulation and for her
concern and emotional support.
IV

Next I would like to thank my family: My wife, Gail
Gillespie Rogers, for her help through every aspect of this
study and for her patience, love, and understanding through
out the dissertation process; my children, Amy and Nora, for
their hugs and kisses and for putting up with an irritable
and harried daddy; my mother and father, for their faith in
me, exemplified by their love and support throughout grad
uate school and life; my Uncle Bob, who thought I'd never
make it but never gave up hope.
Finally I would like to thank my friends: Connie Green
and the children, for their acceptance, kindness and willing
ness to be involved; Tish Denny, for her friendship and the
hours she spent reading, discussing, answering questions,
and suggesting new and better approaches to problems; Gri-
selda Forbes, for her painstakingly careful editing and re
viewing of the entire manuscript and her patience with me
in my "hour of need;" Karen Kilgore, for her help as an ob
server and her interest in this study and my family; Cherry
Travis, for her friendly hellos and constant technical sup
port.
v

TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iv
ABSTRACT viii
CHAPTER
I INTRODUCTION
Statement of the Problem .
Definition of Terms
Need for the Study
Limitations to the Study .
Summary
II REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH
Young Children's Preference for Blocks
Play and Social Development .
Relationships Between the Use of
Blocks and Other Selected Materials
and the Social Participation of
Young Children
Relationships Between the Use of
Blocks and Other Selected Materials
and the Social Behavior of Young
Children .
Sex Differences in the Materials
Preference, Social Participation,
and Social Behavior of Young
Children
Summary ...
III METHODOLOGY
Defining Social Behavior .
Naturalistic Observations .
Setting
Educational Practices of the Teacher.
Subjects
Selection of the Sample and Grouping.
Procedure for Observation .
Definitions of Levels of Social
Participation ......
1
2
3
5
9
11
12
12
31
34
41
47
60
62
62
64
65
68
70
71
72
82
v l

Definition of Block Area
Participation ....... 84
Definitions of the Units of Social
Behavior 85
Definitions of Teacher-Directed Behavior
and Teacher Intervention Behavior 89
Description of Observational Checklist 90
Summary 91
IV RESULTS 93
Introduction 93
Findings ......... 94
Summary 114
V DISCUSSION 118
Summary of Findings 119
Discussion ......... 122
Suggestions for Further Research 126
Implications for Kindergarten Teaching 129
Conclusion 134
REFERENCES 137
APPENDICES
A OBSERVATIONAL CHECKLIST 144
B SUMMARY TABLE OF CELL MEANS AND STANDARD
DEVIATIONS FOR ALL DEPENDENT VARIABLES 146
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 151
vii

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN BLOCK PLAY AND THE
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF KINDERGARTEN CHILDREN
By
Dwight L. Rogers, III
December, 1982
Chairperson: Dr. Linda L. Lamme
Cochairperson: Dr. Dorene D. Ross
Major Department: Curriculum and Instruction
This naturalistic observational study investigated the
social behavior of kindergarten children as they played with
unit (small, solid, hardwood blocks) and large hollow blocks
The subjects, 10 boys and 10 girls, were observed in a uni
versity laboratory school kindergarten classroom, whose pop
ulation is representative of the population of Florida.
The children were observed in assigned groups of two
boys and two girls each. The children were observed for a
total of 60 minutes per child, 30 minutes for each type of
blocks. Every child was observed on eight occasions, four
for unit and four for large hollow blocks. Two observers
each observed two children for alternating 15 seconds. The
observer first recorded one child's behavior for 15 seconds,
then observed the second child following the same procedure,
viii

until 7 1/2 minutes of data per child were collected for
each occasion.
A 2 (type of blocks) x 2 (sex) x 4 (time) completely
repeated measures ANOVA was used to analyze the data. All
variables were tested at a .05 level of significance. The
findings indicated the following. (1) The children in this
study engaged in more group play with large hollow blocks and
more parallel and solitary play with unit blocks. (2) The
children spent more time with large hollow blocks. (3) The
children exhibited similar social behavior with the two
types of blocks although the behavior usually occurred more
frequently with large hollow which might have been because
the children spent more time with large hollow blocks.
(4) No sex differences were found in the levels of social
participation, the social behavior, or the amount of time
these children spent with the two types of blocks. However,
the small sample of children from only one classroom suggests
a need for further investigation of this finding. (5) Many
behaviors traditionally considered antisocial were rarely or
never observed. These behaviors included taking blocks from
another child, hitting, throwing blocks at others, and fight
ing. The results from this study indicated that both unit
and large hollow block play may provide many opportunities
for different kinds of social behavior and different levels
of social play.
ix

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
Block play has been an integral part of the kindergar
ten curriculum since the kindergarten reform movement of the
early 1900s (Robinson & Spodek, 1965). The invention of
unit blocks (small, solid,hardwood blocks) by Pratt and the
influence of Johnson's 1933 book The Art of Blockbuilding
were instrumental reasons for the initial popularity of
blocks as a kindergarten play material in the United States
(Hirsch, 1974). Today unit blocks and large hollow blocks
are still common equipment in most American kindergartens
(Bender, 1978; Benish, 1978; Cohen & Rudolph, 1977; Maxim,
1980; Robinson & Spodek, 1965).
Blocks have been described as the "most important" ma
terial found in a preschool or kindergarten classroom (Ben
ish, 1978; Starks, 1960). Their adaptable qualities provide
children with "opportunities for growth" and the choice of
playing alone or with a group (Starks, 1960). Blocks are
"nonthreatening" and a more desirable material for children
who feel uncomfortable with messy materials such as clay
and fingerpaints (Cartwright, 1974) Early childhood edu
cators maintain blocks can stimulate physical, cognitive,
emotional, and social development (Benish, 1978; Cartwright,
1

2
1974; Hirsch, 1974; Layman, 1940; Tarrants, 1950; Winston &
Fleiss, 1966).
The selection of play materials which encourage the de
velopment of the child is a major role of the kindergarten
teacher. If blocks are capable of providing opportunities
for practicing social skills, then it is important for the
teacher to know the potential of this material for enhancing
specific learning situations. A better understanding of the
relationships between kindergarten children's block play and
their social development will provide teachers with the in
formation necessary to make curricular decisions that pro
mote the social growth of kindergarten children.
Statement of the Problem
This study investigated the social behavior that oc
curred while kindergarten children played with unit and large
hollow blocks. The results provide information about the
levels of social participation and specific social behaviors
that may occur when kindergarten children play with these
two types of blocks. This information adds to the present
knowledge of the value of blocks as a play material and the
relationships between block play and the social development
of the kindergarten child.
Specifically, the purpose of this study was to examine
the following research questions:

3
1. What levels of social participation occur as kin
dergarten children play with unit and large hollow
blocks?
2. What social behaviors occur as kindergarten chil
dren play with unit and large hollow blocks?
3. What are the differences and similarities between
(a) the levels of social participation, (b) the
block area participation, and (c) the social behav
iors of kindergarten children as they play with
unit and large hollow blocks?
4. What are the differences and similarities between
(a) the levels of social participation, (b) the
block area participation, and (c) the social be
haviors of kindergarten boys and kindergarten
girls as they play with unit blocks?
5. What are the differences and similarities between
(a) the levels of social participation, (b) the
block area participation, and (c) the social be
haviors of kindergarten boys and kindergarten girls
as they play with large hollow blocks?
Definition of Terms
Social Behavior is any action, facial expression, ver
balization or vocalization by one child while interacting

4
with or in the presence of (within three feet) at least one
other child. This category includes behaviors that are both
antisocial and prosocial. The specific behaviors to be ob
served are defined in Chapter III.
Social Participation is the degree of play involvement
and interaction with others, as exhibited by a child in the
block area. Six levels of social participation have been
adapted from Parten (1932). They are: (1) Inside Structure,
(2) Unoccupied, (3) Onlooker, (4) Solitary, (5) Parallel,
and (6) Group. These levels of social participation are de
fined in Chapter III.
Block Area Participation is the amount of time a child
spends in each block area.
Unit Blocks are solid,hardwood blocks of which the ba
sic "unit" is twice as wide as it is thick, and twice as
long as it is wide. The dimensions of the basic unit are
5 1/2" x 2 3/4" x 1 3/8", and all other blocks are either
multiples or divisions of the unit's width, thickness, or
length. The basic unit and double unit comprise 80% of the
set of blocks in addition to an assortment of other shapes
and sixes.
Large Hollow Blocks are wooden blocks much larger than
unit blocks, hollow as opposed to solid, and particularly
suited for outdoor use. The dimensions of the large hollow
blocks are 12" x 12" x 6" and 12" x 6" x 6". They are

5
square-, rectangular-, and triangular-shaped. The rectangu
lar and square blocks make up 90% of the set.
Need for the Study
Several studies have investigated the relationship be
tween block play and children's social development, but only
in a non-specific manner as part of a larger study (Bender,
1978, Clark, Wyon, S Richards, 1969; Hulson, 1930a; Kinsman
& Berk, 1979; Massey, 1970, Parten, 1932; Van Alstyne, 1932).
A major limitation of these investigations is the lack of
clear, concise definitions for the relatively small number
of social behaviors observed. Some of these studies were
conducted almost a half century ago and most focused primar
ily on preschool children. Another weakness exhibited by
these investigations is the lack of demographic data re
ported on the children observed. Many of the studies did
not report the race of the subjects. Therefore, although
several studies have explored the relationship between block
play and the social development of young children, no stud
ies have thoroughly examined block play exclusively in this
developmental area.
Hymes (1968) stressed the importance of providing op
portunities and experiences to promote positive social
growth in the kindergarten child. A better understanding
of what social behavior occurs during block play is

6
necessary to help kindergarten teachers provide appropriate
social learning experiences for children. Little current
information about the relationships between unit or large
hollow block play on social development exists to aid the
kindergarten teacher in making the specific decisions needed
to guide children's social learning in the block area.
Therefore, an in-depth study of the specifically defined so
cial behaviors that occur during the block play of kinder
garten children is needed.
There is a recent trend among some educators to change
the goals of the kindergarten curriculum from that of edu
cating the "whole child" through a challenging and flexible
experiential program to preparing the child for first grade
through a structured, task-oriented, pencil and paper "aca
demic" readiness program (Blackwell, 1980). Hymes (1968)
expressed concern about this trend toward a rigid, content-
oriented approach. He emphasized that good kindergartens
should seek to promote "total development" and argued that
a "seat-work" approach to learning deprives the child of op
portunities for social development: "Kindergartners are so
cial beginners. A good day in school is a day spent in small
subgroups, in clusters of two or three or four" (p. 2).
Block play encourages this kind of grouping among children.
Furthermore, Hymes emphasized that "kindergarten tools
for learning are not the 'standard' tools: chair, paper,
pencil, book" (p. 10). Children need to be actively

7
involved in their learning through a multitude of "hands-on"
experiences, according to Piaget (Bringuier, 1980). Blocks
are one of the "tools" for learning readily available in most
kindergarten classrooms and thus we need to discover more
about the power of this "tool" to promote both cognitive and
social learning.
To get a more complete understanding of the relation
ship between block play and social development, the two most
commonly found types of blocks in kindergarten classrooms,
unit blocks and large hollow blocks, need to be studied.
Although unit and large hollow blocks are both predominantly
rectangular wooden blocks, they also have many different
physical properties. For example, the large hollow blocks
are much larger and heavier than the unit blocks. The stan
dard unit block is 5 1/2" x 2 3/4" x 1 3/8" and weighs only
a few ounces; the standard large hollow block is 24" x 12"
x 6" and weighs several pounds. While a kindergarten child
can easily transport and manipulate several unit blocks at
a time he or she can probably carry only one large hollow
block. Some children require the assistance of another
child when transporting or building with large hollow blocks.
The large hollow blocks are big enough for children to make
structures that they can actually crawl into or climb. Un
like large hollow blocks, the unit block set contains a va
riety of differently shaped blocks as well as squares, tri
angles, and rectangles.

8
These physical differences suggest there will be dif
ferences in children's use of these two types of blocks and
thus differences in their social behavior as they build and
play with either unit or large hollow blocks. There has
been very little research on large hollow blocks. Addition
ally, there have been no studies to date which compared the
social behavior of children playing with these two types of
blocks and the possible relationships between block play and
the social development of the kindergarten child.
A review of the literature on play materials indicates
that blocks are among the most popular play material of
young children, especially the kindergarten child (Hartley,
Frank, & Goldenson, 1952; Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Van Alstyne,
1932). The literature also suggests that boys like blocks
more than girls (Beeson & Williams, 1979; Clark et al.,
1969; Farrell, 1957) but that when girls are given equal ac
cess to the block area the interest level is similar between
sexes (Varma, 1980).
Little information exists about the relationships be
tween play with unit or large hollow blocks and the social
development of kindergarten children. Moreover, the general
and vague definitions of social behavior of the earlier
studies suggest a need for more specific in-depth examina
tion of kindergarten children's social behavior during unit
and hollow block play. As a result of the vague and general
character of the earlier research findings, kindergarten

9
teachers have limited information concerning the possible
social learning situations that may occur when small groups
of kindergarten children play with these two types of blocks.
In addition, there is a current trend among some kindergar
ten teachers to sacrifice social activities such as block
play, in order to provide time to practice readiness skills.
There is a danger in eliminating block play from the kinder
garten curriculum without further investigation into the edu
cational and social value of this activity. Finally, kin
dergarten children's preference for blocks and their avail
ability in most kindergarten classrooms make blocks a poten
tially valuable learning material and lend support for the
need to examine more carefully the unit and large hollow
block play of kindergarten children.
Limitations to the Study
Twenty children from one kindergarten classroom at P.K.
Yonge Laboratory School were the subjects for this study.
P.K. Yonge classes are as representative as possible of Flor
ida's population in terms of race and socioeconomic status
(SES). Therefore, the sample, although small, was composed
of a mixed-sex, -race, and -SES group of kindergarten children.
As a result of the small sample size, the relationship
between social behavior as it occurred during block play and
the effects of birth order, race, SES, and the level of

10
social development was not examined. However, in an effort
to control for the above-mentioned variables, this study
was designed to compare each child's social behavior occur
ring during unit block play to the social behavior of that
same child occurring during large hollow block play. A
thorough description of the classroom setting and the edu
cational practices of the teacher, in addition to the de
tailed demographic information pertaining to the children,
is included in Chapter III to provide information for the
interpretation of the results of this investigation.
An observation checklist was used in the collection of
data. A checklist has the advantage of providing a more
consistent record than other observational techniques and
the checklist format reduces the chance of errors during
analysis. The use of a checklist, however, may limit the
findings because of its brevity and relative inflexibility.
The presence of two observers may have affected the
children's behavior. However, observers are very common in
this classroom and probably had little effect on the chil
dren 's behavior.
Finally, the size and composition of the groups play
ing with the blocks may have had an impact on the behavior
of the children. The group selection process was carefully
planned in an attempt to control these confounding variables.
Total control over these variables was impossible and fur
ther research is needed to study the effect of both group

11
size and composition on the social behaviors of young chil
dren playing with blocks.
Summary
This study investigated the social behavior of kinder
garten children during play with large hollow blocks and
unit blocks. It also compared the differences and similar
ities in the social behavior and social participation dur
ing the unit and large hollow block play of kindergarten
boys and girls. This study was designed to add to the ex
isting knowledge of block play and its relationship to so
cial development. The findings from this study provide kin
dergarten teachers with a better understanding of the social
behaviors that are likely to occur when kindergarten boys
and girls play with each of these types of blocks. The re
sults of this study furnish teachers with information needed
to assist them in making curriculum and instruction deci
sions in order to provide suitable social learning experi
ences to meet the needs of individual kindergarten children.

CHAPTER II
REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH
A survey of the literature related to the study of the
social behavior of young children during block play revealed
three distinct areas of investigation: (1) the materials
preference of kindergarten and preschool children, (2) the
relationships between the choice of play material, the so
cial behavior and social participation of children, and
(3) the sex differences in the materials preference, social
behavior, and social participation of the child. The fol
lowing review will examine studies reported in these three
areas focusing on the relationships between block play and
the social development of the child.
Young Children's Preference for Blocks
Since the late 1920s, a number of studies have been
conducted in order to determine the preferred play materials
and activities of young children. These studies are re
ported below. The reader should note that many of the ear
lier studies made no reference to the socio-economic status
(SES) or race of their subjects. Race, age, sex, and SES
will be reported in this review only for those studies that
contained this demographic information.
12

13
Naturalistic Observational Studies
Large blocks ranked second in popularity among 25 play
materials in an observational study of nine preschool chil
dren conducted by Bott (1928). She divided the children
into three groups (two- to three-year-olds, three- to four-
year-olds, and over four), reporting the findings of only
three children at each age level. Materials were assigned
to five categories: patterned, raw materials, locomotor,
mechanical, and unclassified. She found that the category
of raw materials, which included blocks, was used for the
longest periods of time by the two- to three- and three- to
four-year-old groups and for the second longest periods of
time by the over four-year-old group. Bott acknowledged
that the small number of cases limits generalizability, but
the results suggested the importance of the availability of
raw materials, including blocks, for preschool children.
Hulson (1930a) gained similar results by studying ten
four-year-old preschoolers, six over a period of one school
year and four over a four-month period, for an hour during
free-play each day. When the 13 materials investigated were
"ranked in order according to the number of times chosen,
number of minutes used, persistence in use, and social value,
it was found that blocks held first rank in all four" (p.
208). Hulson, like Bott (1928), observed only a small num
ber of subjects. However, she used a method of consecutive

14
observations over a period of a school year, so many obser
vations were made of these relatively few children.
In her study of 271 middle- and low-SES kindergarten,
first-, and second-grade children, Farwell (1930) introduced
"specific constructive play materials" into the classrooms
and recorded the percentage of time children interacted with
each material during a 30-minute period for 14 days. She
found that boys ranked the Hill Floor blocks (large hollow
blocks) "first in importance." The interest in building
blocks by girlsespecially the Froebelian Gift blocks (like
unit blocks)"decreased from fair interest in kindergarten
to practically no interest in second-grade" (p. 531).
Van Alstyne (1932) observed 112 mixed-race and mixed-
SES two- to five-year-old children in seven different pre
schools and kindergartens over a period of four months.
Each child was observed for at least 10 hours. Her findings
indicated that of the 25 play materials studied, blocks were
the most preferred play material of four- and five-year-olds.
Parten (1933) recorded the activities of 23 high-, mid
dle-, and low-SES two-, three-, and four-year-old children
for one minute each day during free-play period until at
least 60 independent behavior samples were obtained for each
child. She noted 110 different activities; 33 were observed
only once, 79 less than 10 times, 24 from 20 to 100 times,
and 12 more than 100 times. On the basis of "frequency of
occurrence," building with blocks was ranked eighth. The

15
materials ranked fifth through seventh had scores so similar
so as not to be statistically significant. Although Parten
did not find blocks to be as popular as Van Alstyne (1932)
and Hulson (1930a), she did establish them as a much preferred
material, rated eighth out of 110.
Hartley, Frank, and Goldenson (1952), found blocks to
be the most popular play material of 217 preschool children
from "varied cultures and national backgrounds" and ranging
in age from two and one-half to five and one-half years.
These children were observed in 20 different preschools dur
ing free-play as part of a comprehensive study on children's
play. Observers kept running records of the activities, con
text, language, interactions with others, and time of events.
Of the 217 children studied over a two-year period, 97 were
observed choosing blocks, while 83 chose to paint, and 75
chose clay. Blocks also ranked first in general popularity
(the number of children using blocks on each occasion).
Blocks attained this number one ranking despite the differ
ing methods and attitudes of the various teachers and the
wide variety of physical environments of the 20 preschools
involved in this study.
Clark, Wyon, and Richards (1969) observed 40 middle-
class English preschool children during their free-play pe
riod. The 18 boys and 22 girls, from two different pre
schools, were observed for approximately 13 hours. An unob
trusive observer recorded one child's behavior for a 10-

16
second interval then recorded the behavior of another child.
The observation periods were spread across the school year
and normally lasted about one hour. The findings indi
cated that of 19 preschool activities, blocks ranked first
with boys and ninth with girls. The preference was deter
mined by the amount of time each child spent with a particu
lar material or was involved in a particular activity.
Kinsman and Berk (1979) found that "children preferred
the block area and were observed playing there almost twice
as often as the housekeeping setting" (p. 70). In a univer
sity laboratory school, the 21 boys and 16 girls were aged
three and one-half to six and one-half years. The observer
focused on the block and housekeeping areas, alternating be
tween the two every five minutes and dictating the following
information into a tape recorder every 20 seconds: identity
of each child in the setting, group size and composition,
type of play, location of child's activity, and child's af
fective expression. For six weeks the children were ob
served a total of nine hours a week, four hours in the pre
school and five in the kindergarten. Kinsman and Berk
found no sex differences in the amount of time boys and
girls spent in the block area.
In summary, the naturalistic observational studies ap
pear to indicate that when preschool and kindergarten chil
dren are given the opportunity to choose play materials,
their first or second choice will be blocks (Clark et al.,

17
1969; Hartley et al., 1952; Hulson, 1930a; Van Alstyne,
1932), especially large blocks (Bott, 1928; Farwell, 1930).
While Bott (1928) and Clark et al. (1969) found boys ex
pressed more interest in blocks than did girls. Kinsman and
Berk (1979) found boys and girls spent equal time in the
block area. Out of 110 activities observed by Parten (1933)
blocks ranked eighth, behind second-ranked housekeeping.
Kinsman and Berk (1979), however, found children played in
the block area twice as much as in the housekeeping. In
analyzing the findings of these studies, there is evidence
to support preference of blocks as a play material for young
children.
The following section describes a number of studies
that did not use naturalistic observational methodology to
study the play materials preferences of children. These
studies are a composite of various methodologies and designs.
Other Studies Investigating the Play Materials Preferences
of Young Children "" ~~
The following four studies examined young children's
preference for materials and found conflicting evidence for
the popularity of blocks. Vance and McCall (1934) and Mar
golin and Letn (1961) found blocks were rated as least pre
ferred by children. Cockrell's (1935) findings indicated
blocks were of intermediate rank in young children's choice
of materials, while Vlietstra (1978) found blocks to be more
popular than pictures.

18
Vance and McCall (1934) used a method of paired compar
ison of pictures to investigate children's preferences among
48 materials. They found blocks ranked low with preschool
and kindergarten children. The 15 boys and 17 girls stud
ied ranged in age from three and one-half to six and one-half
years old. The subjects' families were members of "profes
sional and business classes." The blocks rated low by the
children were similar to unit blocks. In addition, the
findings indicated girls enjoyed materials which involved
"more passive play," while the boys preferred wood working,
large blocks, and materials which involved "more strenuous
activity."
In a similar study, Margolin and Letn (1961) randomly
selected 200 mixed-SES kindergartners, five boys and five
girls from 20 classrooms in Los Angeles. The purpose of
this study was "to investigate children's interest in block
play where the situation requires total class participation"
(p. 13). Ten photographs portraying a block activity were
paired with a photo portraying another activity and the chil
dren were asked, "Which of these would you rather be doing?"
(p. 14). Non-block activities were chosen much more often
than block activities. Girls exhibited a significant pref
erence for the non-block activities. The authors concluded
that the use of blocks in the kindergarten classroom should
be questioned; however, they also hypothesized that the low
blocks rating may have been attributed to children's dislike

19
for large group activities (it was common practice at that
time in the Los Angeles Public Schools to have 25 to 30 chil
dren simultaneously playing with blocks) and not their dis
like of blocks per se.
Blocks were of intermediate rank among children's pref
erence in play materials according to Cockrell (1935) Cock
rell observed six "professional class" two- and three-year-
old children, three males and three females, in a laboratory
situation with no adult present. The children were observed
through a one-way mirror individually and in pairs with each
of the following: (1) combined materials, (2) clay and cray
ons, (3) pictures and books, (4) blocks, (5) housekeeping ma
terials, and (6) only a table and two chairs in the otherwise
bare room. The children could terminate the session them
selves. The materials were ranked in terms of interest, or
"holding power," which was measured by the length of time
the children voluntarily remained in the observation room.
Combined materials, clay and crayons, pictures and books all
ranked ahead of blocks, housekeeping, and bare room in that
order.
Vlietstra (1978) presented 10 male and 10 female four-
year-old middle-SES children and 20 college students with
boxes containing "incongruous" animal pictures and Bristle
Blocks. Both groups spent more time playing with the blocks
than looking at the pictures during three 10-minute sessions
on different days.

20
While the naturalistic observational studies are in
general agreement as to the preference of young children for
block play, the other studies are divided in their findings
about children's preference for blocks. These other studies
reported the following contradictory findings: (1) blocks
are among the least preferred of the preschool and kinder
garten materials (Margolin & Letn, 1961; Vance & McCall,
1934); (2) blocks are only of intermediate interest to two-
and three-year-old children (Cockrell, 1935) ,' and (3) pre
school children would rather play with blocks than look at
pictures (Vlietstra, 1978).
In analyzing the findings of both the naturalistic ob
servational studies and the other materials preference inves
tigations, it is important to carefully examine the methodol
ogy used in each study. The naturalistic observational stud
ies differed from the other studies in two ways (1) they
attempted to preserve the natural setting, and (2) a large
number of observations were extended over a period of time.
Bott (1928), Clark et al. (1969), Farwell (1930), Hartley
et al. (1952), Hulson (1930a), Kinsman and Berk (1979), Par-
ten (1933), and Van Alstyne (1932) all observed children in
their free-play period without interfering with their play
or altering the environment of the school (with the excep
tion of Farwell [1930] who brought the materials into the
various classrooms and Kinsman and Berk [1979] who, as a
part of their study, combined the block and housekeeping

21
areas). In all of the naturalistic observational studies,
the children were observed a number of times over an extended
time period of at least one month and as much as two years.
For example, Hartley et al. (1952) observed 217 two and one-
half- to five and one-half-year old children for two years in
20 preschools during free-play. Kinsman and Berk (1979) re
corded the play behaviors of 37 preschool and kindergarten
children for nine hours a week for six consecutive weeks.
Van Alstyne (1932) studied 112 children from five preschools
and two kindergartens over a four month period by means of
naturalistic observation of each child for at least 10 hours.
All three of these studies found blocks to be children's
most preferred play material.
The methodology used in the other studies investigating
the play materials preference of children differed greatly
from the above in that children were (1) asked on one oc
casion only to make choices about their preference for play
materials by choosing pictures of the material they liked
best (Margolin & Letn, 1961; Vance & McCall, 1934) as op
posed to observers recording what material the children used;
(2) observed in an artificial setting (Cockrell, 1935; Vliet-
stra, 1978), or (3) observed only on a small number of occa
sions for short periods of time (Vlietstra, 1978).
Vance and McCall (1934) and Margolin and Letn (1961)
used a method of paired comparison of pictures depicting pre
school activities to determine preference of materials. This

22
methodology can be questioned on several counts. The use
of pictures to determine preference of materials may be too
abstract for young children, most of whom were probably
still at an early concrete operational or preoperational
level. The large number of choices48 individual items in
eight different groupingspresented by Vance and McCall
(1934) may be too confusing for some children. It may also
be possible that the pictures of the blocks were not as at
tractive to the children as the pictures of other toys and
materials, thus they were responding to the physical or aes
thetic attractiveness of the material pictured as opposed to
its usefulness in a play situation.
Although the random selection of 200 subjects strength
ens the study by Margolin and Letn (1961), it has four ma
jor weaknesses. (1) The children were asked to identify
their favorite activity on only one occasion. (2) No fol
low-up was made to see if the children actually used the ma
terials they claimed to prefer. (3) The low rating for the
blocks may have been due to the dislike for the large group
situation. (4) The method used was to pair a block photo
graph 10 times with a picture of another activity and ask
the child, "Which of these would you rather be doing?"(p.
14) Vance and McCall (1934) reported that they discarded
this approach of continually pairing the same material
(blocks, in this case) with a different material each time
because the children became confused and questioned why

23
the experimenters were showing a picture of something they
had already seen.
At first glance, Vlietstra's (1978) findings would ap
pear to support the findings of the naturalistic observa
tional studies that indicate young children generally pre
fer blocks to other play materials. However, because this
study used Bristle Blocks, which differ greatly in form and
function from both unit and large hollow blocks, the use of
Vlietstra's findings as support for the preference of blocks
by young children may be somewhat tenuous.
The findings of Vlietstra and Cockrell (1935), are weak
ened by the fact the children were observed alone (for part
of Cockrell's study), in a laboratory setting, and not with
other children in their own classroom. Cockrell's results
might also be questioned not simply because blocks were not
ranked higher, but because housekeeping, rated extremely
high by most of the naturalistic observational studies, was
ranked fifth out of six. The ages of the six children ob
served in Cockrell's study, two- and three-year-olds, may
also have affected their choice of materials.
In examining those studies where some or all of the
subjects were kindergarten children the following conclu
sions can be reached. The naturalistic observational stud
ies indicate that: (1) blocks are the number one choice of
kindergartners (Hartley et al., 1952; Van Alstyne, 1932);
(2) middle-class kindergarten boys and girls prefer blocks

24
to the housekeeping area (Kinsman & Berk, 1979); (3) kinder
garten boys prefer large hollow blocks over all other mate
rial while the interest in blocks by girls decreases from
"fair" in kindergarten to "no interest" in second-grade (Far-
well, 1930). However, Margolin and Letn (1961), using
paired comparison of pictures, reported blocks are among the
least preferred play material of kindergarten children. The
general agreement of the findings of the naturalistic obser
vational studies, and the overall methodological weaknesses
of Margolin and Letn's study pointed out above, provides
strong evidence that kindergarten children are quite inter
ested in blocks.
While the studies are divided in their findings concern
ing block preference in young children, careful examination
of the methodology of all of these investigations leads one
to believe that the evidence supports the conclusions of
Bott (1928), Clark et al. (1969), Farwell (1930), Hartley
et al. (1952), Hulson (1930a), Kinsman and Berk (1979),
Parten (1933) and Van Alstyne (1932) that blocks are a pre
ferred play material of young children.
If blocks are a preferred play material then what types
of blocks are most popular with young children? A number of
different kinds of blocks have been available for use in
preschool and kindergarten classrooms since the 1920s, and
a few early studies investigating the materials preferences
of young children differentiated between several types of

25
blocks when ranking the materials chosen. These studies are
reported below.
Young Children's Preference for Unit
and Large Hollow Blocks
Only four studies reported results distinguishing be
tween children's preference for a certain type of blocks.
Three of these investigations (Bott, 1928; Farwell, 1930;
Vance & McCall, 1934) cited large hollow blocks as being
the most preferred type of blocks while one study (Hulson,
1930b) found unit blocks to be the most popular with chil
dren. All four of these studies are about 50 years old and
certainly children's preferences for blocks may have changed
in that time. However, recent texts in the early childhood
curriculum area (Cohen & Rudolph, 1977; Maxim, 1980; Spodek,
1978) and other literature pertaining to blocks (Bender,
1978; Benish, 1978; Cartwright, 1974; Hirsch, 1974) all state
that unit and large hollow blocks are the most common types
of blocks found in a preschool or kindergarten classroom.
A summary of the studies which investigated young children's
preference for blocks is presented in Table 1.
In summary, if blocks are a preferred play material of
kindergarten and preschool children, then a thorough inves
tigation into the block play of young children is needed.
Since most of the cited studies are more than 20 years old,
a need exists to find out more about the value of blocks as
play material for children today. There is also a need to

26
Table 1. Summary of Studies Which Investigated Young Children's
Preference for Blocks
Investi- Date Subjects
gators
of
Study
n
m
f
age
race
SES
Bott
1928
9
-
-
2 to 6


Hulson
1930
10
-
-
4


Farwell
1930
271
125
246
5 to 7


Van Al-
styne
1932
112
54
58
2 to 5 black, white,
"2nd gen. imm."
low, middle,
high
Parten
1933
34
19
15
2 to 4

low, middle,
high
Vance &
McCall
1934
32
15
17
. 1 ,1
32 t0 6I

"profession
al & business
classes"
Cockrell
1935
6
3
3
2 to 3
"profes
sional
class"
Hartley,
Frank, &
Goldenson
1952
217
-
-
2^ to 5-j
"varied cul
tures &
material
backgrounds"

Margolin
& Letn
1961
200
100
100
4 to 4

low, middle,
high

27
Table 1. Extended
Duration Methodology
of
Study
Findings
2 years Naturalistic
Observation
Category which included
blocks ranked first by 2-4
year olds and second by most
over 4 years old.
4-10 months Naturalistic
Observation
Blocks ranked first out of
13 materials for "times cho
sen," "number of minutes
used," and "persistence in
use."
2 weeks Naturalistic
Observation
Large hollow blocks "first
in importance for boys"
kindergarten girls had fair
interest in blocks.
4 months Naturalistic
Observation
Blocks were the most pre
ferred of 25 play materials.
4 months Naturalistic
Observation
Blocks rated eighth out of
110 materials on the basis
of "frequency of occurrence.'
1 occasion Paired compar
ison of pictures
Blocks were rated as "low"
preference among 48 play ma
terials .
2 occasions Subjects observed
alone and in
pairs in labora
tory situation.
Blocks ranked fourth out of
six materials for time "hold
ing power"(the length of
time the children remained
in the observation room).
2 years Naturalistic
Observation
Blocks ranked first in "gen
eral popularity" (the number
of children using blocks on
each occasion).
1 occasion Paired compar
ison of pictures
Non-block activities chosen
much more often than block
activities.

28
Table 1. Continued
Investi
gators
Date
of
Study
Subjects
n m f age race
SES
Clark, Wy-
on, &
Richards
1969
40
22
18
3 to 5
Middle
(British)
Vlietstra
1978
20
10
10
4
Middle
Kinsman
& Berk
1979
37
20
17
3-jj- to 6-i- white
Middle

29
Table 1. Extended
Duration
of
Study
Methodology
Findings
10 months
Naturalistic
Observation
Block play was the first
choice of boys and ninth
choice of girls out of a
possible 19 activities.
3-10 minute
sessions
Observation in
laboratory situ
ation
The children spent more time
with blocks than with pic
tures .
6 weeks
Naturalistic
Observation
Children spent almost twice
as much time in the block
area as they did in the
housekeeping area.

30
investigate the differences in play behavior when young
children use large hollow blocks as opposed to unit blocks,
because of the availability and popularity of these two
types of blocks in preschools and kindergartens today. A
difference of opinion exists on the effect of sex on the in
terest of children in block play. Bott (1928) and Clark et
al. (1969) found boys to be more interested in blocks than
girls were, while Kinsman and Berk (1979) found no sex dif
ferences in the amount of time boys and girls played with
blocks. Therefore, further study of the differences and
similarities between the block play of boys and girls is
indicated.
What is the significance of understanding the kindergar
ten child's preference for blocks? How will this help one
to become a better kindergarten teacher? Van Alstyne (1932)
aptly answered both of these questions. "Any interpretation
of the results of this study must be based on the assumption
that a child's spontaneous interests are a guide to his ac
tual needs" (p. 84). Children's high interest level in
blocks plus the need to update our knowledge and increase
our understanding of how kindergarten boys and girls play
with unit and large hollow blocks, warrants the further in
vestigation into the behavior of children as they play with
this popular material. Information from this investigation
could aid teachers in making curriculum decisions pertaining
to what type of block play has the potential to best meet
the specific needs of different children.

31
Play and Social Development
The importance of play to the development of the young
child has been emphasized by child development experts and
early childhood educators alike (Piaget, 1962; Smilansky,
1968; Spodek, 1974; Sponseller, 1974; Vygotsky, 1978). Play
is the medium in which children learn best (Spodek, 1974).
According to Vygotsky, "The child moves forward [develops]
essentially through play activity" (p. 103).
Play contributes to learning in all the developmental
areas including social development (Sponseller, 1974) .
Isaacs (1972), Piaget (1962), and Smilansky (1968) stated
that socio-dramatic play, through recognition of others and
cooperation and participation in mutual activities with other
children, aids in the transformation of an ego-centric child
into a social individual. Forman and Hill (1980) provided
a good example of this social learning process through play:
Dramatic play episodes allow children the free
dom to expand their behaviors beyond an egocen
tric perspective. When pretending to be a res
cue medic, a child develops ideas about another
person's activities that are different from his
own. (p. 105)
Furthermore as Piaget (1932) pointed out, when a child
plays with another child he/she may come to realize that the
other child does not necessarily share his/her own point of
view. When the child makes this discovery then he/she be
gins to question the other child's ideas and thus redefines

32
and clarifies his/her own thoughts. At this point social
learning has taken place. Thus, Piaget believed that "one
of the most important functions of social play may be the
diminution of ego-centrism and the development of role-tak
ing" (p. 484).
What about the relationship between social development
and play involving preschool and kindergarten materials?
Forman and Hill (1980) stated that "the child uses the same
intelligence to solve problems of a social nature that she
uses to solve other problems" (p. 68). In other words, a
child's relationship to the physical world may help that
child make "more accurate judgments about the social world"
(p. 68). For example, if a child realizes that his/her
wooden cylinder can roll down a ramp in the same manner as
the wooden cylinder that another child is using, then he/she
will not feel the need to take that other child's cylinder.
Cockrell (1935) found an interesting relationship be
tween social interaction and the presence of play material.
She reported that when the two- and three-year-old children
were observed in pairs, they spent only 2% of their time
"in attention to self" in the room containing "combined ma
terials" (clay, crayons, books, pictures, blocks, and house
keeping materials) but spent 31% of the time in "self-play"
when observed on another occasion in the same room empty of
all equipment except a table and two chairs. Cockrell felt

33
these findings indicated that "depriving these children of
play materials forced them much more to attend to them-
sevles than to play with their companion" (p. 463).
Play has been established by Issacs (1972), Piaget
(1962), Smilansky (1968), and others as crucial to the so
cial development of young children. Forman and Hill (1980)
suggested there is a relationship between social learning
and the knowledge a child gains about the physical world
through constructive play. A relationship between the
amount of social interaction and the presence of play mate
rials was observed in Cockrell's (1935) study of two- and
three-year-old children.
The theories and research outlined above would appear
to justify further investigation into the relaitonship be
tween specific play materials and social play. The follow
ing statement by Van Alstyne (1932) provides additional sup
port for studying this relationship.
Since play has these values in developing and
socializing the child, it is of considerable
importance to know which materials tend to pro-
vice the best setting for social participation.
(p. 2)
Is there a relationship between the social participa
tion of a child and the activity in which that child is en
gaged? The findings from the following studies will help
to answer this and other questions concerning the relation
ship between social behavior and the child's choice of play
material.

34
Relationships Between the Use of Blocks and
Other Selected Materials and the Social
Participation of Young Children
The following investigations examined the relationship
between materials and social play. These studies sought to
find out what kind of social play occurred while young chil
dren were playing with various selected materials, one of
these materials being blocks. Many of these studies used
Parten's (1932) scale of social participation to determine
a child's level of social play. Parten's levels of social
participation are: (1) unoccupied behavior, (2) solitary
play, (3) onlooker behavior, (4) parallel play, (5) asso
ciative play, and (6) cooperative play in that hierarchical
order.
Parten (1933) utilized her six categories of social
participation in a study of 34 preschool children observed
daily at free-play until 60 one-minute behavior samples were
recorded. The social situations which accompanied play with
each type of material were analyzed for their social partic
ipation value. In order to ensure an unbiased sample, the
last one or two instances of play with each material were
chosen from each child's record until 50 instances were re
corded for every material. The housekeeping area and dolls
ranked highest in cooperative play. Block play occurred at
almost equal frequencies at the solitary, parallel, asso
ciative and cooperative levels. Clay was found to elicit

35
primarily parallel play, a moderate amount of associative,
and no cooperative or solitary play. Parten also assigned
social participation scores for the 10 favorite materials
by weighting each level of social play in the following
manner: unoccupied behavior, -3; solitary play, -2; on
looker behavior, -1; parallel play, 1; associative play, 2;
cooperative play, 3. The results of the social participa
tion score for each material were the house and doll corner
ranked first with a score of 103, and blocks and clay tied
for third with scores of 51 each.
Brown (1942) reported 83% of the girls and 70% of the
boys played alone with blocks. She recorded all the behav
iors and conversations of 50 kindergartners for 10 weeks
during self-chosen activity periods. Brown did not use Par-
ten's (1932) social participation levels to classify the
children's level of social play, so we cannot be sure how
much of the self-play she observed was solitary and how much
was parallel nor can we assume that the time boys and girls
were not playing alone they were engaged in group play.
Parallel play was most often recorded by Clark et al.
(1969) during the table activities (finger painting, cutting,
glueing, sewing, coloring, etc.) of three- and four-year-
old middle-income British preschoolers. Cooperative play,
"children participating together," however, was most commonly
observed in the block area.

36
In accordance with Parten's (1932, 1933) findings, all
levels of social play occurred in almost equal frequency
during an investigation of the block play of five-year-olds
conducted by Massey (1970). Each of the 32 kindergarten
children, 16 middle-class white males and 16 females, par
ticipated in three separate 20-minute sessions in a labora
tory observation room: (1) alone, (2) one boy and one girl,
and (3) two boys and two girls. The children were asked to
build a structure and were left alone and videotaped for 15
minutes. They were then presented with accessory items and
left to build for five more minutes. Unit blocks in quan
tities of 90, 180 and 280 were present in the room for one,
two, and four children, respectively. Photographs of the
structures were taken after the session ended and the fre
quency of behaviors was recorded by a trained observer from
the videotaped sessions.
Bender (1978), while investigating the large block play
of six four-year-olds for a period of eight months, also ob
served parallel, cooperative, and solitary levels of play
when 70 large hollow blocks were used. However, the chil
dren engaged in only solitary and parallel play when the
number of blocks was reduced to 20.
"Intimate social arrangements of small clusters" and
solitary play were observed by Kinsman and Berk (1979) dur
ing the housekeeping and block activity time of 37 middle-
class white preschool and kindergarten children aged three

37
and one-half to six years. They did not report on the per
centage of parallel play but stated that the children spent
37% of their time in solitary play while involved in these
activity areas. They also observed more solitary play in
the housekeeping area and more group play in blocks which is
contrary to Parten's (1933) findings.
In a study of 15 male and 13 female preschool children
ranging in age from three and one-half to five and one-half
years, Vandenberg (1981) also found that the play environ
ment influenced the type of social play. The children were
allowed access to two different environments: (1) the large
muscle room which contained a jungle gym, two slides, tum
bling mats, and large blocks and (2) the fine motor room
which contained tables with pencils, paints, crayons, scis
sors, and paste. Each child was observed for one 30-minute
period each day. The child's play was scored in 10-second
units for (1) types of play, (2) environment in which
child was playing, (3) number of children playing with tar
get child, and (4) whether child left or joined the play ac
tivity. Children were more likely to be involved in solitary
or parallel play in the fine motor room and associative play
in the large muscle room. No cooperative play was observed.
Vandenberg attributed the lack of cooperative play to the
"power of these environments to pull for physical exercise
(large and small motor development) at the expense of social
interaction" (p. 174) However, Bender (1978), Clark et al.

38
(1969) Kinsman and Berk (1979) Massey (1970), and Parten
(1933) all observed cooperative play while children were
playing with blocks. Large hollow blocks were present in
the large muscle room in Vandenberg's (1981) study. An al
ternative explanation for the lack of cooperative play ob
served by Vandenberg is that it may have been a result of
observer error. Johnson and Ershler (1981) and Rubin, Wat
son, and Jambor (1978) were forced to collapse Parten's as
sociative and cooperative categories because of low inter
observer reliability in differentiating between these cate
gories. Furthermore, Clark and others' (1969) and Parten's
(1933) findings would support the lack of cooperative play
in the small muscle room reported by Vandenberg (1981) .
In analyzing the findings of these studies there ap
pears to be agreement on two major issues: (1) The type of
play material has some relationship to the child's level of
social participation. (2) There is the potential for soli
tary, parallel, and cooperative play to occur when young
children use blocks in a preschool or kindergarten setting.
Clark et al. (1969) Parten (1933), and Vandenberg
(1981) all found that children were most likely to be in
volved in either parallel or solitary play when using table
materials like clay, glue, crayons, scissors, and paints,
whereas cooperative play was commonly observed during block
play by Clark et al. (1969) and Kinsman and Berk (1979).
In addition. Bender (1978) observed mostly cooperative social

39
play when an adequate amount of large hollow blocks was pres
ent. Although Vandenberg (1981) observed no cooperative
play, he did report that the play in the large muscle room
was predominantly on the associative level as opposed to the
predominance of solitary and parallel play observed in the
small muscle room.
Bender (1978), Massey (1970), and Parten (1933) all ob
served solitary, parallel, and cooperative play in the block
area. Kinsman and Berk (1979) reported that play in the
block center consisted of "intimate social arrangements of
small clusters and pairs" and about 35% in solitary play.
Brown (1942), however, found boys spent 70% and girls 82% of
their time in solitary play while using blocks.
Brown's (1942) findings, however, lend support to those
of Green (1933), Parten (1933), Kinsman and Berk (1979),
Bender (1978), Hulson (1930a), Massey (1970), and Van Alstyne
(1932). That is, both solitary and group play were observed
when children participated in block play. The relevance of
this finding is best expressed by Kinsman and Berk (1979) who
emphasized that the block area has the flexibility to meet
"a variety of children's needs from retreat, withdrawal, and
absorption in private activity to active group participation
and cooperative efforts with other children" (p. 71). Re
sults reported in studies by Moore, Evertson, and Brophy
(1974), Roper and Hinde (1978), and Rubin, Maioni, and Horn-
ung (1976) indicated that because a child is playing alone

40
does not mean the child lacks social skills. It could mean
the child has the confidence to do so and thus needs the op
portunity to be able to engage in solitary play.
All three of these levels of social playsocial, paral
lel, and cooperativeare important for the social develop
ment of the young child. However, further investigation ap
pears to be needed to determine the relationship between the
use of blocks and the child's level of social participation.
In summary, Issacs (1972), Piaget (1932, 1962), and
Smilansky (1968) have emphasized the importance of play to
the social development of the young child. Numerous studies
have established blocks as one of the most preferred play ma
terials of young children (Bott, 1928; Clark et al., 1969;
Farwell, 1930; Hulson, 1930a; Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Parten,
1933; Van Alstyne, 1932). Since blocks are of great inter
est to children and play is instrumental in providing chil
dren with the opportunity to practice and develop social
skills, it seems logical that an in-depth study of social be
havior occurring during block play needs to be initiated.
The following section will review the research concern
ing the relationships between children's social behavior and
the materials used by them.

41
Relationships Bstween the Dse of Blocks and Other
Selected Materials and the Social Behavior of
Young Children
Block play was determined to have the highest "social
value" of 16 activities observed by Hulson (1930a) in her
naturalistic observational investigation into the play be
haviors of 10 four-year old preschool children during free-
play. The "social value" of a material was determined by
the number of children playing with a child using a given
material. Over twice as many children (517 as compared to
210) were observed playing with the target child during
block activities than during play in the second-ranked house
corner. The remaining scores ranged from 173 children in
volved in sand play to three children observed writing on
the blackboard. Although this study indicated that blocks
may promote social interaction between preschoolers, it did
not provide any information as to the quality of this social
interaction. Since Hulson did not define the terms "playing
with," it is impossible to know whether these children were
simply playing alongside the target child in a parallel fash
ion or the children were actually engaged in some form of
group play. Van Alystne (1932) addressed the question of
the "social value" of materials in a more qualitative fashion.
The social value of materials was studied by Van Alstyne
(1932) by observing the "social reactions" of 112 three-,
four-, and five-year-old children playing with one of 25 dif-

42
different materials. Observations were made of 15-second
samplings of play behaviors for a period of four months, to
taling approximately 10 hours of observation for each child.
The "social value" of each material was rated in terms of
"amountof talking," "social grouping" (how many children
present), "interfering," and "watching." Contrary to Green
(1933), who noted a high percentage of quarrels in the free-
play of 40 preschool children using various materials, Van
Alstyne (1932) reported "comparatively little interfering"
when compared to "cooperation" or "social grouping." The
greatest percentage of cooperation for five-year-olds was
recorded when they were playing with large hollow blocks.
Studying group play and quarreling during 40 30-second
observations of 40 nursery school children. Green (1933)
reached a somewhat different conclusion. She found that
"dramatic play" (playing house, playing train and playing
barber shop) was the most "social," while sand was the most
"quarrelsome." "Construction work," which included sawing
and using large building blocks, ranked sixth on the scale
of sociabilitydefined as percentage of time playing with
companions and second in the percentage of time involving
quarrels. However, several possible weaknesses in this study
suggest that the findings should be interpreted with some de
gree of caution. First, many of the differences between the
ratings of the materials are slight and may be a result of
observation error or random error. For example, although the

43
block category ranked sixth in the pro-social grouping at
61.5%, the second-rated activity was only 64.5%, a statis
tically significant difference between the two may not ex
ist. Furthermore, while blocks were rated as the second
most quarrelsome activity at 20.2%, housekeeping was rated
third at 20%, a difference of .2%, which may have been a re
sult of observational error. Second, Green's definition of
"sociability" (percentage of time playing with companions),
like Hulson's (1930a), does not provide any information con
cerning the specific social behavior that occurred while
children played with various materials. Third, the defini
tion and interpretation of the "quarreling" category is sub
ject to dispute. Quarreling is defined as "percent of time
involved in quarrels," a vague and somewhat circular defini
tion. It is impossible to interpret Green's results without
knowing what constitutes a "quarrel."
Is quarreling necessarily an anti-social behavior? Can
children learn certain social skills from some "quarrels?"
Did the children resolve these "quarrels" themselves or did
a teacher have to step in? Piaget (1932) stated that some
degree of conflict is necessary to promote social learning
and thus aid in the child's developmental progress in becom
ing a more social being. Through many naturalistic observa
tions the researcher has found that "disagreements" are com
mon in block play but "physical aggression" and "fights" are
rare, and that the children usually solve their "disagreements"

44
in a mutually acceptable manner. If this is the case, then
some "quarrels" may serve a positive function in the social
development of the young child. Since Green (1933) never
defined "quarrels," we have no way of knowing what kind of
behavior she observed, thus making any interpretation diffi
cult.
In a controlled laboratory study of 17 boys and 11 girls
ages two and three, "sociability" and "cooperation" were
found to occur more frequently while playing with clay than
while playing with blocks (Updegraff & Herbst, 1933). The
children were paired eight times with one other child and ob
served for five minutes playing in a room where only one
play material was available, either clay or blocks. "Coop
erativeness" was defined as "that quality in an individual
which makes him willing to carry out with others without sub
merging his own individuality" (p. 385). "Sociability" was
defined as "that quality in an individual which makes him
display an interest in the activity of others, a desire to
seek companionship, and to make contacts with them" (p. 383).
The definitions of "sociability" and "cooperation" again,
like those of Green (1933), Hulson (1930a), and Van Alstyne
(1932), are vague and thus make it difficult to determine
exactly what types of social behavior occurred during play
with blocks and other materials.
In a series of studies, Patterson (1976) investigated
the role of play materials in the social interaction of a

45
mixed-sex, -SES, and -race group of 25 four- and five-year-
old preschool children. For 16 consecutive school days she
made observations during free-play time at each of the four
play areas: art, games, blocks, and dramatic play. The
first two observational studies confirmed that "assertive-
disruptive" interactions occurred most frequently in the
block area and least frequently in the art center. "Asser
tive-disruptive" was defined as "those behaviors which inter
fere with the other children's activities or which disrupt
the routine of the classroom" (p. 2). Patterson went on to
further define "assertive-disruptive" as "not synonymous with
aggressive" although this category included some of the same
behaviors. The behaviors listed were hitting, pushing,
throwing toys, taking toys, negative commands, name calling,
and "others." The "positive-constructive" category was de
fined as including all behaviors other than those in the "as
sertive-disruptive" category.
Patterson points out that "there are differences in the
physical materials in blocks and in art that would seem to
support different kinds of interactions. The child must "re
strain his body movement somewhat in order to use materials
appropriately in art [while] the activities in blocks
allow more vigorous physical activity, here the normal
course of play may lead to more assertive interactions"
(p. 5).

46
These "assertive interactions" may have been misinter
preted by her as "disruptive" when they were actually a form
of "rough and tumble play," as observed by Blurton Jones
(1967, 1972b). Examples of "assertive" behavior in the
block corner involved knocking over blocks and pushing
trucks into another child which could have been a low-key
form of what Blurton Jones termed "rough and tumble play,"
a highly pro-social behavior. In summary, Patterson's find
ings of the high incidences of "assertive-disruptive" inter
actions in the block area may be questioned on two counts:
(1) This category is broad, vague, and generally unclear.
(2) Some incidents of "assertive-disruptive" behavior may
have been pro-social.
Kinsman and Berk (1979), in their naturalistic observa
tional study of 37 middle-SES, white preschool and kinder
garten children, reported a "very low" occurrence of "nega
tive affect" in the housekeeping and block area. "Negative
affect" is not defined, making interpretation of these re
sults difficult.
To summarize, Hulson (1930a) and Van Alstyne (1932)
agreed that blocks rank high in "social value" using the num
ber of individuals playing with blocks with the target child
as the means of determination. Using a different criterion
(percent of time with companion). Green's (1933) findings
indicated blocks ranked sixth among 11 preschool activities,
but only three percentage points behind the second-rated

47
activity in her "cooperative" or "friendship" category.
Updegraff and Herbst (1933) found blocks to be lower in both
"sociability" and "cooperation" than clay in a study of two-
and three-year-olds in a controlled laboratory setting. Pat
terson (1976) observed more "assertive-disruptive" behavior
in the block area than in either art, games, or dramatic
play areas in her two observational studies of four- and
five-year-olds. "Quarrels" occurred frequently in the block
area according to Green (1933) but were seldom observed by
Kinsman and Berk (1979).
In general, the evidence is conflicting in regard to
the relationship between block play and social behavior of
young children. However, the inability to make any educated
hypothesis in regard to this question is not so much a re
sult of the contrary findings of these studies but is in
stead becauseof the lack of clear, concise, and understand
able definitions of the social behavior observed.
Sex Differences in the Materials Preference,
Social Participation, and Social Behavior
of Young Children
This section will review those studies which have in
vestigated the relationship between sex and materials pref
erence, social participation, and social behavior of pre
school and kindergarten children, especially those studies
concerned with block play.

48
Sex Differences in the Materials Preference of
Young Children
The majority of both experimentally-manipulated and
naturalistic observational studies indicated that preschool
and kindergarten boys were more likely to play with blocks
than girls (Beeson & Williams, 1979; Bott, 1928; Clark et
al., 1969; Farrell, 1957; Farwell, 1930; Margolin & Letn,
1961; Patterson, 1976; Rubin, 1977; Van Alstyne, 1932;
Varma, 1980). However, Brenner (1976), Kinsman and Berk
(1979), and Vandenberg (1981) found no sex differences ex
isted in the preference for blocks of three- to six-year-
old children. Brenner's (1976) sample was composed of 18
white middle class three and four years old, nine boys and
nine girls. Kinsman and Berk (1979) observed 37 white mid
dle-class three- to six-year-old children, 21 boys and 16
girls, in a university laboratory school while Vandenberg
(1981) studied 15 male and 13 female, white middle-class
three and one-half- to five and one-half-year-old children
in an urban preschool. The small sample of white middle-
class children investigated by Brenner (1976), Kinsman and
Berk (1979), and Vandenberg (1981) as compared to larger
samples (from 40 to 271) of Beeson and Williams (1979),
Clark et al. (1969), Farrell (1957), Farwell (1930), Margo
lin and Letn (1961), Rubin (1977), and Van Alstyne (1932)
would seem to indicate a good deal more support for the

49
findings that suggest there is a sex difference in young
children's preference for blocks.
Although it would appear that blocks are probably not
as popular with preschool and kindergarten girls as with
boys, it is important to note that blocks did rank on an
intermediate-to-high level with girls in most of the mate
rials preference studies. More importantly, however, is the
fact that, given the proper environment, girls choose to
play with and use blocks as much as do boys (Brenner, 1976;
Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Vandenberg, 1981). Varma's (1980)
findings reiterated this point.
In a two-part study of eight male and eight female four-
year-old preschool children, Varma (1980) first observed the
behavior of each child for six five-minute periods on 12 oc
casions. She found that boys were more likely to engage in
block play than girls. She then arranged a new block area
identical to the old block area but separated it by a three-
foot divider. This new area was designed for the purpose of
offering girls direct access to the blocks and to encourage
block play among girls. Two observers then made six five-
minute observations of each child on eight occasions. The
results of the intervention were as follows: (1) an increase
in time spent by all girls in block play, (2) three girls
who had not used blocks during the first set of observations
initiated block play, and (3) five out of the eight boys in
creased the time spent with blocks when the number of blocks
increased with the addition of the identical new block area.

50
Perhaps the most critical finding was the initiation of
block play by three girls who had not previously been ob
served using blocks. Both Varma (1980) and Patterson (1976)
believed the reason girls spent so little time in the block
area was a result of boys or the teacher designating the
block area as the boys "territory," and not because they were
not interested in blocks. Varma (1980) controlled for this
variable of male "dominance" over the blocks by adding an
other area. This not only encouraged three previously ob
served female non-users to play in the block corner but also
increased the amount of time spent by all the girls and five
of the boys playing with blocks. Therefore, although a ma
jority of the studies reported that blocks were used more
often by boys than girls, the results of Brenner (1976),
Kinsman and Berk (1979), Vandenberg (1981), and Varma (1980)
indicated at least the potential for a high degree of inter
est in blocks by girls.
The next group of studies explored the effect of sex
on the social participation of children during free-play.
These studies examined social participation using Parten's
(1932) levels of social participation.
Sex Differences in the Social Participation of
Young Children
Moore, Evertson, and Brophy (1974) found kindergarten
boys and girls showed "similar patterns" of solitary play
in a naturalistic observational study of 116 white

51
middle-class children attending six private kindergartens.
The teachers of these six classes were trained to observe
their children during outdoor and indoor free-play sessions.
The number of observations ranged from 7 to 21 with an av
erage length of 35 minutes in a range of 15 to 60 minutes.
The teachers recorded any solitary play observed for any
child and coded it in one of eight categories. Spot checks
on the reliability of the observers (teachers) showed 100%
reliability. The only difference found was that girls ex
hibited more educationally-oriented solitary play. Moore
et al. (1974) found no interaction between effects of sex
and birth order on solitary play as hypothesized.
Although the sample size appeared adequate, the number
of observations sufficient, and the "spot check" reliabil
ity high, the methodology of this study may be questioned
on several levels. There was no standardization of the
length of the observation period or of the number of obser
vations made, thus it is possible some classes could have had
many more observations than others. Additionally, the study
made no mention of how often each child was observed; it is
conceivable that some children were observed many times
while others were never observed or observed only a few
times. Most notably, it seems questionable to have the
teacher as observer. It is difficult enough to be "in charge"
of a large group of kindergarten children without the addi
tional responsibility of being a researcher. Their role as

52
teachers would seemingly take precedence over another1s re
search.
Roper and Hinde (1978) investigated the social partic
ipation of three- to five-year-old British preschool chil
dren in a naturalistic observational study. The 67 sub
jects, 37 males and 30 females, were from families whose SES
ranged from upper-middle (professional) to lower-middle SES
(partly skilled) with the majority from middle SES (skilled
or managerial categories). Roper and Hinde found girls were
more likely to engage in parallel play than group play while
boys were "more involved with other children" when they were
playing near them. Boys also were observed more often than
girls participating in solitary play. They warned against
"deriving a composite index of social participation from the
categories of self, parallel and group [on the] assumption
that these items lie equidistant along a linear dimension
. [because] to be playing alone does not necessarily
mean the child is lacking in social ability" (p. 577).
Roper and Hinde used what they termed "multiple-scan
sampling" to collect the data on these children. The proce
dure they followed was to observe each child for five sec
onds, record the data on a checklist, and then observe an
other child for five seconds. In this way, each child was
observed every five minutes, or 11 times each morning. This
observational technique was used to increase the probability
of obtaining independent samples of behavior. If

53
observations are taken with short-time intervals in between
then what the subject is doing at the time of observation
will be affected by what he was doing on the previous obser
vation. Multiple-scan sampling was used to reduce this dif
ficulty and thus increase the chances for independent sam
ples. However, a weakness of this methodology is the short
intervals of time (five seconds) that children are observed
to determine their level of social participation. Johnson,
Ershler, and Bell (1980) defined a cognitive/social play
"episode" as "a unit of observation of at least 15-second
duration with only one type of cognitive/social play occur
ring" (p. 272). Although Roper and Hinde (1978) were re
cording only social play (social participation), five seconds
would appear to be too little time to determine a child's
level of social participation.
Vandenberg (1981) found no sex differences in the lev
els of social participation of 15 male and 13 female three-
to five-year-old children using the "large muscle" room and
the "fine motor" room in preschool. Both girls and boys were
likely to participate in solitary and parallel play in the
"fine motor" room and to participate in associative play
(defined by Parten, 1932) in the "large muscle" room.
Roper and Hinde (1978) reported that three- to five-
year-old girls were more likely to be involved in parallel
than group play while the opposite was found to be true for
boys of the same age. Moore et al. (1974) and Vandenberg

54
(1981) found no sex difference in the level of social par
ticipation of preschoolers and kindergartners. Moore et al.
(1974) and Roper and Hinde (1978) pointed out there may be
differences in the manner in which young children play at
each of these levels. Moreover, Roper and Hinde (1978) em
phasized the importance of solitary as well as parallel and
group play for the development of the child. They further
warned against calculating a composite index of social par
ticipation from the categories of solitary, parallel, and
group play because solitary play does not necessarily indi
cate immature play. Play at each of these levels of social
participation is important to the development of the child.
The following section will review those studies con
cerned with the sex differences in children's social behav
ior during play.
Sex Differences in the Social Behavior of Young Children
Massey (1970) found no significant sex differences in
the "social interaction" of 32 white middle-class, five-year-
old kindergarten children, 16 male and 16 female. She de
fined "social interaction" as the total number of verbal
contacts to another child, cooperative block building, ver
bal directions carried out, and physical directions carried
out. She observed each child in three separate 20-minute
sessions (individually, a boy and a girl, and two boys and
two girls) in a specially designed observation room filled

55
with blocks and equipped with a hidden videotape camera.
There were three major weaknesses of this study that should
be considered in interpreting Massey's findings: (1) The
definition of social interaction provides us with informa
tion about the quantity of verbal contacts and not the qual
ity of them, and (2) she does not define her other categories
of social interaction (cooperative block building, verbal and
physical directions carried out), and (3) the possibility
exists that the "social interaction" of Massey's (1970) sub
jects was influenced by the laboratory setting.
In a series of three studies Patterson (1976) investi
gated the effect of play materials on the social behavior of
four- and five-year-old preschool children. The subjects,
14 boys and 11 girls, were from a variety of socioeconomic
and racial backgrounds. Patterson found in the first obser
vational study that boys exhibited more "assertive-disrup
tive" behavior than did girls when observed during the free-
play hour in the art, games, blocks and dramatic play areas.
She also found that boys' "assertive-disruptive" behaviors
occurred most frequently in the block area and least fre
quently in the art area. The second observational study con
firmed the earlier findings. The same methodology was used;
each child was observed for 30 seconds over a period of 16
consecutive school days during free-play hour.
In Patterson's (1976) third study the children were ob
served in same-sex groups of three, once with an art activity

56
and once with blocks, for an observation period of 10 min
utes with each type of activity. The boys were found to ex
hibit more "assertive-disruptive" behavior than the girls, a
finding consistent with the other studies. However, in the
laboratory setting, the boys' "assertive-disruptive" behav
ior occurred more frequently during the art activity and less
frequently with blocks which was contrary to the findings of
Patterson's two other naturalistic observational studies.
The frequency of the "assertive-disruptive" behavior of the
girls was similar to that observed in the classroom setting.
Patterson's (1976) findings indicated a sex difference
in the social behavior of boys and girls involved in art ac
tivities and block play in both naturalistic and laboratory
situations. Her definition of "assertive-disruptive" behav
ior, "those behaviors which interfere with the other chil
dren's activities or which disrupt the routine of the class
room" (Patterson, 1976, p. 2), make it difficult to deter
mine whether this category represents prosocial or antiso
cial behavior or some of both. For example, a child could
"interfere" with another child's activity in a playful and
very prosocial manner. Therefore, although Patterson's
findings suggested a difference in the social behavior of
boys and girls during art activities and block play, the spe
cific social behaviors that accounted for this difference
were not reported, thus limiting interpretation and implica
tions of these findings.

57
Eisenberg-Berg and Hand (1979) found no overall sex
differences in the "sharing" and "helping/comforting" behav
ior of predominantly middle-class four- and five-year-old
preschoolers. The subjects, 18 boys and 17 girls, were all
white with the exception of two Chicanos and one American
Indian and attended a university preschool. Each child was
randomly observed for a minimum of 70 two-minute periods
over 6-11 weeks. The observers recorded how often the chil
dren shared, helped, or comforted during each two minute
period. "Comforting" was later combined with "helping" as
a result of infrequent occurrence of this behavior.
In a meta-analysis of 32 observational studies on peer-
directed aggression, Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) found highly
significant sex differences in children six years of age
and younger. The Z values suggested higher male aggression
in 24 of the 32 studies, no difference in 3, and no study
found higher rates of female aggression.
Tieger (1980) refuted the findings of Maccoby and Jack
lin (1980) by using a meta-analysis technique suggested by
Cooper (1979). Using Cooper's procedure Tieger (1980) chose
to examine all studies which observed aggressive behaviors
in children of six years or younger. Maccoby and Jacklin
(1980) included two studies in which the subjects' ages
ranged from four to seven and five to eight. Tieger (1980)
also looked at studies which "measured aggression defined as
behaviors involving attacks, fighting, interpersonal disputes,

58
or actions implying intent to harm" (p. 952). Most of the
Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) studies were included because of
the broad nature of their definition. Two other studies
were excluded because one contained no relevant measure of
aggression (Smith & Connolly, 1972) while the other did not
report a main effect of sex differences (Langdois, Gottfried,
& Seay, 1973). Tieger's (1980) meta-analysis revealed a
weighted Z=1.148 with a probability ofp=.125thus suggesting
that sex differences in the aggressive behavior of children
under six may not exist.
Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) claimed Tieger (1980) under
estimated the significance of the combined set of results by
misuse of the Stouffer weighted procedure (cited in Cooper,
1979). They asserted that Tieger converted the two-tailed
values, published by Maccoby and Jacklin (1980), to one-
tailed-values only once when the procedure calls for the
one-tailed-values for each case.
Another problem with the Maccoby and Jacklin (1980) meta
analysis was that in all but 2 of the 24 studies which showed
boys under six to be more aggressive, aggression was cate
gorized in a non-specific manner (i.e., "aggression," "ago
nistic intentions," and "direct physical aggression").
"Rough and tumble" play, found by Blurton Jones (1972b) to
be a very physical but highly prosocial behavior, easily could
have been coded as aggression under these general catego
ries.

59
The findings from these studies suggested that sex dif
ferences may not exist in the prosocial behavior of chil
dren under six (Massey, 1970; Eisenberg-Berg, 1979) but there
remains a great debate as to the relationship of sex to the
aggressive behavior of children under six years of age (Mac-
coby & Jacklin, 1980; Tieger, 1980).
In summary, the research suggested that boys prefer
blocks (Beeson & Williams, 1979; Bott, 1928; Clark et al.,
1969; Farrell, 1957; Farwell, 1930; Margolin & Letn, 1961;
Patterson, 1976; Rubin, 1977; Van Alstyne, 1932) but girls
are highly interested in blocks if provided the opportunity
to use them (Brenner, 1976; Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Vandenberg,
1981; Varma, 1980). Moore et al. (1974) and Vandenberg
(1981) found no sex differences in the social participation
of young children while Roper and Hinde (1978) did. Con
trary evidence also exists regarding sex differences in their
social behavior. Massey (1970) and Eisenberg-Berg (1979)
found no sex differences in prosocial behavior of four- and
five-year-old children. However, results of two separate
meta-analyses of observational studies of aggressive behavior
of children under six conflicted. One study reported that
sex differences were highly significant (Maccoby & Jacklin,
1980), while the other found no sex differences (Tieger,
1980). Patterson (1976) found sex differences in "assertive-
disruptive" behavior with blocks.

60
Summary
The literature suggests that blocks are a highly pre
ferred play material of preschool and kindergarten children.
Blocks are more popular with boys but girls too are very in
terested in block play, especially when given equal access
to the block area. In addition, most American kindergarten
and preschool classrooms are equipped with either unit blocks,
large hollow blocks, or both.
Isaacs (1972), Piaget (1962), and Smilansky (1968) em
phasized the value of play for the social development of the
child. Hymes (1968) stressed the goal of kindergarten educa
tion is to educate the "whole child through experiences
which allow the child to work and play in small groups. The
use of blocks in a kindergarten classroom provides both the
opportunity for play and small group interaction.
The research appears to indicate that there may be a
relationship between certain materials and the level of so
cial participation and the social behavior of children. How
ever, the findings from these studies are of limited value
to kindergarten teachers in planning appropriate social
learning experiences for individual children primarily be
cause of the vague definitions of social behaviors.
There exists a need to further examine the relationship
between social behavior and play materials. An investiga
tion into the block play of kindergarten children is both

61
logical and necessary. It is logical because children like
blocks and they are available in most kindergartens. It is
necessary because, although the area of social development
is an integral part of the kindergarten curriculum, it has
been overshadowed by the recent "first-grade prep" movement.
Thus it is more important for the teacher to know more about
the relationships between unit and large hollow block play
and the social development of kindergarten children. This
research will provide the teachers with information on which
to base curriculum decisions concerning the appropriateness
of these types of blocks for enhancing specific social learn
ing situations.
The study of kindergarten play materials is as impor
tant today as it was in the early 1900s when Hill (1915) con
eluded:
It is sincerely believed that the time has
come when all materials and methods must be
carefully investigated and those selected
which prove to be of actual worth in the de
velopment of the kindergarten child. (p. 8)

CHAPTER III
METHODOLOGY
This study investigated the social behavior and levels
of social participation of kindergarten children while they
played with large hollow blocks and unit blocks. The vague
manner in which social behaviors were defined in the pre
viously reviewed studies investigating the relationship be
tween social behavior and play material seriously limits the
interpretation of their findings. Therefore, further inves
tigation into this area was needed. Before this research
was begun, clear guidelines for defining the social behavior
of young children were set forth. The ethological methodol
ogy adapted by Appleton (1980), Blurton Jones (1967, 1972b),
Hutt and Hutt (1970), Leach (1972), and Smith and Connolly
(1972) to investigate the social behavior of preschool chil
dren during freeplay provided the guidelines needed for
clearer definitions of the units of social behavior.
Defining Social Behavior
Ethology is characterized by its method of direct ob
servation in a naturalistic setting and uses a particular
zoological approach which differs from other observational
approaches in that behavior is recorded "not in terms of
62

63
observables and activity statements" (Hutt & Hutt, 1970).
Ethologists place particular importance on the precise def
inition of the specific behaviors they plan to observe in an
attempt to not only bring more objectivity to the study but
also to make replication of the study possible. As Blurton
Jones (1972a), a noted ethologist, pointed out:
An incidental result of careful description is
the potential replicability of ethological stud
ies. A worker in another laboratory on a dif
ferent continent can, we claim, read the ac
count of one ethologist and know exactly what
behavior to look for, and can therefore repeat
earlier studies. This is unfortunately not
true of most so-called observational studies of
children. Until recently behavior was never de
scribed in terms of what the observer saw, but
in terms much more of what he thought he meant,
or in terms with an intermediate status but of
equal vagueness. The early observational stud
ies reported on frequencies of "aggression," or
frequencies of "affiliative behavior" but, for
example, there is no way to tell what occur
rences Green (1933) recorded as "quarrels."
Those sorts of categories are still in use in
some quarters today, but how does one tell what
one observer called aggression or what another
called affiliativeness? (p. 12, 13)
In order to obtain more objectivity and precision in
observing and reporting the social behavior of young chil
dren, ethologists use categories of behavior that represent
what they term a unitary concept or unit of behavior. Leach
(1972) used the following criteria in determining the units
of behavior to use while studying the social behavior of nor
mal and problem preschool children. "(1) The units should
be readily definable, and so recognizable to other workers,

64
and useable by them and (2) the units should have biolog
ical meaning, in terras of recognition of social signals be
tween interactants" (p. 252). The definitions of the units
of behavior to be observed in this study follow the criteria
set forth above by Blurton Jones (1972a), Hutt and Hutt
(1970), and Leach (1972). They are reported on page 85 of
this chapter.
Naturalistic Observations
If children's play is to be the subject of
analysis it should be studied in some fairly
spontaneous setting such as one obtains, for
example, within the daily routine of a well-
conducted nursery school, rather than under
conditions too meticulously controlled. (Bott,
1928, p. 44)
Bronfenbrenner (1979), too, believes if we are to gain
a better understanding of children and the way they develop,
it is necessary to observe their behavior while they are in
teracting in a natural setting. The ethological methodology
is, as mentioned above, characterized by direct observation
of behavior in a naturalistic setting. The ethological stud
ies of Appleton (1980), Blurton Jones (1967, 1972b), Hutt
and Hutt (1970), Leach (1972), McGrew (1972) and Smith and
Connolly (1972) investigated the social behavior of young
children in a naturalistic preschool setting. Hence, the
researcher chose to examine the social behavior and social
participation of kindergarten children as they played with

65
blocks in their own classroom. A description of the class
room setting and of the educational practices of the teacher
follows.
The Setting
The kindergarten classroom used in this study was ap
proximately 30'x25' with large windows on the north wall.
These windows provided an abundance of natural light and of
fered a full view of the sandbox, garden, and large hollow
block area located outside, adjacent to the north wall of
the classroom. The other walls were covered with colorful
artwork and stories written by the children. The diagram
on page 66 illustrates the layout of the classroom. The
room was divided into seven main sections: (1) the rug area,
(2) the reading corner, (3) the dramatic play corner, (4)
the art area, (5) the unit block area, (6) the writing and
drawing area, and (7) the math area.
The rug area, near the front door, was used for large
group activities usually directed by the teacher. The read
ing corner contained big, soft pillows; a large, comfortable
chair; and a wide selection of books. Teacher- and child-
produced books were available as well as library books.
The dramatic play area provided men's and women's cloth
ing for dressup, a small table with chairs, dolls, dishes,
and wooden replicas of an electric range and sink as well as

66
The Layout of the Classroom

67
puppets and a puppet stage. During one week of the study,
this area was transformed into a "hospital," complete with
surgical equipment and a cot.
The art area consisted of a large round table, two
easels, and numerous art supplies including tempera paint,
crayons, clay, magic markers, construction paper, and scis
sors. This area was also used for cooking, which took place
regularly in this class.
Located next to the windows, the unit block area was
defined by a 10' x 12' blue carpet. Approximately 500 unit
blocks were available to the children. Included were the
basic unit (a 5 1/2" x 2 3/4" x 1 3/8" rectangle), the double
unit (a rectangle twice as long as the unit), squares (half
units), pillars (quarter units), arches, cylinders, and tri
angles. Small zoo and farm animals as well as toy planes,
cars, and boats were also found here.
The writing and drawing area usually focused on an ac
tivity related to the current unit of study, and would in
clude key-word cards, sentence strips, charts, paper and en
velopes of various size and shape, markers, pencils, and
crayons. Also found in this area were children's personal
word lists, stimulating materials, and live animals, all de
signed to provide concrete, hands-on experiences to encour
age language development, writing, and thinking. Aquariums,
terrariums, and cages of many different species of plants
and animals were also located on shelves and countertops
throughout the room.

68
The math area centered around a small rectangular table
and included manipulatives and games. The materials were
located on a child-accessible shelf and always available for
use.
The back door opened to a 8'xl5' covered area where the
large hollow blocks were located. This area in turn led to
a 20'xl5' outside play area which contained a small garden
and sandbox. The outside play area was bounded by the class
room on one side, the covered large hollow block area on an
other, and a 3' serpentine brick wall on the other two sides.
All of these inside and outside areas were used regularly by
the children during learning center time. This learning
center time was from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., Tuesday
through Friday and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Mondays and
Thursdays.
Educational Practices of the Teacher
During the learning center time the teacher and an
aide were always present. Many times a parent volunteer, a
student teacher from the University of Florida, or a high
school student was also there.
The teacher's role during this activity time varied de
pending on the number of assistants she had that day and the
kind of activities planned. She may have spent the whole
period roaming from activity to activity, observing children
and taking advantage of "teachable moments" to work with

69
individuals or groups of children. Specific lessons geared
to the needs and interests of the children were carefully
planned by the teacher and provided the foundation of the
curriculum for the class. The teacher was extremely sensi
tive to the needs of the children and thus, many learning ex
periences took place in a meaningful context through sponta
neous, indirect instruction. She also directed a cooking,
writing, math, or art activity for a group or groups of chil
dren or just played with a child in the sandbox or dramatic
play area.
The parents, aides, and high school volunteers usually
were responsible for either a specific activity (one of the
above) or an activity they designed for the children them
selves. They read to, played with, or helped the children
with specific lessons in math or writing.
The children chose from any of the activities available
that day, the only restriction being that each activity was
limited to a certain number of children, usually four, at
one time. Children could come and go as they wished as long
as they obeyed the rule limiting the number of participants
and cleaned up before they left an area. Unit blocks, large
hollow blocks, the sandbox, dramatic play, the book corner,
and some kind of art activity were always available for them
to choose from.
A description of the subjects observed and the proce
dures used for selection of the sample and collection of the
data follow.

70
Subjects
The subjects used in this study were members of the
above-mentioned kindergarten class at P.K. Yonge, the labora
tory school of the University of Florida in Gainesville.
The class was composed of 15 boys, 4 black and 11 white, and
10 girls, 4 black and 6 white, from all three levels of SES:
8 low income, 12 middle income, and 5 high income. The age
of the children ranged from five years four months, to six
years two months. As is customary at this lab school, chil
dren were assigned to classes which are prototypical of Flor
ida's population in terms of race and SES. This classroom
was therefore as representative as possible of a typical kin
dergarten classroom in the State of Florida.
The children were in general rather sophisticated in
their block play since they had had the opportunity to play
with blocks for over 140 school days before the study began
and since most of the children had attended preschools where
blocks were available. All of the children had an equal op
portunity to play with blocks because the teacher used a
learning centers approach in teaching which allowed the chil
dren to choose the activity they wanted to do. Most of the
activities were limited to four children participating at
one time. The unit block and large hollow block areas were
two of the learning centers children could choose from since
the first day of school.

71
Selection of the Sample and Grouping
The sample was composed of 20 kindergarten children,
all 10 girls in the class and 10 of the 15 boys. The sub
jects were observed while playing with unit blocks and large
hollow blocks in assigned groups, composed of two boys and
two girls each. The children were assigned by the teacher
to one of five of these mixed-sex groups. In an attempt to
maintain naturalistic groupings, the group assignment was
made on the basis of what the teacher believed would be the
child's probable choice of playmates. The teacher based her
decision on her own observations in addition to an earlier
questionnaire in which she asked the name of the child's best
friend and "who else you would like to play with?"
The best friend and fifth choice (if named) were dis
carded in an attempt to eliminate those who were too close
emotionally or were possibly questionable as really desir
able playmates. This procedure hopefully reduced the chances
for interpersonal "powerplays" between very close friends or
the social uncomfortableness that may occur between less fa
miliar classmates.
This assignment strategy was used in an attempt to make
the groups less artificial and contrived than if this rela
tively small number of subjects had been randomly assigned
to groups. The choice of four as the size of each group was
decided upon because (1) this was the number of children

72
that were allowed to play in both the unit and large hollow
block areas at one time and (2) observations by the teacher
in November and December, 1981, revealed that two boys and
two girls commonly played together in both block areas.
Since one of the questions this study investigated was
differences between boys' and girls' social behavior and so
cial participation as they played with blocks, it was neces
sary to have an equal number of children from both sexes in
each group. This ensured that the group composition by sex
would not affect the observed behavior of the individual
children.
Although the researcher was extremely concerned about
investigating in a "naturalistic setting" (Bott, 1982; Bron-
fenbrenner, 1979), he also felt it was more important to ob
serve the social behavior and social participation of those
children who played with blocks infrequently. By assigning
both boys and girls to groups and by controlling their choice
of activity within the context of their normal "learning
center time," it allowed the researcher to observe those
children who used blocks infrequently as well as the fre
quent- and non-users of blocks.
Procedure for Observation
The children were observed for a total of 60 minutes
per child, 30 minutes for each type of blocks, using a time
sampling technique similar to the one used by Smith and

73
Connolly (1972). Every child was observed on eight differ
ent occasions for 7 1/2 minutes per occasion, four times
with unit blocks and four times with large hollow blocks.
On each of these eight occasions two observers, the re
searcher and a trained graduate student, made observations.
Each observed the social behavior of one child for a 15-sec
ond period, recorded the observed behavior on the checklist
then observed another child for 15 seconds. After recording
that child's behavior, the observer then observed the first
child again for 15 seconds and recorded the behavior exhib
ited by him/her for that 15-second period. Both observers
continued this procedure of alternating 15-second observa
tions until 7 1/2 minutes of data were coded for each child.
Each observation session lasted about 30 minutes.
These observations were made during the 8:30 a.m. -
10:10 a.m. learning center time Tuesday through Friday or
between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday
over the seven week period from April 17 to June 2, 1982.
An attempt was made to alternate observations of the groups'
use of the two types of blocks. No groups were observed
more than once a day or twice each week. The researcher drew
lots to decide which group was observed first with unit blocks
and which group was observed first with large hollow blocks.
The two observers sat in chairs close enough to the
block areas in order to have an unobstructed view of the chil
dren and to be able to hear their speech and vocalizations

74
as clearly as possible. One can never discount the effect
of an observer on the behavior of the children (Blurton
Jones, 1967), therefore each observer attempted to follow
the suggestions set forth by McGrew (1972). McGrew sug
gested that the observers should not intentionally "initiate
interaction" with the children nor should they become "to
tally detached" or "withdrawn" or what he termed "unnatu
rally wooden," but should instead "attempt to compromise"
by not initiating the social contact with children. If a
child initiated social interaction with the observer, how
ever, he/she did not refuse, but rather tried to terminate
it "as gracefully as possible." In addition, both observ
ers spent several weeks prior to the beginning of the study
observing in the classroom so the children would become fa
miliar with them and their role as "unresponsive" adult vis
itors. It should also be mentioned that adult visitors and
student observers were quite common in this particular class
room.
The observed behavior was recorded on a checklist de
veloped by the researcher. A compilation of the social be
havior of preschool children observed by Appleton (1980),
Blurton Jones (1967, 1972b), Leach (1972), McGrew (1972),
Parten (1932), and Smith and Connolly (1972) during freeplay
was included on this checklist. The potential for these be
haviors occurring in the context of kindergartners' block
play was substantiated by the researcher during frequent

75
observations of kindergarten children playing with large
hollow and unit blocks, made in late 1981 and early 1982.
In addition, the researcher has expanded the units of be
havior in the "speech" categories of Leach (1972) and Smith
and Connolly (1972) to include units of verbal behavior ob
served during the above-mentioned observations of the block
play of kindergarten boys and girls.
Inter-Observer Agreement
The mean inter-observer agreement on all categories of
this checklist was 76.5% for unit blocks and 81.5% for large
hollow blocks between two independent judges, the author and
a graduate student assistant. The agreement ranged from
71% to 86.5% for unit blocks and 75.5% to 87% for large hol
low blocks. The calculations were based on the number of
agreements divided by the total of the greatest number of be
haviors scored by one observer for each 15-second period.
Two agreement checks were made for each type of blocks
before the coding began. Additionally, six more agreement
checks with unit blocks and four more checks with large hol
low blocks were made during the study.
In order to collect data in an accurate, objective, and
consistent manner an observational technique appropriate for
the setting, the situation, and the questions posed by this
study had to be found. The following section describes the
choice of observation techniques and the reason for this
choice.

76
The Time-Sampling Technique
The time-sampling technique was chosen as the most ap
propriate method of data collection for observing the social
behavior and social participation of kindergarten children
during block play. According to Vasta (1979) the time
sampling technique is:
the most advanced and most sophisticated of
our current observational approaches. It
objectifies human observational procedure
more than any other method, more importantly,
it permits an accurate assessment of the re
liability of the observations. (p. 173)
Besides bringing objectivity and reliability to the obser
vational procedure, another advantage of the time-sampling
technique is that, used in conjunction with ethological meth
odology, it "allows a comparison of measures of behavior
frequency, obviously defined, for different individuals and
different settings" (Smith & Connolly, 1972, p. 70).
Leach (1972) maintained that using a time-sampling tech
nique with the predetermined behaviors listed on a checklist
has certain advantages: (1) "It should provide a more con
sistent record because the items being recorded are con
stantly before one's eyes; and (2) the data are recorded in
a form which is easy to analyze" (p. 250) However, as
Leach pointed out, a checklist does have three limitations:
(1) it is somewhat inflexiblesince a complete list of the
behaviors to be recorded is listed in advance, (2) it must

77
be relatively brief, so as not to become unwieldy, and (3)
it doesn't readily allow for recording the sequence of be
havior.
The checklist to record the behaviors observed during
the 15-second time intervals was designed by the researcher
to reduce the limitations cited by Leach. A space was pro
vided on the checklist, marked Other Behavior, to record any
unlisted social behavior that might occur during each 15-
second period. Although having the predetermined units of
behavior listed right in front of the observer is certain
to influence his/her coding behavior; providing the oppor
tunity to record behavior not listed on the checklist gives
it more flexibility. Leach is certainly correct in pointing
out that a checklist should be somewhat brief; however, as
explained in greater detail below, the researcher's check
list was designed with the smaller units of behavior listed
under more global behavioral categories in order to aid the
observers and simplify the recording procedure. The major
weakness of the researcher's checklist and the time-sampling
technique is that it does not allow for recording the se
quence of behavior.
In deciding on an observational technique, all of the
above factors were carefully weighed by the researcher. The
use of the time-sampling technique and a checklist to record
the observed behavior was deemed to be the most appropriate
method for observing and recording the social behavior of

78
kindergarten children because of the objectivity, consis
tency, and accuracy that characterize this observational pro
cedure. The choice of 15 seconds as the length of time inter
val will be discussed below.
Length of the Time Interval
The choice of the 15-second time intervals was primar
ily based on the following guidelines set forth by Hutt and
Hutt (1970): (1) "how often the sampling is done will depend
on how rapidly the changes in behavior occur" (p. 68), (2)
in general, the smaller the time sample, the more represen
tative the sampling, (3) fractions of a minute (10, 15, 20,
or 30 seconds) are preferable in terms of computational ease,
and (4) although the more frequent the sampling the more
comprehensive and reliable the record, a large number of
categories requires the frequency to be reduced.
Taking Hutt and Hutt's first guideline into considera
tion, it should be noted that many of the units of social be
havior listed on the researcher's checklist (for example,
Hit/Push, Give, Smile), occur very quickly and change rap-
pidly within a few seconds. A child may hit and push, then
grab another child's block within a three-second period of
time.
Using Hutt and Hutt's second, third, and fourth guide
lines, a 15-secondas opposed to a 10-secondtime interval
was chosen because of the moderately large number of

79
behaviors listed. Larger time intervals (20 or 30 seconds)
were not selected because, although the number of specific
units of social behavior on this checklist are fairly large,
the chances of more than one unit of social behavior in the
Facial Expressions and Vocalizations and Level of Social
Participation categories occurring during any 15-second pe
riod was highly unlikely. Hence, by grouping the specific
units of social behavior under the four major behavioral
categories (Action Behavior, Verbal Behavior, and Facial
Expression and Vocalizations, and Levels of Social Partici
pation) the list of predetermined behaviors was organized
in such a manner so as to reduce the problems involved in
scanning the large number of behavioral categories found in
a checklist of comparable length.
Gottfried and Seay (1973), in a direct observational
study of peer-social and object-directed behavior of pre
school children, recorded the occurrence of social and ob
ject-directed behavior once during each 15-second interval.
Their checklist contained many of the same social behaviors
the researcher included on his checklist (i.e., "hit,"
"touch," "smile," "frown," "vocalize," "verbalize"), adding
support for the use of a 15-second time interval for observ
ing the social behavior of young children.
For the purpose of studying the social and cognitive
play behavior of preschool children, Johnson, Ershler, and
Bell (1980) defined a "play episode" as being a "unit of

80
observation of at least 15-seconds duration with only one
type of social/cognitive play occurring" (p. 272). Their
definition of "play episode" upholds the use of a 15-second
time interval as an appropriate length of time to determine
the observed childs level of social participation (social
play), whereas a 10-second interval may not be enough time
to reveal the particular level of social participation in
which the child is engaged.
In summary, the 15-second time interval was selected
because it was deemed the smallest unit of time (Hutt & Hutt,
1970) appropriate for the observation of social behavior
(Gottfried S Seay, 1973) and social participation (Johnson
et al., 1980) of young children. Also, the fact that a
minute can easily be divided into 15-second periods makes
this time length preferable in terms of computational ease
(Hutt & Hutt, 1970).
The following section will discuss the method of ob
serving social participation and further define this term and
the behaviors associated with it.
Observation of Social Participation and Block Area
Participation
In addition to recording the units of social behavior,
the observers also recorded the children's level of social
participation and block area participation. All levels of
social participation except Inside Structure were adapted
from those developed by Parten (1932) and used by Smith and

81
Connolly (1972). The block area participation variable
(Not Present) was utilized by the researcher to measure the
amount of time the children spent in each block area. The
procedure used to score these two categories is outlined
below.
During each 15-second period the target child's play
behavior was scored by coding it either as Group, Parallel,
Solitary, Onlooker, Unoccupied, or Inside Structure. For
example, if the target child was a girl building a house by
herself with blocks while the other three children were build
ing a road, and she showed no observable interest in the others
or in their structure, she was scored for Solitary play during
that 15-second period. If the next target child happened to
be a boy playing next to, but not interacting with, the other
two children and all were building a road, he was scored as
participating in Parallel play for that 15-second period.
Inside Structure was scored only during large hollow block
play when a child could not be seen because he/she was inside
a block structure.
Not Present, was coded if: (1) the child left the block
area before 10 seconds of the 15-second period had elapsed,
(2) the child was not in the block area during the 15-second
period in which that child was scheduled to be observed, or
(3) the child was not present and did not appear before the
first 5 seconds of the scheduled 15-second coding period had
elapsed. The child had to be engaged in play or non-play

82
behavior at one of these social levels of participation for
a period of 10 seconds before the observer scored him/her at
a level of social participation.
Inside Structure is a category developed by the research
er for observing children in one specific activity area, the
block corner. Parten did not need this category since she
observed the children in the context of the entire preschool
classroom. Parten's associative and cooperative play cate
gories were collapsed into Group play because previous studies
(Johnson & Ershler, 1981; Johnson et al., 1980; Rubin, Watson,
& Jambor, 1978; Smith & Connolly, 1972) reported observers
had a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between the
associative and cooperative play behaviors and thus inter
observer agreement was very low for these two categories.
Solitary and Parallel play were redefined to fit the block
play situation while Dnoccupied and Onlooker, also taken from
Parten's (1932) study, were used as redefined by Smith and
Connolly (1972) More detailed definitions of the levels of
social participation follow.
Definitions of Levels of Social Participation
Unoccupied is recorded when the child is engaged in
minimal activity, either physically or socially, such as

83
standing around, talking softly to self, looking around the
room, sucking fingers, or doing some simple, repetitious,
non-essential task unrelated to the activity of the other
children in the block area. The Unoccupied child does not
interact with the other children or take part in the play
behavior of these children.
Onlooker is recorded when the child watches others
play, follows them around the block area, or stands or sits
within speaking distance so that he/she can easily see and
hear what is taking place. The child may talk to the chil
dren whom he/she is observing, ask questions, or give sug
gestions but does not overtly enter into the play of the oth
ers.
Solitary is recorded when the child plays alone and in
dependently. There is no interaction with or interest in
other children or with their block structures or designs;
the child makes no effort to keep close to or speak to other
children. The child's interest is centered on his/her own
behavior which is pursued without reference to what others
are doing. If the child is building a structure or making
a pattern or design with blocks, it is different than what
the others are doing and there is no evidence that he/she
was influenced by the other children's block-building be
havior .
Parallel is recorded when the child plays independently
but the behavior chosen naturally brings the child among

84
other children. The child does not attempt to influence
the behavior of nearby children but exhibits an interest
in what the nearby children are doing, exemplified by occa
sional glances and similarity of block structure or build
ing technique. The child plays beside, rather than with,
other children.
Group is recorded when the child plays with other chil
dren, interacting with them. Interactions here include con
versation, borrowing or sharing blocks or accessories, fol
lowing or chasing one another in the block area, physical
contact, building a structure together, and organized play
involving different roles.
Inside Structure is recorded when the child climbs in
side a block structure and cannot be seen by the observer.
This only occurs during play with large hollow blocks.
Definition of Block Area Participation
Not Present is recorded when: (1) the child is not in
the block area during any part of the 15-second time inter
val for which the child is scheduled to be observed, (2) the
child leaves the block area before 10 seconds of the 15-sec-
ond time interval have elapsed, or (3) the child is not pres
ent in the block area and does not appear before the first
5 seconds of the scheduled 15-second time interval have
elapsed.

85
Definitions of the Units of Social Behavior
As mentioned earlier, many of these definitions were
taken from the ethological studies of the social behavior
of preschool children. The source for each definition is
cited after each unit of social behavior is defined. Where
no source is cited, the unit of behavior has been defined by
the researcher.
The specific units of social behavior are listed under
three major behavioral categories (Action Behavior, Verbal
Behavior, and Facial Expressions and Vocalizations) for or
ganizational ease in coding and analyzing the data.
Verbal Behavior
Accept is recorded when the child verbally agrees with
a comment or suggestion of another child.
Announce is recorded when the child verbally makes
known to others what he/she is about to do or has done.
Apologize is recorded when the child verbally acknowl
edges regret for a fault, injury, or insult to another.
Ask/Offer/Suggest is recorded when the child utters a
string of words, usually with a rising inflection (i.e. ask
ing a question, "May I have that block?"), when the child
verbally volunteers aid to help solve a problem, or when
the child volunteers ideas for the use of blocks or acces
sories .

86
Blame/Complain/Condemn is recorded when the child ver
bally accuses another child, verbally expresses discontent,
or verbally declares another child's action or block struc
ture as being substandard.
Comfort/Praise is recorded when the child verbally con
soles another child or verbally commends or applauds the ac
tions of another child.
Command is recorded when the child utters a string of
words conveying an order, spoken emphatically and usually
rather loudly (Leach, 1972).
Refuse/Deny/Negate is recorded when the child verbally
attempts to stop another child entering the group or playing
with the blocks or accessories.
Talk is a blanket term that is recorded when the child
utters one or more recognizable words obviously aimed at
communicating with another child but not including Ask/Offer/
Suggest, Call for Teacher, Comfort/Praise, Command, Refuse/
Deny/Negate, and Thank.
Threat is recorded when the child verbally expresses
the intention to: (1) inflict injury to another child,
(2) damage another child's block structure, or (3) tattle
to the teacher.
Action Behavior
Give is recorded when an object, held in the child's
hand or hands, is held out for another person to grasp and

87
is then released; when an object is placed on another
child's lap (Leach, 1972); or, in the case of large hollow
blocks, when an object is placed at another's feet.
Fight is recorded when the child engages in repeated
pushing or pulling or exchanges several blows with another
chiId.
Help is recorded when the child assists another to per
forin some manipulative game or task by a complex array of
actions (showing, taking from and doing for, giving, arrang
ing blocks or other small objects), often accompanied by ver
bal instructions as well (Leach, 1972).
Hit at is recorded when the child attempts to strike
another child in an agonistic context but does not make con
tact with the attempted blow.
Hit/Push is recorded when the child strikes another
child in an agonistic context or when a child repels another
child by flexing the arm(s) and then extending it.
Imitate/Take Turns is recorded when the child copies
the behavior of another child or alternates using the blocks
using a block structure, or portraying a fantasy role in a
play situation.
Receive is recorded when the child holds out his/her
hands in order to grasp an object which is being given by
someone. It involves coordinated movements with the giver
(Leach, 1972).

88
Reject is recorded when the child physically (not
verbally) refuses physical contact or an object held out by
another child.
Rough and Tumble is recorded when the child engages in
non-agonistic physical roughhousing with another child such
as a play fight.
Take/Tug/Pull is recorded when the child either grabs
an object from someone's hands (or an object that child is
obviously using) when they have not held it out towards the
subject or when the child is holding and attempting to draw
toward him- or herself an object which another is holding.
Throw is recorded when the child has an object in its
grasp; the arm is flexed and then abruptly extended, and the
object is released.
Touch is recorded when the child places one hand on an
other child's body, without grasping it. The hand may be
placed just for a moment, or it may be rested on the person
for a long period (up to a minute) (Leach, 1972).
Facial Expressions and Vocalizations
Cry/Scream is recorded when the child vocalizes in a
repeated, usually low-pitched manner ("waah," "aaah-hah")
or vocalizes in a single or repeated high-pitched manner,
excluding squeals occurring in a play context (Smith & Con
nolly, 1972).

89
Frown is recorded when the child's brows are drawn down
at center, making vertical creases in the forehead while the
eyes are usually well open (Leach, 1972).
Laugh is recorded when the child exhibits open-mouthed
smile together with audible vocalization (rapid or staccato
expulsions of breath) (Smith & Connolly, 1972).
Playnoise is recorded when the child vocally imitates
such things as machines: shooting, planes, rockets, trains,
car. It is a "blanket term" to cover a range of noises used
by the child during play. Stereotyped chants, such as "I am
a dalek, I am a dalek," also come under this heading (Leach,
1972) .
Pout is recorded when the child protrudes the lips and
squints the eyes in a gesture of obvious displeasure.
Smile is recorded when the corners of the mouth are
withdrawn and turned upwards. No distinction is made as to
mouth open or closed, teeth visible or not. No audible
vocalization (Smith S Connolly, 1972).
Definitions of Teacher-Directed Behavior and
Teacher Intervention Behavior
The teacher may be an influence on children's social
behavior. If a child has a problem, one possible solution
is to appeal to the teacher for help. The two teacher-
directed behavior variables were included in the observation

90
checklist so this type of behavior could be recorded.
Similarly, a teacher may notice a problem in a play area
and intervene to prevent a potential disruption. Because
teacher intervention may be related to the content of the
play or to potentially unacceptable behavior, two teacher
intervention behavior variables were included. These four
variables are defined below.
Call Teacher is recorded when the child verbally
requests or demands that the teacher give help to or aid
the child in some way.
Get Teacher is recorded when the child leaves the
block area to go after the teacher.
Teacher-Behavior is recorded when the teacher inter
venes in the group because of what she considers unaccept
able behavior by the child(ren).
Teacher-Content is recorded when the teacher intervenes
to comment on or ask questions about the children's block
structures or their play activities.
Description of Observational Checklist
An example of the checklist used by the author is pre
sented in Appendix A. This example represents one 15-second
time interval. One check mark is made in the appropriate box
if the behavior occurs one or more times during that 15-
second period. The author reduced this format so that four

91
of these checklists could be included on one page. Each
observer then alternately recorded two 15-second time
intervals before turning to a new page.
Summary
The use of vague definitions of social behavior and
inconsistent observation procedures made the findings of
earlier studies investigating the relationship between play
materials and social behavior hard to interpret and diffi
cult to replicate. The present study was designed with
these weaknesses in mind, in order to supplement the
findings from these other studies.
Bronfenbrenner (1979) believed it necessary to observe
children in a naturalistic environment to gain a better un
derstanding of the nature and function of their behavior.
An ethological approach to studying the social behavior of
kindergarten children during block play was deemed the most
appropriate methodology for this study because it utilizes
direct observation in a naturalistic setting and because of
the particular importance ethologists place on the precise
definition of the social behaviors to be studied.
The time-sampling technique, described by Vasta (1979)
as "the most advanced and sophisticated of our current ob
servational approaches" (p. 173) was used for data collec
tion because it provides an accurate, consistent, and

92
objective record of the behaviors observed. This technique
also complements the precise behavioral definitions and the
naturalistic observation procedure of the ethological
methodology. Together they provide a strong and sophisti
cated methodological approach that has been successfully
utilized in observing the social behavior of young children
(Smith & Connolly, 1972).
In summary, the method of direct observation in the
classroom setting, using a time-sampling technique and a
checklist of predetermined, precisely defined units of
social behavior and levels of social participation, was
used in this study. The methods described above were
appropriate for the investigation of social behavior
occurring during block play and provided the necessary
information for future replication.

CHAPTER IV
RESULTS
Introduction
A 2 (type of blocks) x 2 (sex) x 4 (time) completely
repeated measures of analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used
to analyze the data. This analysis was conducted for each
of the six social participation variables, one block area
participation variable, 28 social behavior variables, and 2
teacher-directed behavior variables. The scores used in the
analysis were the average boys' score and the average girls'
score for each of the five groups. This procedure was used
because the behavior of any one child within a group is
likely to be dependent on the behavior of the other children
within the group and the statistical procedure takes this de
pendency into account. Observations of groups of children
during this study supported the use of this procedure. In
addition, two teacher intervention behavior variables were
analyzed by a 2 (type of blocks) x 4 (time repeated mea
sures ANOVA procedure. For each type of blocks and occasion
(time) the score on each variable was the number of inter
ventions to a group as a whole, not the number of interven
tions to a particular child. All variables were tested at
a .05 level of significance.
93

94
Findings
The presentation of findings which follows includes
four major sections. The first section analyzes the six
social participation, one block area participation vari
able, and 28 social behavior variables comparing differ
ences by type of blocks. The differences and similarities
in the social participation and social behaviors of boys
versus girls with each type of blocks are presented in the
second section. The third section reports all other sta
tistically significant effects for the 2 (type of blocks)
x 2 (sex) x 4 (time) ANOVAs of the six social participa
tion, one block area participation, and 28 social behavior
variables. The fourth reports and discusses the results
of the 2 (type of blocks) x 4 (time) ANOVAs of the two
teacher intervention variables.
Social Participation, Block Area Participation, and
Social Behavior by Type of Blocks
Social participation by type of blocks. For each of
the six social participation variables, Table 2 reports the
marginal means for each type of blocks. The marginal means
indicate the frequency of occurrence of each level of social
participation per observation. For example. Group has a
marginal mean frequency of 17.00 for large hollow blocks.
This indicates that over four sessions of large hollow
block play Group was scored an average of 17 times for each
child per 7 1/2 minute observation period. In other words,

95
Table 2. Type of Blocks Marginal Mean Frequencies
of Social Participation Variables
Large Hollow Blocks
Unit Blocks
Level of Social
Participation
Solitary
1.54
4.33
Parallel
1.98
3.66
Group
17.00
10.61
Onlooker
1.73
1.28
Unoccupied
0.45
0.28
Inside Structure
* 2.16
0.00
*As a result of the smaller size of unit blocks. Inside
Structure can only occur with large hollow blocks.

96
during each observation period, Group was recorded an
average of 17 15-second intervals out of the possible 30
15-second intervals for each child during large hollow
block play. The marginal means can be interpreted in the
same manner for both large hollow and unit block play for
all of the six social participation variables, the block
area participation variable, and the 28 social behavior
variables reported in this chapter.
Group was the most frequently occurring level of social
participation for both types of block play. For unit block
play, the levels of social participation ranked from most
to least frequently occurring were Group, Solitary, Paral
lel, Onlooker, and Unoccupied. For large hollow block play,
the ranking was as follows: Group, Inside Structure,
Parallel, Onlooker, Solitary, and Unoccupied. Inside
Structure is only applicable to large hollow blocks because
unit blocks are too small to build a child-sized enclosed
structure. Appendix B reported the cell frequencies and
cell standard deviations for these six, as well as all
other dependent variables in the study.
Table 3 summarizes the ANOVAs for the differences be
tween types of blocks for five of the levels of social par
ticipation. Differences between types were significant at
a .05 level for the variables Solitary, Parallel, Group,
and Unoccupied. Inside Structure was not tested for

97
Table 3. Summary of Type of Blocks ANOVAs for
Social Participation Variables.
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Solitary
Type of
Blocks
155.40
i
155.40
22.14
0.0093
Error
28.08
4
7.02
Parallel
Type of
Blocks
56.95
1
56.95
8.37
0.0444
Error
27.22
4
6.80
Group
Type of
Blocks
816.00
1
816.00
10.30
0.0326
Error
316.95
4
79.24
Onlooker
Type of
Blocks
4.05
1
4.05
1.43
0.2983
Error
11.36
4
2.84
Unoccupied
Type of
Blocks
0.61
1
0.61
12.25
0.0249
Error
0.20
4
0.05

98
statistical significance since this behavior could occur
only with large hollow blocks. Group and Unoccupied oc
curred more often with large hollow blocks. Solitary and
Parallel were recorded more often when children played with
unit blocks.
Block area participation by type of blocks. The
marginal means for each type of blocks for the block area
participation variable (Not Present) are reported in Table 4.
During each of the four observations, children were Not
Present in the large hollow block area an average of 4.16
out of 30 15 second-intervals. In the unit block area the
children were Not Present for an average of 9.57 out of 30
15-second intervals. Therefore, the children were present
an average of 25.84 and 20.43 out of 30 15-second inter
vals for large hollow and unit blocks, respectively.
Table 5 summarizes the ANOVA for the differences be
tween types of blocks for the block area participation
variable (Not Present). There is a significant difference
at a .05 level between the Not Present scores for large
hollow blocks and unit blocks. Children were recorded as
Not Present significantly more frequently for unit block
play than for large hollow block play. Stated another way,
children were present significantly more often for large
hollow block play than for unit block play.

99
Table 4. Type of Blocks Marginal Mean Frequencies
of the Block Area Participation Variable
(Not Present)
Large Hollow Blocks
Unit Blocks
4.16
9.52
Table 5.
Summary of Type of
Area Participation
Blocks ANOVA for Block
(Not Present)
sv
SS DF
MS F P
Type of Blocks 546.01 1 546.01 24.17 0.0008
Error 90.36 4 22.59

100
Social behavior by type of blocks. The marginal means
for each type of blocks for each of the 28 social behavior
variables are reported in Table 6. The marginal means for
each variable for large hollow blocks are listed by rank
order of frequency of occurrence from most to least fre
quently occurring behavior. The unit block marginal means
are listed opposite the large hollow block means to facili
tate comparison between the two types of blocks.
Table 7 summarizes the ANOVAs for differences between
types of blocks for all 28 social behavior variables. When
comparing the two types of blocks there are significant
differences at a .05 level for Accept. Apologize. Ask/Offer/
Suggest. Refuse/Denv/Negate. and Smile. Each of these social
behavior variables occurred more often with large hollow
blocks than with unit blocks. As has been noted, however,
the rank orders of frequency of occurrence of these
variables are similar for the two types of blocks.
Social Participation, Block Area Participation,
and Social Behavior of Children by Sex
There are no sex differences for each of the six levels
of social participation, for block area participation, or for
the 28 social behavior variables (see Tables 8, 9, and 10
for the ANOVAs with regard to gender). Table 9 indicates
that there was no significant difference in the amount of
time girls and boys spent playing with blocks. Tables 8

101
Table 6. Type of Blocks Marginal Mean Frequencies
of Social Behavior Variables
Social Behavior
Large Hollow Blocks
Unit Blocks
Ask/Offer/Suggest
7.86
5.39
Playnoise
5.50
5.54
Smi le
4.95
2.39
Talk
4.15
2.33
Announce
3.38
2.61
Imitate/Take turns
2.16
0.64
Accept
2.11
1.00
Laugh
2.06
0.75
Refuse/Deny/Negate
1.85
0.93
Blame/Complain/Condemn
1.64
1.20
Command
1.38
0.55
Help
1.09
0.54
Give
0.95
0.85
Receive
0.68
0.53
Threat
0.39
0.23
Touch
0.31
0.19
Frown
0.31
0.26
Take/Tug/Pull
0.09
0.41
Hit/Push
0.15
0.04
Throw
0.15
0.19
Rough and Tumble
0.10
0.03
Comfort / Praise
0.09
0.05
Apologize
0.05
0.00
Cry/Scream
0.04
0.01
Pout
0.03
0.00
Hit at
0.03
0.00
Reject
0.01
0.00
Fight
0.00
0.00

Table 7. Summary of Type of Blocks ANOVAs for
Social Behavior
DV
Accept
Announce
Apologize
Ask/Offer/Suggest
Blame/Complain/Condemn
Comfort/Praise
Command
Refuse/Deny/Negate
Talk
Threat
SV SS DF
Verbal Behavior
Type of
Blocks
24.75
1
Error
8.86
4
Type of
Blocks
11.63
1
Error
8.54
4
Type of
Blocks
0.05
1
Error
0.01
4
Type of
Blocks
122.51
1
Error
61.96
4
Type of
Blocks
3.83
1
Error
8.56
4
Type of
Blocks
0.03
1
Error
0.18
4
Type of
Blocks
13.61
1
Error
9.48
4
Type of
Blocks
16.65
1
Error
0.77
4
Type of
Blocks
66.61
1
Error
18.11
4
Type of
Blocks
0.53
1
Error
1.02
4
MS
F
P
24.75
2.21
11.18
0.0287
11.63
2.14
5.44
0.0800
0.05
0.003
16.00
0.0161
122.51
15.49
7.91
0.0482
3.83
2.14
1.79
0.2521
0.03
0.04
0.64
0.4676
13.61
2.37
5.74
0.0746
16.65
0.19
86.65
0.0007
66.61
4.53
14.72
0.0185
0.53
0.25
2.07
0.2233
102

Table 7. Continued
DV
SV
SS
Action Behavior
Give
Type of Blocks
0.20
Error
1.86
Fight
Type of Blocks
0.00
Error
0.00
Help
Type of Blocks
6.05
Error
4.17
Hit at
Type of Blocks
0.003
Error
0.04
Hit/Push
Type of Blocks
0.25
Error
0.14
Imitate/Take Turns
Type of Blocks
46.51
Error
28.77
Receive
Type of Blocks
0.45
Error
1.39
Reject
Type of Blocks
0.003
Error
0.01
Rough and Tumble
Type of Blocks
0.11
Error
0.20
Take/Tug/Pull
Type of Blocks
0.01
Error
4.27
Throw
Type of Blocks
0.03
Error
1.58
DF
MS
F
P
i
0.20
0.43
0.5480
4
1
0.00
0.00
1.0000
4
0.00
1
6.05
5.81
0.0736
4
1.04
1
0.003
0.29
0.6213
4
0.01
1
0.25
7.36
0.0533
4
0.03
1
46.51
6.47
0.0638
4
7.19
1
0.45
1.29
0.3192
4
0.35
1
0.003
1.00
0.3739
4
0.003
1
0.11
2.25
0.2080
4
0.05
1
1.01
0.95
0.3852
4
1.07
1
0.03
0.07
0.8029
4
0.40
103

Table 7. Continued.
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Touch
Type of Blocks
1.01
i
1.01
2.91
0.1635
Error
1.39
4
0.35
Facial Expressions and
Vocalizations
Cry/Scream
Type of Blocks
1.01
1
0.01
2.67
0.1778
Error
0.02
4
0.01
Frown
Type of Blocks
0.05
1
0.05
0.35
0.5870
Error
0.58
4
0.14
Laugh
Type of Blocks
34.45
1
34.45
24.10
0.0080
Error
5.72
4
1.43
Playnoise
Type of Blocks
0.03
1
0.03
0.00
0.9741
Error
94.11
4
23.53
Pout
Type of Blocks
0.01
1
0.01
1.00
0.3739
Error
0.05
4
0.01
Smile
Type of Blocks
131.33
1
131.33
10.74
0.0306
Error
48.91
4
12.23
104

105
Table 8. Summary of Sex ANOVAS for Social
Participation
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Solitary
Sex
0.70
i
0.70
0.02
0.8832
Error
114.72
4
28.68
Parallel
Sex
3.83
1
3.83
0.56
Error
27.21
4
6.80
Group
Sex
12.40
1
12.40
0.10
0.7652
Error
485.61
4
121.40
Onlooker
Sex
0.05
1
0.05
0.02
0.8965
Error
10.42
4
2.60
Unoccupied
Sex
0.05
1
0.05
0.03
0.8642
Error
6.01
4
1.50
Table
9. Summary of Sex
Participation
ANOVA for Block Area
(Not Present)
SV
SS
DF
MS F
D
Sex
1.01
i
1.01 0.03
0.8811
Error
159.01
4
39.87

Table 10. Summary of ANOVA's for Social Behavior
DV
Accept
Announce
Apologize
Ask/Offer/Suggest
Blame/Complain/Condemn
Comfort/Praise
Command
Refuse/Deny/Negate
Talk
Threat
sv
SS
DF
Verbal Behavior
Sex
9.45
i
Error
25.66
4
Sex
8.13
1
Error
32.48
4
Sex
0 U1
1
Error
0 .05
4
Sex
1.51
1
Error
124.26
4
Sex
0.03
1
Error
18.55
4
Sex
0.03
1
Error
0.11
4
Sex
1.25
1
Error
11.91
4
Sex
2.63
1
Error
17.64
4
Sex
1.25
1
Error
72.28
4
Sex
0.08
1
Error
0.22
4
MS
F
P
9.45
6 .41
1.47
0.2915
8.13
8.12
1.00
0.3737
0.01
0.01
1.00
0.3739
1.51
31.07
0.05
0.8362
0.03
4.64
0.01
0.9417
0.03
0.03
1.00
0.3739
1.25
2.98
0.42
0.5523
2.63
4.43
0.59
0.4843
1.25
18.07
0.07
0.8055
0.08
0.05
15.64
0.0167
106

Table 10. Continued.
DV
SV
ss
DF
MS
F
P
Action Behavior
Give
Sex
0.80
i
0.80
0.21
0.6720
Error
15.39
4
3.85
Fight
Sex
0.00
1
0.00
0.00
1.0000
Error
0.00
4
0.00
Help
Sex
0.05
1
0.05
0.03
0.8775
Error
7.42
4
1.85
Hit at
Sex
0.003
1
0.003
0.29
0.6213
Error
0.04
4
0.01
Hit/Push
Sex
0.003
1
0.003
0.02
0.9001
Error
0.70
4
0.18
Imitate, Take Turns
Sex
6.05
1
6.05
2.79
0.1701
Error
8.76
4
2.17
Receive
Sex
0.05
1
0.05
0.04
0.8562
Error
5.36
4
1.34
Reject
Sex
0.003
1
0.003
1.00
0.3739
Error
0.01
4
0.003
Rough and Tumble
Sex
0.11
1
0.11
6.00
0.0705
Error
0.08
4
0.02
Take/Tug/Pull
Sex
1.25
1
1.25
3.72
0.1260
Error
1.34
4
0.34
Throw
Sex
1.38
1
1.38
2.87
0.1653
Error
1.92
4
0.48
107

Table 10. Continued.
DV
sv
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Touch
Sex
0.50
i
0.50
1.88
0.2420
Error
0.11
4
0.03
Facial Expre
ssions and
Vocalizations
Cry/Scream
Sex
0.01
1
0.01
2.67
0.1778
Error
0.02
4
0.01
Frown
Sex
0.01
1
0.01
0.12
0.7489
Error
0.42
4
0.11
Laugh
Sex
10.88
1
10.88
0.73
0.4415
Error
59.73
4
14.93
Playnoise
Sex
147.15
1
147.15
4.24
0.1087
Error
139.00
4
34.75
Pout
Sex
0.01
1
0.01
1.00
0.3739
Error
0.05
4
0.01
Smile
Sex
0.70
1
0.70
0.02
0.8846
Error
117.53
4
29.38
108

109
and 10 provide evidence that the boys' and girls' levels
of social participation and social behavior were similar
during their play with these two types of blocks.
Other Findings
Time. The results of the ANOVA with regard to date of
observation showed that the variables Unoccupied, Ask/Offer/
Suggest, Comfort/Praise, and Cry/Scream exhibit statisti
cally significant changes in frequency over time. Table
11 reports the summary of the ANOVAs with regard to time
for these four variables.
The marginal means for Unoccupied, Ask/Offer/Suggest,
Comfort/Praise and Cry/Scream for each observation time are
reported in Table 12. These results would appear to indi
cate that there was no consistent change in behavior over
time and that differences were more dependent on the occa
sion and not on the experience with blocks or the group.
For example, Unoccupied Time 1 is similar to Time 3 and
Time 2 is similar to Time 4, which may indicate that the
particular occasion influenced the behavior and not that
the behavior changed consistently over time. It is impor
tant to note the children in this study were observed for
only seven weeks.
Interactions. Table 13 indicates a significant type
of blocks x sex interaction for Help. The marginal means
in Table 14 indicate that girls were more likely to help

110
Table 11. Summary of Time ANOVAs for Unoccupied,
Ask/Offer/Suggest, Comfort/Praise, and
Cry/Scream.
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Unoccupied
Time
1.06
3
0.35
3.58
0.0468
Error
1.19
12
0.10
Ask/Offer/Suggest
Time
88.20
3
29.40
5.43
0.0136
Error
64.96
12
5.41
Comfort/Praise
Time
0.33
3
0.11
4.86
0.0194
Error
0.28
12
0.02
Cry/Scream
Time
0.08
3
0.03
3.69
0.0431
Error
0.08
12
0.01
Table 12.
Time Marginal Means for Unoccupied,
Ask/Offer/Suggest, Comfort/Praise,
and Cry/Scream.
DV
Time 1
Time 2 Time 3
Time 4
Unoccupied
0.50
0.28 0.45
0.23
Ask/Offer/Suggest
5.58
7.68 5.58
7.68
Comfort/Praise
0.05
0.18 0.00
0.05
Cry/Scream
0.30
0.00 0.03
0.00

Ill
Table 13. Summary of Type of Blocks X Sex
ANOVAs for Help
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS F P
Help
Type of
Blocks x sex
4.51
i
4.51 8.67 0.0422
Error
2.08
4
0.52
Table 14.
Type of Blocks Marginal Means
for Help
Type of Blocks
Males
Females
Large Hollow
0.80
1.35
Unit
1.00
0.33
Table 15.
Summary of Sex x Time ANOVA's for
Cry/Scream and Frown
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Cry/Scream
Sex x Time
0.11
3
0.04
4.24
0.0294
Error
0.11
12
0.01
Frown
Sex x Time
1.91
3
0.63
4.31
0.0279
Error
1.78
12
0.15

112
when playing with large hollow blocks while boys helped more
often during unit block play. These findings should be in
terpreted cautiously however, since Help was a low frequency
of occurrence behavior.
The analysis with regard to sex x time interactions
resulted in significant interactions for Cry/Scream and
Frown. The ANOVAs for these interactions are summarized
in Table 15. The marginal means for each combination of
sex and time reported in Table 16 show that Cry/Scream
decreased for girls over time while Frown increases for
girls over time. Cry/Scream almost never occurred with
either sex; therefore these particular findings have little
meaning. Frown, like the other time interactions discus
sed, appears to be more influenced by the particular
occasion than by past experience playing with blocks.
The analysis resulted in a significant type of blocks
x sex x time interaction for Take/Tug/Pull. The summary of
ANOVA for this interaction is reported in Table 17. The
marginal means reported in Table 18 show that boys' Take/
Tug/Pull behavior increased over time for boys playing with
unit blocks. These results must be carefully interpreted.
The low frequency and pattern of the behavior seem to imply
that the particular occasion contributed more than past block
experiences to the likelihood Of Take/Tug/Pull occurring.

113
Table 16.
Sex x Time Marginal Means
Cry/Scream and Frown.
for
DV
Sex
Time 1
Time 2
Time 3
Time 4
Cry/Scream
M
0.00
0.00
0.03
0.00
F
0.08
0.00
0.00
0.00
Frown
M
0.15
0.05
0.35
0.05
F
0.13
0.10
0.10
0.23
Table 17.
Summary of Type of Blocks
ANOVA for Take/Tug/Pull
x Sex
x Time
sv
SS
DF
MS
F P
Type of Blocks
x Sex x Time 2.23
3
0.75
4.82 0.0199
Error
1.86
12
0.15
Table 18.
Type of Blocks x Sex Marginal Means
for Take/Tug/Pull
Type of Blocks
Sex
Time 1
Time 2
Time 3
Time 4
Large Hollow
M
0.08
0.10
0.08
0.03
F
0.03
0.00
0.05
0.03
Unit
M
0.08
0.03
0.15
0.33
F
0.08
0.08
0.08
0.03

114
Teacher-directed behavior. There were no differences
between type of blocks x sex x time for Call Teacher and
Get Teacher as reported in Tables 19 and 20. Neither sex
was more likely to call for the teacher or to go get the
teacher. The children exhibited similar behavior for these
two variables during unit and large hollow block play.
Teacher Intervention Behavior
As reported in Tables 21 and 22, there were no dif
ferences or interactions between types of blocks over time.
The teacher or teacher's aide intervened during the chil
dren's unit block play as often as during their large hol
low block play. This was true for both teacher interven
tion variables. Sex differences were not reported because
of the score on each variable was the number of interven
tions for the group as a whole, not the number of inter
ventions by a particular child.
Summary
The findings indicated that the children in this study
(1) engaged in more group play with large hollow blocks and
in more parallel and solitary play with unit blocks, (2)
spent more time playing with large hollow blocks, and (3) ex
hibited similar social behaviors with both types of blocks

115
Table 19. Summary ANOVA Table for Call Teacher
sv
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Type of Blocks
0.003
i
0.003
0.29
0.6213
Error
0.04
4
0.01
Sex
0.03
1
0.03
1.38
0.3046
Error
0.08
4
0. 02
Type of Blocks
X
Sex
0.003
1
0.003
0.29
0.6213
Error
0.04
4
0.01
Time
0.08
3
0.03
1.38
0.2949
Error
0.24
12
0.02
Sex x Time
0.03
3
0.01
0.47
0.7100
Error
0.29
12
0.02
Type of Blocks
X
Time
0.01
3
0.003
0.29
0.8348
Error
0.13
12
0.01
Type of Blocks
X
Sex x Time
0.01
3
0.003
0.29
0.8348
Error
0.13
12
0.01
Table 20. Summary ANOVA
Table
for
Get Teacher
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Type of
Blocks
0.05
4
0.05
0.23
0.6541
Error
0.86
4
0.21
Sex
0.01
1
0.01
0.03
0.8700
Error
1.64
4
0.41
Type of
Blocks and Sex
0.11
1
0.11
1.26
0.3239
Error
0.36
4
0.09
Time
0.13
3
0.04
0.22
0.8812
Error
2.28
12
0.19
Sex and
Time
0.86
3
0.29
1.86
0.1904
Error
1.86
12
0.15
Type of
Blocks and Time
0.58
3
0.19
0.96
0.4427
Error
2.39
12
0.20
Type of
Blocks, Sex and Time
0.36
3
0.12
0.63
0.6083
Error
2.29
12
0.19

116
Table 21. Summary ANOVA Table for Teacher-Content
sv
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Type of
Blocks
2.11
1
2.11
1.52
0.2857
Error
5.58
4
1.39
Time
5.93
3
1.98
1.32
0.3120
Error
17.89
12
1.49
Type of
Blocks x Time
4.86
3
1.62
0.50
0.6897
Error
38.95
12
Table 22. Summary
ANOVA
Table
for Teacher-Behavior
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Type of
Blocks
0.01
i
0.01
0.24
0.6483
Error
0.21
4
0.05
Time
0.30
3
0.10
0.61
0.6238
Error
1.98
12
0.17
Type of
Blocks x Time
0.44
3
0.15
1.02
0.4188
Error
1.71
12
0.14

117
although the behaviors usually occurred more frequently with
large hollow blocks. No sex differences were found in the
levels of social participation, social behavior, or in the
amount of time these children spent with each type of blocks.
Boys were as likely to call for or get the teacher as were
girls for both types of block play. The teacher intervened
almost equally during both types of block play to take care
of behavior problems or to comment on the children's struc
tures or other aspects of their block play;
The results of the analysis of all the variables over
time and their interactions were discussed. It was sug
gested that care be taken when interpreting these findings
because many of these variables occurred very infrequently.
In addition, because such a large number of variables (39)
was analyzed at a .05 significance level, there is a strong
possibility that two of these significant interactions are
the result of chance for each ANOVA.

CHAPTER V
DISCUSSION
Despite the fact that both unit and large hollow blocks
have traditionally been popular kindergarten materials, little
is known about the social behavior that occurs while children
play with these two types of blocks. The purpose of this
study was three-fold: 1) to describe the levels of social
participation and the social behavior of 20 kindergarten
children during block play, 2) to compare the children's
levels of social participation and social behavior occur
ring during large hollow block play and unit block play,
and 3) to investigate the sex differences in the levels of
social participation and social behavior of kindergarten
children occurring during unit and large hollow block play.
It is hoped that the information gathered in this investi
gation will 1) aid teachers in making curriculum decisions
relevant to the social development of their kindergarten
students and 2) stimulate interest in future investigation
into the relationships between block play and the social
development of young children.
118

119
Summary of Findings
A mixed-SES and mixed-race sample of 20 kindergarten
children, 10 boys and 10 girls, was observed while playing
with unit and large hollow blocks. The subjects were assigned
by the teacher to five groups, each consisting of two boys
and two girls. These groups remained intact for the entire
study. Each child was observed four different times with
each type of blocks for a total of 60 minutes. Although they
were encouraged to enter the block area during the observation
periods, the children could leave the block area and return
whenever they wished. Children also could choose not to come
to the block area if they so desired.
The findings from this study help provide answers to the
five questions posed in Chapter I. Those questions are sum
marized in the four areas of discussion outlined below.
1. What levels of social participation occur as
kindergarten children play with unit and large
hollow blocks?
All levels of social participation occurred during both
types of block play with the exception of Inside Structure,
which is only applicable to large hollow blocks. With large
hollow blocks Group occurred about 57% of the time while
Inside Structure, Parallel, Solitary, and Onlooker were
observed between 6% and 7% of the time. Unoccupied was
recorded 2% of the time and Not Present accounted for the
remaining 14% of observation time.

120
For unit blocks, Group play was observed 34% while
Solitary and Parallel play were recorded 14% and 12% of the
time. Onlooker and Unoccupied were observed for 4% and 1%
of the unit block observation time while Not Present accounted
for the remaining 32% of the time.
2. What social behaviors occur as kindergarten
children play with unit and large hollow blocks?
Ask/Offer/Suggest, Playnoise, Smile, Talk, and Announce
were the social behaviors that occurred most frequently for
unit and large hollow blocks. Apologize, Cry/Scream, Pout,
Hit at. Reject, and Fight were least likely to occur with
either type of blocks. No Fights were observed while the
children played with either type of blocks and Apologize,
Pout, Hit at, and Reject were never recorded during unit
block play. Nine behaviorsImitate/Take Turns, Accept,
Laugh, Refuse/Deny/Negate, Blame/Complain/Condemn, Command,
Help, Give, and Receiveoccurred on the average of one or
two times per 7 1/2 minute observation. Eight other behaviors
occurred an average of less than once per observation. These
behaviors were Threat, Take/Tug/Pull, Frown, Touch, Hit/Push,
Throw, Rough and Tumble, and Comfort/Praise.
3. What are the differences and similarities between
a) the levels of social participation, b) the block
area participation, and 3) the social behavior of
kindergarten children as play with unit blocks and
large hollow blocks?

121
Children were more likely to engage in Group play or
be scored as Inside Structure or Onoccupied with large
hollow blocks than unit blocks. However, the children were
observed significantly more often in Solitary and Parallel
play with unit rather than large hollow blocks. Further
more, the children spent more time with large hollow blocks
than with unit blocks as indicated by the significant
difference in the Not Present category. Accept, Apologize,
Ask/Offer/Suggest, Laugh, Refuse/Deny/Negate, Smile, and
Talk were all observed significantly more often during large
hollow block play than unit block play.
4. What are the sex differences for levels of social
participation, block area participation, and
social behavior for unit blocks and large hollow
blocks?
There were no significant sex differences in the
levels of social participation, block area participation,
or social behavior of these kindergarten children for
either type of blocks. Girls spent approximately the
same amount of time playing with blocks as boys did. Both
sexes were present more often in the large hollow block
area than the unit block area.

122
Discussion
The findings from this study indicate that kinder
garten children engaged in a great range of social behavior
and in all levels of social participation during large
hollow and unit block play. Large hollow blocks were pre
ferred over unit blocks when time spent in the block area
was used to measure children's preference.
These results also revealed children engaged in
solitary, parallel, and group play with both types of blocks.
They were more likely to participate in group play with
large hollow blocks but unit blocks offered a greater
opportunity for solitary and parallel play. Several social
behavior variables (Accept, Apologize, Ask/Offer/Suggest,
Refuse/Deny/Negate, Talk, Smile) occurred significantly
more often during large hollow block play. This was
probably because 1) children spent more time playing
with large hollow blocks and 2) the greater occurrence
of group play with large hollow blocks increased the
likelihood of certain social behaviors occurring more
frequently.
Discussion of Levels of Social Participation
The results from this study appear to indicate that
one might expect group play to occur frequently with large
hollow blocks. Dnit blocks may provide children with the

123
opportunity to engage in group, parallel, or solitary play.
The high incidence of group play with both types of blocks
may also suggest that the children in this study were highly
social. The socio-emotional climate of this classroom cer
tainly encouraged group interactions.
Group play may occur more frequently with large hollow
blocks because their size and weight encourages children to
build together. Additionally, the small number of blocks
(60 to 70) in a standard set creates a supply and demand di
lemma that must be solved cooperatively if structures are to
be built with the large hollow blocks. Conversely, unit
blocks would seem to encourage more solitary and parallel
play because they are easily manipulated by one child and a
set usually contains more than enough blocks for several chil
dren to build independent structures simultaneously.
Social Participation
Not Present accounted for 14% of the large hollow block
observation time and 32% of the unit block observation time.
As a measure of interest, these figures may be misleading
because Not Present was scored during any period of time when
children left a block area. This included times when the
children went to the bathroom, were called by a friend, or
had to clean up before the observation ended. In these sit
uations the child may have wanted to continue to play with
blocks. Thus the level of interest may have actually been
higher than the data indicated.

124
The amount of time spent with large hollow blocks as
compared to unit blocks may indicate that large hollow blocks
are a more interesting material. However, it may also in
dicate that children were seeking the chance for group play
and not the particular material. A less congenial or less
socially competent group of children may have spent more
time with unit blocks than the children in this study did.
The fact that large hollow blocks were outside while unit
blocks were inside also may have accounted for the differ
ences in participation.
Social Behavior
Seven of the 14 social behavior variables occurring
an average of at least once each seven and one-half minute
observation period could be thought of as prosocial (Ask/
Offer/Suggest, Smile, Imitate/Take Turns, Accept, Laugh,
Help, and Give), while only three (Refuse/Deny/Negate,
Blame/Complain/Condemn, and Command) could be classified
as antisocial. The other four (Playnoise, Talk, Announce,
and Receive) are certainly not negative behaviors but may
be thought of as neutral. The larger number of prosocial
behaviors exhibited by the children during both types of
block play, may have been a result of this particular
sample of children and their teacher. This teacher had

125
established a very positive social climate in her class
room. Consequently, a group of children in a different
classroom environment might exhibit a higher level of
social behavior.
Despite the positive social climate and the possi
bility that this is an extremely prosocial group of
children, informal observation during other periods of
the school day indicated evidence of antisocial behavior
during other activities. Therefore, the extremely low
occurrence of these antisocial behaviors (Cry/Scream,
Fight, Hit at, Hit/Push, Take/Tug/Pull, and Threat)
suggest that block play may encourage positive social
development through prosocial behavior.
Furthermore, three of the five most frequently
occurring social behavior variables were verbal behaviors
(Ask/Offer/Suggest, Talk, and Announce). This suggests
that block play may provide a meaningful context for
practicing language and communications skills. Investi
gation into the nature and function of the language of
young children and its relationship to social development
is needed.
Sex Differences
Although this study found no sex differences in the
amount of time the children played with blocks or in the
levels of social participation, the children appeared to

126
play most frequently in same-sex dyads. Moreover, the
boys and girls utilize the blocks differently. The boys
spent more time building with blocks and frequently did
not play with their construction. Playing with the struc
ture, not building it, appeared to be the primary focus
of the girls. Kinsman and Berk (1979) also reported that
although boys and girls spent equal time playing with
blocks they utilized them in different ways.
The lack of sex differences in these children's social
behavior may be a result of the composition of the groups
(two boys and two girls). Children's social behavior in
same-sex groups may differ from those in mixed-sex groups.
Further investigation into the relationship between the
sex composition of children's play groups and their social
behavior is needed.
The following section presents additional suggestions
for further research. These suggestions are drawn from the
methodology, the findings, and discussion of the present
study.
Suggestions for Further Research
A need exists for further research into the area of
social development and its importance to the overall
development of the kindergarten child. The present study
focused on the social behavior of kindergarteners during

127
unit and large hollow block play. During the process of
conducting this study many questions arose which need to
be investigated more thoroughly.
The behavior observed in this study was generally pro
social and relatively peaceful; however, social conflict
situations were not uncommon. Although the children
exhibited a good deal of antisocial behavior during some
of their conflicts, they usually worked out a mutually
agreeable solution without the aid of the teacher. These
conflict situations raise several interesting questions
which may be answered by further investigation. Do
children need to engage in some antisocial behavior to
promote positive social development? When should the
teacher intervene during a conflict situation? Should the
teacher intervene at all? Do children need conflict
experiences to ensure proper social development?
The assignment of children to groups raises some
questions for future study. As part of the methodology
of the present study, children were assigned to mixed-
sex groups in order to control for the effect of the group
on the behavior of individual children. These groups ap
peared to have some influence on the forming of new friend
ships and on the development of a sense of comradeship or
group camaraderie. The groups also ensured the girls of
equal access to the block areas. The idea of a teacher-

128
imposed play group was philosophically contrary to the
educational practices of this classroom, yet, for many
children, it appeared to provide the means for equal
rights to blocks, new friends, and a sense of belonging
to a special group. Questions need to be raised and
investigated in regard to assigning children to teacher-
selected play groups and to the influence of these groups
on the social behavior of the child.
Another area of additional study was suggested by the
methodology. The methodology of the present study was well
suited for the observation of children engaged in block play
activities. It is very possible this procedure could be
adapted to study kindergarten or preschool children's
social behavior during other play activities and with other
play materials. There is a need for additional knowledge
in this area to provide teachers with information necessary
to make curriculum decisions regarding the appropriateness
of certain activities and materials for individual
children.
Finally, further research is needed to discover more
about the social behavior observed in this study during
block play and its relationship to the social development
of the kindergarten child. The small sample size of the
present study and the dearth of research in these areas
would suggest that larger samples of children from several
classrooms need to be observed playing with blocks over an

129
entire school year. This would provide a more thorough
understanding of the social behavior of boys and girls
during large hollow and unit block play. This design will
also help answer questions about possible teacher effect
and the lack of sex differences found in the present study.
The following section discusses implications for kinder
garten teaching derived from this study. It presents the
teacher with suggestions for instruction and curriculum
development.
Implications for Kindergarten Teaching
The implications for kindergarten teaching that may
be derived from this study are based on the premise that
the area of social development is an integral part of the
kindergarten curriculum. Hymes (1968) supported this
premise and emphasized the importance of providing oppor
tunities and experiences to promote social growth in the
kindergarten child. The findings of this study, when
examined in conjunction with other studies in this area,
suggest that kindergarten teachers should 1) provide
time for block play, 2) have both unit and large hollow
blocks in their classroom, and 3) provide girls with
encouragement to play with blocks. These suggestions
will be discussed below.
The recent trend of emphasizing readiness skills may
mean there is less time available for activities in the

130
area of social development. These activities are important
to the overall development and social adjustment of the
young child (Elkind, 1979). The goal of kindergarten should
be to educate the "whole child" and this can only be accom
plished by a balanced curriculum which includes opportuni
ties for cognitive, affective, motor, and social develop
ment (Hymes), 1968). The current study indicates block
play is an activity which can probide opportunities for
positive social interactions. Block play may provide the
less socially competent child with the opportunity to play
near other children in a parallel fashion, thus offering
the child the chance to observe and imitate more socially
competent peers. Eventually the youngster might become
involved in group play when he/she feels secure enough to
do so. At the same time block play allows the socially
more competent child the choice of playing in a group,
parallel, or solitary manner, depending on his/her needs
at the time.
In addition to the opportunity for children to engage
in all three levels of social play, the findings from this
study indicated a low occurrence of antisocial behavior
during block play. No fights were observed. Such behavior
as grabbing another's blocks, threatening, hitting, and
throwing blocks rarely occurred. Prosocial behavior such

131
as smiling, helping, taking turns, and asking (as opposed
to commanding) occurred more frequently.
A common excuse of teachers for not using blocks is
that there is so much antisocial behavior during block play.
Although this was not true for the present study, it may be
the case for certain groups of children in some classrooms.
The present study, however, represents the potential of
block play as a medium for positive social development.
The importance placed on prosocial behavior by the teacher
through modeling and reinforcement and the warm, secure
atmosphere of the classroom most certainly had some effect
on the children's social behavior observed during block
play. The findings of the present study, however, are
consistent with the findings of Bender (1978), who also
found children engaged in mostly positive social behavior
when they had an adequate number of blocks with which to
play.
The present study and three other investigations
(Bender, 1978; Massey, 1970; Parten, 1933) found that
children engaged in solitary, parallel, and group play
with blocks. All three levels of play are important for
the social development of the young child (Moore et al.,
1974; Roper & Hinde, 1978; Rubin, 1976). Parallel play
provides the context for the emergence of the later
development of peer social realtions (Mueller & Brenner,

132
1977) Group play provides the opportunity for meaningful
social interaction in what the child views as a relevant
social context.
Therefore, the availability of both types of blocks
is suggested because it gives children the opportunity to
engage in all levels of social play. Solitary and parallel
play are most likely to occur with unit blocks. The
children have more opportunity to practice their social
interaction skills with large hollow blocks because group
play occurs more frequently with them. Since large hollow
blocks seem to be the most popular with children, they will
probably spend more time engaged in block play using them,
consequently providing more time for social interaction.
Unit blocks are recommended for the kindergarten
classroom to ensure the opportunity for solitary, parallel,
and group play. Large hollow blocks are suggested because
of their popularity and the greater chance of group play
occurring. Little antisocial behavior is likely to happen
during either type of block play if an adequate supply of
blocks and enough space to build is provided by the teacher.
The block literature suggests about 500 unit blocks and 70
large hollow blocks for an average kindergarten class
(Hirsch, 1974; Starks, 1960). A final suggestion is that
teachers may need to provide some encouragement for girls
to play with blocks.

133
The findings from this and other recent studies
(Brenner, 1976; Kinsman & Berk, 1979) revealed that girls
chose to play with blocks as often as boys did. However,
other recent studies indicated that boys played more fre
quently with blocks than girls did (Beeson & Williams,
1979; Rubin, 1977). The results from Varma's (1980) study
suggested that provisions should be made to ensure boys
and girls an equal opportunity to play with blocks.
Although Varna initially reported that boys played more
frequently with blocks than girls did, she later found
that girls spent more time with blocks after they were
given equal access to blocks by doubling the number of
blocks and opening a new block area. Similarly, in the
present study, where equal access was assured through
mixed-sex grouping of children, no sex differences were
found for the amount of time children spent in the two
block areas. Apparently, it is important to be aware
that the possibility of the boys dominating the blocks may
necessitate implementation of measures to ensure girls
equal access to the block areas.
In summary, providing boys and girls with an equal
opportunity to play with large hollow and unit blocks may
offer them the chance to engage in positive solitary,
parallel, and group play in a meaningful social context.
Care should be taken to provide the children with an

134
adequate supply of blocks and an area large enough for a
small group of children to play with their structures.
Finally, some form of encouragement from the teacher may
be necessary to allow girls equal access to blocks.
Conclusion
The aim of kindergarten is to educate the "whole
child" by providing a well-balanced curriculum which in
cludes materials and activities that promote cognitive,
affective, motor, and social development (Hymes, 1968).
The recent trend of emphasizing readiness skills may mean
there is less time for activities related to social de
velopment. The exclusion of play activities is contrary
to the social development theories of Isaacs (1974),
Piaget (1962), and Smilansky (1968) and conflicts with
the kindergarten curriculum advocated by Hymes (1968) .
The findings of the present study suggest that unit and
large hollow block play provides a medium for positive
social interaction. Furthermore, boys and girls behave
similarly in block play which provides them the opportunity
to engage in solitary, parallel, and group play. The small
sample used for the present study added to the lack of

135
research on the relationship of blocks and other play
materials to social development, would suggest a need for
further investigation.
The following are suggestions for further research
derived from the present study:
replication of this study using a larger sample
from several different classrooms;
an investigation into the language of children
that occurs during block play and its relation
ship to social development;
an investigation into the social behavior of
mixed- and same-sex groups of children;
an investigation into the social conflict
situations of young children playing with
blocks and other play materials;
an investigation into the effect of teacher
intervention on children's social problem
solving;
an investigation into the relationship of
teacher-assigned play groups to social
behavior;
an investigation into the behavior of
children as they play with a variety of
play materials;

136
an investigation into the relationship between
the specific social needs of a child and
specific play materials that may help meet
those needs;
an investigation into the effects of block play
on social development.

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APPENDIX A
OBSERVATIONAL CHECKLIST

OTHER BEHAVIOR:
Child
Date
Time
Observer
Large Hollow Blocks Unit Blocks
SOCIAL AND BLOCK AREA PARTICIPATION
SOLITARY
ONLOOKER
PARALLEL
UNOCCUPIED
GROUP
NOT PRESENT
INSIDE
STRUCTURE
VERBAL
COMMAND
ASK/OFFER/
SUGGEST
BLAME/COMPLAIN/
CONDEMN
APOLOGIZE
REFUSE/DENY/
NEGATE
ACCEPT.
TALK
ANNOUNCE
THREAT
COMFORT/PRAISE
ACTION
HIT AT
HELP
HIT/PUSH
TOUCH
FIGHT
ROUGH AND
TUMBLE
REJECT
RECEIVE
TAKE/TUG/
PULL
GIVE
THROW
IMITATE/
TAKE TURNS
FACIAL EXPRESSIONS AND VOCALIZATIONS
CRY/SCREAM
LAUGH
FROWN
SMILE
POUT
PLAYNOISE
TEACHER-DIRECTED
AND
TEACHER INTERVENTION
CALL TEACHER
GET TEACHER
TEACHER-BEHAVIOR
TEACHER-CONTENT
144

APPENDIX B
SUMMARY TABLE OF CELL MEANS AND STANDARD DEVIATIONS
FOR ALL DEPENDENT VARIABLES

146
Dependent
Variable
BoysLarge Hollow
BoysUnit
GirlsLarge Hollow
GirlsUnit
Grand
Mean
Solitary
Parallel
Group
1.70 0.20 2.40 0.50 4.90 4.00 6.90 3.60
0.27 0.27 3.83 0.71 2.81 5.34 4.57 3.45
2.10 3.30 0.80 0.90 3.90 3.50 4.80 5.00
1.88 3.19 1.30 1.08 4.86 5.50 4.10 4.29
15.50 17.00 18.10 18.60 8.10 5.50 11.00 13.50
5.73 7.49 5.55 4.20 8.19 5.97 6.41 10.30
1.40 1.60 4.00 0.50 3.50
1.91 1.39 2.89 0.50 6.46
2.50 3.10 1.50 1.60 2.90
2.85 2.27 1.70 2.07 1.95
17.30 17.40 15.80 16.30 10.40
9.46 4.46 4.40 9.16 9.36
1.80 4.10 5.80 2.93
1.44 2.53 4.74
4.00 2.90 2.30 2.82
4.18 1.98 1.52
14.80 11.00 10.60 13.8
10.59 6.20 8.32
Unoccupied
Inside Structure
Not Present
Accept
2.20
1.35
0.80
0.84
2.10
1.43
1.10
0.96
0.30
0.45
3.60
2.48
3.50
6.19
2.10
1.52
1.30
0.84
0.50
0.61
4.20
6.17
1.90
0.96
0.90 1.10 1.60 1.80
1.47 0.96 1.47 2.14
0.10
0.22
5.20
6.58
2.50
1.54
0.50 0.10 0.20
0.71 0.22 0.27
0.00 0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00 0.00
11.80 15.70 4.50
8.90 10.41 4.95
0.50 0.10 0.30
0.61 0.22 0.27
0.20
0.27
0.00
0.00
1.20
1.04
0.30
0.27
2.50 3.30 0.50
3.12 3.62 0.50
0.50 0.90 0.20
0.61 1.08 0.27
1.30
1.35
1.20 1.90 2.60
1.04 2.68 5.81
2.10 2.10
2.10 2.07
3.00
2.26
2.40 2.30 1.60
1.92 2.41 1.98
1.50 0.70 1.10 1.50
1.22 0.75 1.67
0.40 0.20 0.20 0.40 0.36
0.89 0.27 0.27 0.54
0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.0
0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1.60 2.30 1.00 1.00 1.56
2.75 1.79 0.61 1.17
4.50
2.29
5.50
4.26
3.10
1.34
3.00
1.87
2.60 0.90 3.10
1.67 0.96 2.04
2.70
1.72
2.40 2.60 3.20
1.75 0.89 2.80
1.40
1.08
2.20 4.30 2.60
1.20 4.04 2.94
Announce
2.99

Dependent BoysLarge Hollow BoysUnit GirlsLarge Hollow GirlsUnit Grand
Variable T. T, T, T. T. T, T, T. T, T. T, T. T, T. T, T. Mean
1 J 4 1234 1234 1234
Ask/Offer/Suggest
Blame/Complain/
Condemn
Comfort/Praise
0.00
0.00
7.40
2.13
1.20
0.27
0.20
0.27
0.00
0.00
9.80
3.75
2.10
1.56
0.10
0.22
0.10 0.20
0.22 0.27
6.00 10.10
3.12 3.31
1.70
1.92
0.00
0.00
0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.10 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.03
0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.22 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2.50 3.90 4.40 7.60 6.90 8.10 6.50 8.10 5.50 8.90 5.40 4.70 6.63
1.27 4.71 1.43 5.77 6.78 2.61 3.39 5.41 6.60 5.98 5.35 3.53
1.50
0.87
0.10
0.22
1.60
1.81
0.00
0.00
0.20
0.27
1.50
0.94
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
2.30 1.60 1.20 1.50 1.90 1.10 1.10 0.80
2.11 1.64 1.44 1.12 2.86 1.19 0.65 1.09
0.00 0.30 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.10 0.00 0.00 0.69
0.00 0.27 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.22 0.00 0.00
1.60
1.88
1.20 1.70
0.76 1.30
0.60
0.82
0.70
0.57
0.80 0.70 1.30 1.90 0.20 0.50 0.80 0.50 0.96
0.67 0.84 1.15 1.67 0.45 0.50 1.04 0.61
1.30
1.60
1.90
1.02
1.70
1.44
0.60
0.65
1.10
0.82
0.90
0.74
2.20 1.40 2.10 2.40 0.80 1.50 1.00 1.20
1.52 0.42 0.96 1.95 0.97 1.46 0.79 0.67
5.40
3.94
3.10 4.10
3.31 4.08
2.50
2.67
4.00
3.98
3.30 5.20 5.00 3.30 0.90 2.90 2.70 1.60 3.24
3.53 4.75 5.16 3.85 0.41 3.78 1.60 0.89
0.40
0.65
0.40 0.30
0.42 0.27
0.30
0.45
0.20
0.27
0.40 0.20 0.40 0.30 0.00 0.40 0.20 0.30 0.31
0.65 0.45 0.42 0.44 0.00 0.42 0.27 0.45
1.70
2.16
0.80
1.04
1.20 0.40
0.76 0.55
0.90
1.34
0.20
0.27
1.70 1.10 1.10 1.60 0.50 0.30 0.60 0.80 0.90 0.60 0.90
1.72 1.08 1.19 1.29 0.50 0.27 0.55 0.76 0.89 1.08
147

Dependent Boys--Large Hollow BoysUnit GirlsLarge Hollow GirlsUnit Grand
Variable T ^ T2 T3 T4 T2 T4 Tj T2 T3 Tj T2 Tj T4 Mean
Fight
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00
Help
0.90
0.82
0.80
0.27
0.60
0.89
1.00
1.00
0.60
1.08
0.30
0.27
0.90
0.74
1.20
0.83
2.40
4.29
0.90
0.65
0.20 0.80 0.10 0.20 0.81
0.27 0.91 0.22 0.45
Hit at
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.02
Hit/Push
X 0.30 0.00
SD 0.67 0.00
0.10 0.10 0.20
0.22 0.22 0.45
0.00 0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00 0.00
0.40 0.10 0.20
0.55 0.22 0.45
0.00 0.00 0.10
0.00 0.00 0.20
0.00 0.00 0.09
0.00 0.00
Imitate/Take Turns
X 0.50 0.90 2.60
SD 0.35 0.82 2.04
3.10
4.83
0.50
0.61
0.30
0.67
1.00
0.71
0.10
0.22
1.90
1.29
2.70
2.11
4.20
4.75
0.10
0.22
1.20
0.91
1.00
1.00
0.90
1.24
1.40
Receive
0.50
0.50
0.70
0.57
0.60
0.65
0.50
0.71
0.20
0.45
0.10
0.22
1.30
1.72
0.70
0.76
1.40 0.40 0.90
2.04 0.55 0.65
0.40 1.10 0.50
0.55 1.52 0.35
0.10 0.20 0.60
0.22 0.27
Reject
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.01
Rough and Tumble
X
SD
0.10
0.22
0.20
0.27
0.20
0.27
0.20
0.45
Take/Tug/Pull
X
SD
0.30
0.45
0.40
0.42
0.30
0.67
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.06
0.10
0.22
0,60
1.08
1.30
1.25
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.20
0.27
0.10
0.22
0.30
0.67
0.30
0.45
0.30
0.67
0.10
0.22
0.30
148

Dependent BoysLarge Hollow BoysUnit GirlsLarge Hollow GirlsUnit Grand
Variable Tj T2 T3 T4 Tj T2 T3 T4 Tj T2 Tj T4 Tj T2 Tj T4 Mean
Throw
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
1.00
1.97
0.00
0.00
0.03 0.00
0.45 0.00
0.70 0.30
1.04 0.45
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.10
0.00 0.22
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.00 0.10
0.00 0.22
0.17
Touch
0.50
0.71
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.30
0.45
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.10 0.30
0.22 0.45
0.30 0.30
0.45 0.27
0.60 0.40
0.65 0.65
0.10 0.10
0.22 0.22
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.20
Cry/Scream
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.20
0.27
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.03
Frown
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.80
0.76
0.20
0.27
0.60 0.10
0.82 0.22
0.60 0.00
0.55 0.00
0.40 0.40
0.89 0.65
0.00 0.60
0.00 0.65
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.40 0.30
0.55 0.45
0.29
Laugh
0.80
0.45
2.80
2.97
1.50
1.27
1.40 0.50 0.40 0.40 0.50
1.38 0.50 0.65 0.42 0.50
2.70
1.85
3.20
2.41
2.00
1.97
2.10
2.53
0.30 1.10 1.40 1.40
0.45 1.47 1.29 1.52
1.41
Playnoise
8.70
5.94
5.60
2.77
5.70
2.46
4.90
5.05
9.70
3.58
3.40
2.97
4.20
3.70
5.30
7.27
2.40
2.81
4.00
2.52
6.40
3.80
5.52
Pout
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
Smile
3.40
1.71
6.40
4.92
4.60
3.09
4.50
2.06
1.20 1.30
1.25 0.97
3.70 3.50
2.75 3.02
4.70 6.40
3.25 4.41
5.00 4.60
4.02 3.38
1.20 2.40
1.44 2.27
2.60 3.20
2.63 1.79
2.67
Call Teacher
X
SO
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.10
0.22
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.10 0.10
0.22 0.22
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.03
149

Dependent
Variable
BoysLarge Hollow
BoysUnit
Tj T3
GirlsLarge Hollow
T1 T2 T3 T)
GirlsUnit
Grand
Mean
Get Teacher
X
SD
0.20
0.27
0.30
0.45
0.10
0.22
0.10
0.22
0.50
0.50
0.00
0.00
0.30
0.67
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.20
0.45
0.20
0.27
0.20
0.45
0.20
0.45
0.00
0.00
0.20
0.27
0.20
Teacher-
0.30 0.00
0.67 0.00
0.10
0.22
0.20
0.27
0.00
0.00
0.20
0.45
0.30
0.67
0.00
0.00
0.30
0.45
0.60
0.65
0.20
0.27
0.00
0.00
0.40
0.42
0.00
0.00
0.40
0.89
0.20
0.27
TeacherContent
0.80
1.10
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.20
0.45
0.20
0.45
0.80
1.25
1.10
1.52
0.70
0.67
2.00 0.40 0.80
2.26 0.42 1.15
*Tj = First Observation
T2 Second Observation
T3 = Third Observation
T4 = Fourth Observation
**X = Cell Means
SD = Standard Deviation
150

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Dwight L. Rogers, III, was born on April 28, 1948, in
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and obtained his primary and sec
ondary education there. He first attended the University
of Florida in 1966, graduating in 1970 with a Bachelor of
Science in journalism and in 1974 with a Master of Arts in
education.
Dwight was a Teacher Corps Volunteer and taught in
kindergarten and child care for five years. After entering
graduate school he worked as a graduate instructor teaching
courses in early childhood curriculum and art. In Septem
ber, 1982, he will begin teaching at Ohio University in
Athens, Ohio.
Dwight is married to Gail Gillespie Rogers and they
have two children, Amy and Nora. His major outside inter
ests include playing old time fiddle tunes with Gail and
the Bucksnort Barndance Band and running several miles a
day.
151

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Linda L. Lamme, Chairperson
Associate Professor, General Teacher Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Dorene D. Ross, Cochairperson
Assistant Professor, General Teacher Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
OX
I
c .
Jantes J. Algin&
Asbciate Professor,
Foundations of Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
cia T. Ashton
Patricia T. Ashton
Associate Professor,
Foundations of Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
di-Li ^t.-L
Suzanne L. Krogh
Assistant Professor, General Teacher Education

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty
of the Division of Curriculum and Instruction in the
College of Education and to the Graduate Council, and
was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
December, 1982
Dean for Graduate Studies and Research

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1262 08554 9961



22
methodology can be questioned on several counts. The use
of pictures to determine preference of materials may be too
abstract for young children, most of whom were probably
still at an early concrete operational or preoperational
level. The large number of choices48 individual items in
eight different groupingspresented by Vance and McCall
(1934) may be too confusing for some children. It may also
be possible that the pictures of the blocks were not as at
tractive to the children as the pictures of other toys and
materials, thus they were responding to the physical or aes
thetic attractiveness of the material pictured as opposed to
its usefulness in a play situation.
Although the random selection of 200 subjects strength
ens the study by Margolin and Letn (1961), it has four ma
jor weaknesses. (1) The children were asked to identify
their favorite activity on only one occasion. (2) No fol
low-up was made to see if the children actually used the ma
terials they claimed to prefer. (3) The low rating for the
blocks may have been due to the dislike for the large group
situation. (4) The method used was to pair a block photo
graph 10 times with a picture of another activity and ask
the child, "Which of these would you rather be doing?"(p.
14) Vance and McCall (1934) reported that they discarded
this approach of continually pairing the same material
(blocks, in this case) with a different material each time
because the children became confused and questioned why


99
Table 4. Type of Blocks Marginal Mean Frequencies
of the Block Area Participation Variable
(Not Present)
Large Hollow Blocks
Unit Blocks
4.16
9.52
Table 5.
Summary of Type of
Area Participation
Blocks ANOVA for Block
(Not Present)
sv
SS DF
MS F P
Type of Blocks 546.01 1 546.01 24.17 0.0008
Error 90.36 4 22.59


71
Selection of the Sample and Grouping
The sample was composed of 20 kindergarten children,
all 10 girls in the class and 10 of the 15 boys. The sub
jects were observed while playing with unit blocks and large
hollow blocks in assigned groups, composed of two boys and
two girls each. The children were assigned by the teacher
to one of five of these mixed-sex groups. In an attempt to
maintain naturalistic groupings, the group assignment was
made on the basis of what the teacher believed would be the
child's probable choice of playmates. The teacher based her
decision on her own observations in addition to an earlier
questionnaire in which she asked the name of the child's best
friend and "who else you would like to play with?"
The best friend and fifth choice (if named) were dis
carded in an attempt to eliminate those who were too close
emotionally or were possibly questionable as really desir
able playmates. This procedure hopefully reduced the chances
for interpersonal "powerplays" between very close friends or
the social uncomfortableness that may occur between less fa
miliar classmates.
This assignment strategy was used in an attempt to make
the groups less artificial and contrived than if this rela
tively small number of subjects had been randomly assigned
to groups. The choice of four as the size of each group was
decided upon because (1) this was the number of children


Dependent BoysLarge Hollow BoysUnit GirlsLarge Hollow GirlsUnit Grand
Variable Tj T2 T3 T4 Tj T2 T3 T4 Tj T2 Tj T4 Tj T2 Tj T4 Mean
Throw
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
1.00
1.97
0.00
0.00
0.03 0.00
0.45 0.00
0.70 0.30
1.04 0.45
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.10
0.00 0.22
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.00 0.10
0.00 0.22
0.17
Touch
0.50
0.71
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.30
0.45
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.10 0.30
0.22 0.45
0.30 0.30
0.45 0.27
0.60 0.40
0.65 0.65
0.10 0.10
0.22 0.22
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.20
Cry/Scream
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.20
0.27
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.03
Frown
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.80
0.76
0.20
0.27
0.60 0.10
0.82 0.22
0.60 0.00
0.55 0.00
0.40 0.40
0.89 0.65
0.00 0.60
0.00 0.65
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.40 0.30
0.55 0.45
0.29
Laugh
0.80
0.45
2.80
2.97
1.50
1.27
1.40 0.50 0.40 0.40 0.50
1.38 0.50 0.65 0.42 0.50
2.70
1.85
3.20
2.41
2.00
1.97
2.10
2.53
0.30 1.10 1.40 1.40
0.45 1.47 1.29 1.52
1.41
Playnoise
8.70
5.94
5.60
2.77
5.70
2.46
4.90
5.05
9.70
3.58
3.40
2.97
4.20
3.70
5.30
7.27
2.40
2.81
4.00
2.52
6.40
3.80
5.52
Pout
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
Smile
3.40
1.71
6.40
4.92
4.60
3.09
4.50
2.06
1.20 1.30
1.25 0.97
3.70 3.50
2.75 3.02
4.70 6.40
3.25 4.41
5.00 4.60
4.02 3.38
1.20 2.40
1.44 2.27
2.60 3.20
2.63 1.79
2.67
Call Teacher
X
SO
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.10
0.22
0.10
0.22
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.10 0.10
0.22 0.22
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00
0.10 0.00
0.22 0.00
0.03
149


9
teachers have limited information concerning the possible
social learning situations that may occur when small groups
of kindergarten children play with these two types of blocks.
In addition, there is a current trend among some kindergar
ten teachers to sacrifice social activities such as block
play, in order to provide time to practice readiness skills.
There is a danger in eliminating block play from the kinder
garten curriculum without further investigation into the edu
cational and social value of this activity. Finally, kin
dergarten children's preference for blocks and their avail
ability in most kindergarten classrooms make blocks a poten
tially valuable learning material and lend support for the
need to examine more carefully the unit and large hollow
block play of kindergarten children.
Limitations to the Study
Twenty children from one kindergarten classroom at P.K.
Yonge Laboratory School were the subjects for this study.
P.K. Yonge classes are as representative as possible of Flor
ida's population in terms of race and socioeconomic status
(SES). Therefore, the sample, although small, was composed
of a mixed-sex, -race, and -SES group of kindergarten children.
As a result of the small sample size, the relationship
between social behavior as it occurred during block play and
the effects of birth order, race, SES, and the level of


66
The Layout of the Classroom


135
research on the relationship of blocks and other play
materials to social development, would suggest a need for
further investigation.
The following are suggestions for further research
derived from the present study:
replication of this study using a larger sample
from several different classrooms;
an investigation into the language of children
that occurs during block play and its relation
ship to social development;
an investigation into the social behavior of
mixed- and same-sex groups of children;
an investigation into the social conflict
situations of young children playing with
blocks and other play materials;
an investigation into the effect of teacher
intervention on children's social problem
solving;
an investigation into the relationship of
teacher-assigned play groups to social
behavior;
an investigation into the behavior of
children as they play with a variety of
play materials;


142
Van Alstyne, D. Play behavior and choice of play materials
of preschool children" Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1932.
Vance, T.F., & McCall, L.T. Children's preferences among
play materials as determined by the method of paired
comparisons of pictures. Child Development, 1934, 5,
267-277.
Vandenberg, B. Environmental and cognitive factors in social
play. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 1981,
31, 169-175.
Varma, M. Sex-stereotyping in block play of preschool chil
dren. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University, 1980.
(ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 197 832)
Vasta, R. Studying children. San Francisco: Freeman, 1979.
Vlietstra, A.G. Exploration and play in preschool children
and young adults. Child Development, 1978, 49^, 235-238.
Vygotsky, L.S. Mind in society. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press, 1978.
Winston, R.A., & Fleiss, B. You're asking us: Of what value
are block building and woodworking activities? In
structor, 1966, 75(5), 29.


116
Table 21. Summary ANOVA Table for Teacher-Content
sv
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Type of
Blocks
2.11
1
2.11
1.52
0.2857
Error
5.58
4
1.39
Time
5.93
3
1.98
1.32
0.3120
Error
17.89
12
1.49
Type of
Blocks x Time
4.86
3
1.62
0.50
0.6897
Error
38.95
12
Table 22. Summary
ANOVA
Table
for Teacher-Behavior
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Type of
Blocks
0.01
i
0.01
0.24
0.6483
Error
0.21
4
0.05
Time
0.30
3
0.10
0.61
0.6238
Error
1.98
12
0.17
Type of
Blocks x Time
0.44
3
0.15
1.02
0.4188
Error
1.71
12
0.14


49
findings that suggest there is a sex difference in young
children's preference for blocks.
Although it would appear that blocks are probably not
as popular with preschool and kindergarten girls as with
boys, it is important to note that blocks did rank on an
intermediate-to-high level with girls in most of the mate
rials preference studies. More importantly, however, is the
fact that, given the proper environment, girls choose to
play with and use blocks as much as do boys (Brenner, 1976;
Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Vandenberg, 1981). Varma's (1980)
findings reiterated this point.
In a two-part study of eight male and eight female four-
year-old preschool children, Varma (1980) first observed the
behavior of each child for six five-minute periods on 12 oc
casions. She found that boys were more likely to engage in
block play than girls. She then arranged a new block area
identical to the old block area but separated it by a three-
foot divider. This new area was designed for the purpose of
offering girls direct access to the blocks and to encourage
block play among girls. Two observers then made six five-
minute observations of each child on eight occasions. The
results of the intervention were as follows: (1) an increase
in time spent by all girls in block play, (2) three girls
who had not used blocks during the first set of observations
initiated block play, and (3) five out of the eight boys in
creased the time spent with blocks when the number of blocks
increased with the addition of the identical new block area.


46
These "assertive interactions" may have been misinter
preted by her as "disruptive" when they were actually a form
of "rough and tumble play," as observed by Blurton Jones
(1967, 1972b). Examples of "assertive" behavior in the
block corner involved knocking over blocks and pushing
trucks into another child which could have been a low-key
form of what Blurton Jones termed "rough and tumble play,"
a highly pro-social behavior. In summary, Patterson's find
ings of the high incidences of "assertive-disruptive" inter
actions in the block area may be questioned on two counts:
(1) This category is broad, vague, and generally unclear.
(2) Some incidents of "assertive-disruptive" behavior may
have been pro-social.
Kinsman and Berk (1979), in their naturalistic observa
tional study of 37 middle-SES, white preschool and kinder
garten children, reported a "very low" occurrence of "nega
tive affect" in the housekeeping and block area. "Negative
affect" is not defined, making interpretation of these re
sults difficult.
To summarize, Hulson (1930a) and Van Alstyne (1932)
agreed that blocks rank high in "social value" using the num
ber of individuals playing with blocks with the target child
as the means of determination. Using a different criterion
(percent of time with companion). Green's (1933) findings
indicated blocks ranked sixth among 11 preschool activities,
but only three percentage points behind the second-rated


APPENDIX A
OBSERVATIONAL CHECKLIST


45
mixed-sex, -SES, and -race group of 25 four- and five-year-
old preschool children. For 16 consecutive school days she
made observations during free-play time at each of the four
play areas: art, games, blocks, and dramatic play. The
first two observational studies confirmed that "assertive-
disruptive" interactions occurred most frequently in the
block area and least frequently in the art center. "Asser
tive-disruptive" was defined as "those behaviors which inter
fere with the other children's activities or which disrupt
the routine of the classroom" (p. 2). Patterson went on to
further define "assertive-disruptive" as "not synonymous with
aggressive" although this category included some of the same
behaviors. The behaviors listed were hitting, pushing,
throwing toys, taking toys, negative commands, name calling,
and "others." The "positive-constructive" category was de
fined as including all behaviors other than those in the "as
sertive-disruptive" category.
Patterson points out that "there are differences in the
physical materials in blocks and in art that would seem to
support different kinds of interactions. The child must "re
strain his body movement somewhat in order to use materials
appropriately in art [while] the activities in blocks
allow more vigorous physical activity, here the normal
course of play may lead to more assertive interactions"
(p. 5).


47
activity in her "cooperative" or "friendship" category.
Updegraff and Herbst (1933) found blocks to be lower in both
"sociability" and "cooperation" than clay in a study of two-
and three-year-olds in a controlled laboratory setting. Pat
terson (1976) observed more "assertive-disruptive" behavior
in the block area than in either art, games, or dramatic
play areas in her two observational studies of four- and
five-year-olds. "Quarrels" occurred frequently in the block
area according to Green (1933) but were seldom observed by
Kinsman and Berk (1979).
In general, the evidence is conflicting in regard to
the relationship between block play and social behavior of
young children. However, the inability to make any educated
hypothesis in regard to this question is not so much a re
sult of the contrary findings of these studies but is in
stead becauseof the lack of clear, concise, and understand
able definitions of the social behavior observed.
Sex Differences in the Materials Preference,
Social Participation, and Social Behavior
of Young Children
This section will review those studies which have in
vestigated the relationship between sex and materials pref
erence, social participation, and social behavior of pre
school and kindergarten children, especially those studies
concerned with block play.


133
The findings from this and other recent studies
(Brenner, 1976; Kinsman & Berk, 1979) revealed that girls
chose to play with blocks as often as boys did. However,
other recent studies indicated that boys played more fre
quently with blocks than girls did (Beeson & Williams,
1979; Rubin, 1977). The results from Varma's (1980) study
suggested that provisions should be made to ensure boys
and girls an equal opportunity to play with blocks.
Although Varna initially reported that boys played more
frequently with blocks than girls did, she later found
that girls spent more time with blocks after they were
given equal access to blocks by doubling the number of
blocks and opening a new block area. Similarly, in the
present study, where equal access was assured through
mixed-sex grouping of children, no sex differences were
found for the amount of time children spent in the two
block areas. Apparently, it is important to be aware
that the possibility of the boys dominating the blocks may
necessitate implementation of measures to ensure girls
equal access to the block areas.
In summary, providing boys and girls with an equal
opportunity to play with large hollow and unit blocks may
offer them the chance to engage in positive solitary,
parallel, and group play in a meaningful social context.
Care should be taken to provide the children with an


82
behavior at one of these social levels of participation for
a period of 10 seconds before the observer scored him/her at
a level of social participation.
Inside Structure is a category developed by the research
er for observing children in one specific activity area, the
block corner. Parten did not need this category since she
observed the children in the context of the entire preschool
classroom. Parten's associative and cooperative play cate
gories were collapsed into Group play because previous studies
(Johnson & Ershler, 1981; Johnson et al., 1980; Rubin, Watson,
& Jambor, 1978; Smith & Connolly, 1972) reported observers
had a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between the
associative and cooperative play behaviors and thus inter
observer agreement was very low for these two categories.
Solitary and Parallel play were redefined to fit the block
play situation while Dnoccupied and Onlooker, also taken from
Parten's (1932) study, were used as redefined by Smith and
Connolly (1972) More detailed definitions of the levels of
social participation follow.
Definitions of Levels of Social Participation
Unoccupied is recorded when the child is engaged in
minimal activity, either physically or socially, such as


28
Table 1. Continued
Investi
gators
Date
of
Study
Subjects
n m f age race
SES
Clark, Wy-
on, &
Richards
1969
40
22
18
3 to 5
Middle
(British)
Vlietstra
1978
20
10
10
4
Middle
Kinsman
& Berk
1979
37
20
17
3-jj- to 6-i- white
Middle


81
Connolly (1972). The block area participation variable
(Not Present) was utilized by the researcher to measure the
amount of time the children spent in each block area. The
procedure used to score these two categories is outlined
below.
During each 15-second period the target child's play
behavior was scored by coding it either as Group, Parallel,
Solitary, Onlooker, Unoccupied, or Inside Structure. For
example, if the target child was a girl building a house by
herself with blocks while the other three children were build
ing a road, and she showed no observable interest in the others
or in their structure, she was scored for Solitary play during
that 15-second period. If the next target child happened to
be a boy playing next to, but not interacting with, the other
two children and all were building a road, he was scored as
participating in Parallel play for that 15-second period.
Inside Structure was scored only during large hollow block
play when a child could not be seen because he/she was inside
a block structure.
Not Present, was coded if: (1) the child left the block
area before 10 seconds of the 15-second period had elapsed,
(2) the child was not in the block area during the 15-second
period in which that child was scheduled to be observed, or
(3) the child was not present and did not appear before the
first 5 seconds of the scheduled 15-second coding period had
elapsed. The child had to be engaged in play or non-play


131
as smiling, helping, taking turns, and asking (as opposed
to commanding) occurred more frequently.
A common excuse of teachers for not using blocks is
that there is so much antisocial behavior during block play.
Although this was not true for the present study, it may be
the case for certain groups of children in some classrooms.
The present study, however, represents the potential of
block play as a medium for positive social development.
The importance placed on prosocial behavior by the teacher
through modeling and reinforcement and the warm, secure
atmosphere of the classroom most certainly had some effect
on the children's social behavior observed during block
play. The findings of the present study, however, are
consistent with the findings of Bender (1978), who also
found children engaged in mostly positive social behavior
when they had an adequate number of blocks with which to
play.
The present study and three other investigations
(Bender, 1978; Massey, 1970; Parten, 1933) found that
children engaged in solitary, parallel, and group play
with blocks. All three levels of play are important for
the social development of the young child (Moore et al.,
1974; Roper & Hinde, 1978; Rubin, 1976). Parallel play
provides the context for the emergence of the later
development of peer social realtions (Mueller & Brenner,


83
standing around, talking softly to self, looking around the
room, sucking fingers, or doing some simple, repetitious,
non-essential task unrelated to the activity of the other
children in the block area. The Unoccupied child does not
interact with the other children or take part in the play
behavior of these children.
Onlooker is recorded when the child watches others
play, follows them around the block area, or stands or sits
within speaking distance so that he/she can easily see and
hear what is taking place. The child may talk to the chil
dren whom he/she is observing, ask questions, or give sug
gestions but does not overtly enter into the play of the oth
ers.
Solitary is recorded when the child plays alone and in
dependently. There is no interaction with or interest in
other children or with their block structures or designs;
the child makes no effort to keep close to or speak to other
children. The child's interest is centered on his/her own
behavior which is pursued without reference to what others
are doing. If the child is building a structure or making
a pattern or design with blocks, it is different than what
the others are doing and there is no evidence that he/she
was influenced by the other children's block-building be
havior .
Parallel is recorded when the child plays independently
but the behavior chosen naturally brings the child among


96
during each observation period, Group was recorded an
average of 17 15-second intervals out of the possible 30
15-second intervals for each child during large hollow
block play. The marginal means can be interpreted in the
same manner for both large hollow and unit block play for
all of the six social participation variables, the block
area participation variable, and the 28 social behavior
variables reported in this chapter.
Group was the most frequently occurring level of social
participation for both types of block play. For unit block
play, the levels of social participation ranked from most
to least frequently occurring were Group, Solitary, Paral
lel, Onlooker, and Unoccupied. For large hollow block play,
the ranking was as follows: Group, Inside Structure,
Parallel, Onlooker, Solitary, and Unoccupied. Inside
Structure is only applicable to large hollow blocks because
unit blocks are too small to build a child-sized enclosed
structure. Appendix B reported the cell frequencies and
cell standard deviations for these six, as well as all
other dependent variables in the study.
Table 3 summarizes the ANOVAs for the differences be
tween types of blocks for five of the levels of social par
ticipation. Differences between types were significant at
a .05 level for the variables Solitary, Parallel, Group,
and Unoccupied. Inside Structure was not tested for


41
Relationships Bstween the Dse of Blocks and Other
Selected Materials and the Social Behavior of
Young Children
Block play was determined to have the highest "social
value" of 16 activities observed by Hulson (1930a) in her
naturalistic observational investigation into the play be
haviors of 10 four-year old preschool children during free-
play. The "social value" of a material was determined by
the number of children playing with a child using a given
material. Over twice as many children (517 as compared to
210) were observed playing with the target child during
block activities than during play in the second-ranked house
corner. The remaining scores ranged from 173 children in
volved in sand play to three children observed writing on
the blackboard. Although this study indicated that blocks
may promote social interaction between preschoolers, it did
not provide any information as to the quality of this social
interaction. Since Hulson did not define the terms "playing
with," it is impossible to know whether these children were
simply playing alongside the target child in a parallel fash
ion or the children were actually engaged in some form of
group play. Van Alystne (1932) addressed the question of
the "social value" of materials in a more qualitative fashion.
The social value of materials was studied by Van Alstyne
(1932) by observing the "social reactions" of 112 three-,
four-, and five-year-old children playing with one of 25 dif-


6
necessary to help kindergarten teachers provide appropriate
social learning experiences for children. Little current
information about the relationships between unit or large
hollow block play on social development exists to aid the
kindergarten teacher in making the specific decisions needed
to guide children's social learning in the block area.
Therefore, an in-depth study of the specifically defined so
cial behaviors that occur during the block play of kinder
garten children is needed.
There is a recent trend among some educators to change
the goals of the kindergarten curriculum from that of edu
cating the "whole child" through a challenging and flexible
experiential program to preparing the child for first grade
through a structured, task-oriented, pencil and paper "aca
demic" readiness program (Blackwell, 1980). Hymes (1968)
expressed concern about this trend toward a rigid, content-
oriented approach. He emphasized that good kindergartens
should seek to promote "total development" and argued that
a "seat-work" approach to learning deprives the child of op
portunities for social development: "Kindergartners are so
cial beginners. A good day in school is a day spent in small
subgroups, in clusters of two or three or four" (p. 2).
Block play encourages this kind of grouping among children.
Furthermore, Hymes emphasized that "kindergarten tools
for learning are not the 'standard' tools: chair, paper,
pencil, book" (p. 10). Children need to be actively


8
These physical differences suggest there will be dif
ferences in children's use of these two types of blocks and
thus differences in their social behavior as they build and
play with either unit or large hollow blocks. There has
been very little research on large hollow blocks. Addition
ally, there have been no studies to date which compared the
social behavior of children playing with these two types of
blocks and the possible relationships between block play and
the social development of the kindergarten child.
A review of the literature on play materials indicates
that blocks are among the most popular play material of
young children, especially the kindergarten child (Hartley,
Frank, & Goldenson, 1952; Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Van Alstyne,
1932). The literature also suggests that boys like blocks
more than girls (Beeson & Williams, 1979; Clark et al.,
1969; Farrell, 1957) but that when girls are given equal ac
cess to the block area the interest level is similar between
sexes (Varma, 1980).
Little information exists about the relationships be
tween play with unit or large hollow blocks and the social
development of kindergarten children. Moreover, the general
and vague definitions of social behavior of the earlier
studies suggest a need for more specific in-depth examina
tion of kindergarten children's social behavior during unit
and hollow block play. As a result of the vague and general
character of the earlier research findings, kindergarten


40
does not mean the child lacks social skills. It could mean
the child has the confidence to do so and thus needs the op
portunity to be able to engage in solitary play.
All three of these levels of social playsocial, paral
lel, and cooperativeare important for the social develop
ment of the young child. However, further investigation ap
pears to be needed to determine the relationship between the
use of blocks and the child's level of social participation.
In summary, Issacs (1972), Piaget (1932, 1962), and
Smilansky (1968) have emphasized the importance of play to
the social development of the young child. Numerous studies
have established blocks as one of the most preferred play ma
terials of young children (Bott, 1928; Clark et al., 1969;
Farwell, 1930; Hulson, 1930a; Kinsman & Berk, 1979; Parten,
1933; Van Alstyne, 1932). Since blocks are of great inter
est to children and play is instrumental in providing chil
dren with the opportunity to practice and develop social
skills, it seems logical that an in-depth study of social be
havior occurring during block play needs to be initiated.
The following section will review the research concern
ing the relationships between children's social behavior and
the materials used by them.


97
Table 3. Summary of Type of Blocks ANOVAs for
Social Participation Variables.
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Solitary
Type of
Blocks
155.40
i
155.40
22.14
0.0093
Error
28.08
4
7.02
Parallel
Type of
Blocks
56.95
1
56.95
8.37
0.0444
Error
27.22
4
6.80
Group
Type of
Blocks
816.00
1
816.00
10.30
0.0326
Error
316.95
4
79.24
Onlooker
Type of
Blocks
4.05
1
4.05
1.43
0.2983
Error
11.36
4
2.84
Unoccupied
Type of
Blocks
0.61
1
0.61
12.25
0.0249
Error
0.20
4
0.05


146
Dependent
Variable
BoysLarge Hollow
BoysUnit
GirlsLarge Hollow
GirlsUnit
Grand
Mean
Solitary
Parallel
Group
1.70 0.20 2.40 0.50 4.90 4.00 6.90 3.60
0.27 0.27 3.83 0.71 2.81 5.34 4.57 3.45
2.10 3.30 0.80 0.90 3.90 3.50 4.80 5.00
1.88 3.19 1.30 1.08 4.86 5.50 4.10 4.29
15.50 17.00 18.10 18.60 8.10 5.50 11.00 13.50
5.73 7.49 5.55 4.20 8.19 5.97 6.41 10.30
1.40 1.60 4.00 0.50 3.50
1.91 1.39 2.89 0.50 6.46
2.50 3.10 1.50 1.60 2.90
2.85 2.27 1.70 2.07 1.95
17.30 17.40 15.80 16.30 10.40
9.46 4.46 4.40 9.16 9.36
1.80 4.10 5.80 2.93
1.44 2.53 4.74
4.00 2.90 2.30 2.82
4.18 1.98 1.52
14.80 11.00 10.60 13.8
10.59 6.20 8.32
Unoccupied
Inside Structure
Not Present
Accept
2.20
1.35
0.80
0.84
2.10
1.43
1.10
0.96
0.30
0.45
3.60
2.48
3.50
6.19
2.10
1.52
1.30
0.84
0.50
0.61
4.20
6.17
1.90
0.96
0.90 1.10 1.60 1.80
1.47 0.96 1.47 2.14
0.10
0.22
5.20
6.58
2.50
1.54
0.50 0.10 0.20
0.71 0.22 0.27
0.00 0.00 0.00
0.00 0.00 0.00
11.80 15.70 4.50
8.90 10.41 4.95
0.50 0.10 0.30
0.61 0.22 0.27
0.20
0.27
0.00
0.00
1.20
1.04
0.30
0.27
2.50 3.30 0.50
3.12 3.62 0.50
0.50 0.90 0.20
0.61 1.08 0.27
1.30
1.35
1.20 1.90 2.60
1.04 2.68 5.81
2.10 2.10
2.10 2.07
3.00
2.26
2.40 2.30 1.60
1.92 2.41 1.98
1.50 0.70 1.10 1.50
1.22 0.75 1.67
0.40 0.20 0.20 0.40 0.36
0.89 0.27 0.27 0.54
0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.0
0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1.60 2.30 1.00 1.00 1.56
2.75 1.79 0.61 1.17
4.50
2.29
5.50
4.26
3.10
1.34
3.00
1.87
2.60 0.90 3.10
1.67 0.96 2.04
2.70
1.72
2.40 2.60 3.20
1.75 0.89 2.80
1.40
1.08
2.20 4.30 2.60
1.20 4.04 2.94
Announce
2.99


52
teachers would seemingly take precedence over another1s re
search.
Roper and Hinde (1978) investigated the social partic
ipation of three- to five-year-old British preschool chil
dren in a naturalistic observational study. The 67 sub
jects, 37 males and 30 females, were from families whose SES
ranged from upper-middle (professional) to lower-middle SES
(partly skilled) with the majority from middle SES (skilled
or managerial categories). Roper and Hinde found girls were
more likely to engage in parallel play than group play while
boys were "more involved with other children" when they were
playing near them. Boys also were observed more often than
girls participating in solitary play. They warned against
"deriving a composite index of social participation from the
categories of self, parallel and group [on the] assumption
that these items lie equidistant along a linear dimension
. [because] to be playing alone does not necessarily
mean the child is lacking in social ability" (p. 577).
Roper and Hinde used what they termed "multiple-scan
sampling" to collect the data on these children. The proce
dure they followed was to observe each child for five sec
onds, record the data on a checklist, and then observe an
other child for five seconds. In this way, each child was
observed every five minutes, or 11 times each morning. This
observational technique was used to increase the probability
of obtaining independent samples of behavior. If


until 7 1/2 minutes of data per child were collected for
each occasion.
A 2 (type of blocks) x 2 (sex) x 4 (time) completely
repeated measures ANOVA was used to analyze the data. All
variables were tested at a .05 level of significance. The
findings indicated the following. (1) The children in this
study engaged in more group play with large hollow blocks and
more parallel and solitary play with unit blocks. (2) The
children spent more time with large hollow blocks. (3) The
children exhibited similar social behavior with the two
types of blocks although the behavior usually occurred more
frequently with large hollow which might have been because
the children spent more time with large hollow blocks.
(4) No sex differences were found in the levels of social
participation, the social behavior, or the amount of time
these children spent with the two types of blocks. However,
the small sample of children from only one classroom suggests
a need for further investigation of this finding. (5) Many
behaviors traditionally considered antisocial were rarely or
never observed. These behaviors included taking blocks from
another child, hitting, throwing blocks at others, and fight
ing. The results from this study indicated that both unit
and large hollow block play may provide many opportunities
for different kinds of social behavior and different levels
of social play.
ix


101
Table 6. Type of Blocks Marginal Mean Frequencies
of Social Behavior Variables
Social Behavior
Large Hollow Blocks
Unit Blocks
Ask/Offer/Suggest
7.86
5.39
Playnoise
5.50
5.54
Smi le
4.95
2.39
Talk
4.15
2.33
Announce
3.38
2.61
Imitate/Take turns
2.16
0.64
Accept
2.11
1.00
Laugh
2.06
0.75
Refuse/Deny/Negate
1.85
0.93
Blame/Complain/Condemn
1.64
1.20
Command
1.38
0.55
Help
1.09
0.54
Give
0.95
0.85
Receive
0.68
0.53
Threat
0.39
0.23
Touch
0.31
0.19
Frown
0.31
0.26
Take/Tug/Pull
0.09
0.41
Hit/Push
0.15
0.04
Throw
0.15
0.19
Rough and Tumble
0.10
0.03
Comfort / Praise
0.09
0.05
Apologize
0.05
0.00
Cry/Scream
0.04
0.01
Pout
0.03
0.00
Hit at
0.03
0.00
Reject
0.01
0.00
Fight
0.00
0.00


Copyright 1982
by
Dwight L. Rogers, III
f


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
One of the most difficult yet satisfying portions of
the dissertation process is the writing of these acknowl
edgements. Although technically I receive the credit for
this study, it could not have been completed without the
assistance of many giving individuals.
First I would like to thank my committee: Dr. Dorene
Ross, for her eternal guidance, insightful suggestions, and
stimulating discussions and more importantly for her friend
ship, understanding, and willingness to give of her self and
her time; Dr. Linda Lamme, for her academic and personal
support throughout my graduate years and for her thorough
criticisms and thoughtful suggestions which made this a
better dissertation; Dr. Jamie Algina, for his creative and
intelligent approach to data analysis, his patience, and
his concern for the investigation and the investigator; Dr.
Pat Ashton, for her infectious enthusiasm for child study
and providing the confidence, encouragement and intellectual
stimulation to pursue the study of children; Dr. Suzanne
Krogh, for her penetrating questions and intriguing ideas
which were a constant source of stimulation and for her
concern and emotional support.
IV


Ill
Table 13. Summary of Type of Blocks X Sex
ANOVAs for Help
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS F P
Help
Type of
Blocks x sex
4.51
i
4.51 8.67 0.0422
Error
2.08
4
0.52
Table 14.
Type of Blocks Marginal Means
for Help
Type of Blocks
Males
Females
Large Hollow
0.80
1.35
Unit
1.00
0.33
Table 15.
Summary of Sex x Time ANOVA's for
Cry/Scream and Frown
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Cry/Scream
Sex x Time
0.11
3
0.04
4.24
0.0294
Error
0.11
12
0.01
Frown
Sex x Time
1.91
3
0.63
4.31
0.0279
Error
1.78
12
0.15


112
when playing with large hollow blocks while boys helped more
often during unit block play. These findings should be in
terpreted cautiously however, since Help was a low frequency
of occurrence behavior.
The analysis with regard to sex x time interactions
resulted in significant interactions for Cry/Scream and
Frown. The ANOVAs for these interactions are summarized
in Table 15. The marginal means for each combination of
sex and time reported in Table 16 show that Cry/Scream
decreased for girls over time while Frown increases for
girls over time. Cry/Scream almost never occurred with
either sex; therefore these particular findings have little
meaning. Frown, like the other time interactions discus
sed, appears to be more influenced by the particular
occasion than by past experience playing with blocks.
The analysis resulted in a significant type of blocks
x sex x time interaction for Take/Tug/Pull. The summary of
ANOVA for this interaction is reported in Table 17. The
marginal means reported in Table 18 show that boys' Take/
Tug/Pull behavior increased over time for boys playing with
unit blocks. These results must be carefully interpreted.
The low frequency and pattern of the behavior seem to imply
that the particular occasion contributed more than past block
experiences to the likelihood Of Take/Tug/Pull occurring.


56
and once with blocks, for an observation period of 10 min
utes with each type of activity. The boys were found to ex
hibit more "assertive-disruptive" behavior than the girls, a
finding consistent with the other studies. However, in the
laboratory setting, the boys' "assertive-disruptive" behav
ior occurred more frequently during the art activity and less
frequently with blocks which was contrary to the findings of
Patterson's two other naturalistic observational studies.
The frequency of the "assertive-disruptive" behavior of the
girls was similar to that observed in the classroom setting.
Patterson's (1976) findings indicated a sex difference
in the social behavior of boys and girls involved in art ac
tivities and block play in both naturalistic and laboratory
situations. Her definition of "assertive-disruptive" behav
ior, "those behaviors which interfere with the other chil
dren's activities or which disrupt the routine of the class
room" (Patterson, 1976, p. 2), make it difficult to deter
mine whether this category represents prosocial or antiso
cial behavior or some of both. For example, a child could
"interfere" with another child's activity in a playful and
very prosocial manner. Therefore, although Patterson's
findings suggested a difference in the social behavior of
boys and girls during art activities and block play, the spe
cific social behaviors that accounted for this difference
were not reported, thus limiting interpretation and implica
tions of these findings.


130
area of social development. These activities are important
to the overall development and social adjustment of the
young child (Elkind, 1979). The goal of kindergarten should
be to educate the "whole child" and this can only be accom
plished by a balanced curriculum which includes opportuni
ties for cognitive, affective, motor, and social develop
ment (Hymes), 1968). The current study indicates block
play is an activity which can probide opportunities for
positive social interactions. Block play may provide the
less socially competent child with the opportunity to play
near other children in a parallel fashion, thus offering
the child the chance to observe and imitate more socially
competent peers. Eventually the youngster might become
involved in group play when he/she feels secure enough to
do so. At the same time block play allows the socially
more competent child the choice of playing in a group,
parallel, or solitary manner, depending on his/her needs
at the time.
In addition to the opportunity for children to engage
in all three levels of social play, the findings from this
study indicated a low occurrence of antisocial behavior
during block play. No fights were observed. Such behavior
as grabbing another's blocks, threatening, hitting, and
throwing blocks rarely occurred. Prosocial behavior such


3
1. What levels of social participation occur as kin
dergarten children play with unit and large hollow
blocks?
2. What social behaviors occur as kindergarten chil
dren play with unit and large hollow blocks?
3. What are the differences and similarities between
(a) the levels of social participation, (b) the
block area participation, and (c) the social behav
iors of kindergarten children as they play with
unit and large hollow blocks?
4. What are the differences and similarities between
(a) the levels of social participation, (b) the
block area participation, and (c) the social be
haviors of kindergarten boys and kindergarten
girls as they play with unit blocks?
5. What are the differences and similarities between
(a) the levels of social participation, (b) the
block area participation, and (c) the social be
haviors of kindergarten boys and kindergarten girls
as they play with large hollow blocks?
Definition of Terms
Social Behavior is any action, facial expression, ver
balization or vocalization by one child while interacting


44
in a mutually acceptable manner. If this is the case, then
some "quarrels" may serve a positive function in the social
development of the young child. Since Green (1933) never
defined "quarrels," we have no way of knowing what kind of
behavior she observed, thus making any interpretation diffi
cult.
In a controlled laboratory study of 17 boys and 11 girls
ages two and three, "sociability" and "cooperation" were
found to occur more frequently while playing with clay than
while playing with blocks (Updegraff & Herbst, 1933). The
children were paired eight times with one other child and ob
served for five minutes playing in a room where only one
play material was available, either clay or blocks. "Coop
erativeness" was defined as "that quality in an individual
which makes him willing to carry out with others without sub
merging his own individuality" (p. 385). "Sociability" was
defined as "that quality in an individual which makes him
display an interest in the activity of others, a desire to
seek companionship, and to make contacts with them" (p. 383).
The definitions of "sociability" and "cooperation" again,
like those of Green (1933), Hulson (1930a), and Van Alstyne
(1932), are vague and thus make it difficult to determine
exactly what types of social behavior occurred during play
with blocks and other materials.
In a series of studies, Patterson (1976) investigated
the role of play materials in the social interaction of a


5
square-, rectangular-, and triangular-shaped. The rectangu
lar and square blocks make up 90% of the set.
Need for the Study
Several studies have investigated the relationship be
tween block play and children's social development, but only
in a non-specific manner as part of a larger study (Bender,
1978, Clark, Wyon, S Richards, 1969; Hulson, 1930a; Kinsman
& Berk, 1979; Massey, 1970, Parten, 1932; Van Alstyne, 1932).
A major limitation of these investigations is the lack of
clear, concise definitions for the relatively small number
of social behaviors observed. Some of these studies were
conducted almost a half century ago and most focused primar
ily on preschool children. Another weakness exhibited by
these investigations is the lack of demographic data re
ported on the children observed. Many of the studies did
not report the race of the subjects. Therefore, although
several studies have explored the relationship between block
play and the social development of young children, no stud
ies have thoroughly examined block play exclusively in this
developmental area.
Hymes (1968) stressed the importance of providing op
portunities and experiences to promote positive social
growth in the kindergarten child. A better understanding
of what social behavior occurs during block play is


86
Blame/Complain/Condemn is recorded when the child ver
bally accuses another child, verbally expresses discontent,
or verbally declares another child's action or block struc
ture as being substandard.
Comfort/Praise is recorded when the child verbally con
soles another child or verbally commends or applauds the ac
tions of another child.
Command is recorded when the child utters a string of
words conveying an order, spoken emphatically and usually
rather loudly (Leach, 1972).
Refuse/Deny/Negate is recorded when the child verbally
attempts to stop another child entering the group or playing
with the blocks or accessories.
Talk is a blanket term that is recorded when the child
utters one or more recognizable words obviously aimed at
communicating with another child but not including Ask/Offer/
Suggest, Call for Teacher, Comfort/Praise, Command, Refuse/
Deny/Negate, and Thank.
Threat is recorded when the child verbally expresses
the intention to: (1) inflict injury to another child,
(2) damage another child's block structure, or (3) tattle
to the teacher.
Action Behavior
Give is recorded when an object, held in the child's
hand or hands, is held out for another person to grasp and


I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Linda L. Lamme, Chairperson
Associate Professor, General Teacher Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Dorene D. Ross, Cochairperson
Assistant Professor, General Teacher Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
OX
I
c .
Jantes J. Algin&
Asbciate Professor,
Foundations of Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
cia T. Ashton
Patricia T. Ashton
Associate Professor,
Foundations of Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
di-Li ^t.-L
Suzanne L. Krogh
Assistant Professor, General Teacher Education


91
of these checklists could be included on one page. Each
observer then alternately recorded two 15-second time
intervals before turning to a new page.
Summary
The use of vague definitions of social behavior and
inconsistent observation procedures made the findings of
earlier studies investigating the relationship between play
materials and social behavior hard to interpret and diffi
cult to replicate. The present study was designed with
these weaknesses in mind, in order to supplement the
findings from these other studies.
Bronfenbrenner (1979) believed it necessary to observe
children in a naturalistic environment to gain a better un
derstanding of the nature and function of their behavior.
An ethological approach to studying the social behavior of
kindergarten children during block play was deemed the most
appropriate methodology for this study because it utilizes
direct observation in a naturalistic setting and because of
the particular importance ethologists place on the precise
definition of the social behaviors to be studied.
The time-sampling technique, described by Vasta (1979)
as "the most advanced and sophisticated of our current ob
servational approaches" (p. 173) was used for data collec
tion because it provides an accurate, consistent, and


95
Table 2. Type of Blocks Marginal Mean Frequencies
of Social Participation Variables
Large Hollow Blocks
Unit Blocks
Level of Social
Participation
Solitary
1.54
4.33
Parallel
1.98
3.66
Group
17.00
10.61
Onlooker
1.73
1.28
Unoccupied
0.45
0.28
Inside Structure
* 2.16
0.00
*As a result of the smaller size of unit blocks. Inside
Structure can only occur with large hollow blocks.


APPENDIX B
SUMMARY TABLE OF CELL MEANS AND STANDARD DEVIATIONS
FOR ALL DEPENDENT VARIABLES


117
although the behaviors usually occurred more frequently with
large hollow blocks. No sex differences were found in the
levels of social participation, social behavior, or in the
amount of time these children spent with each type of blocks.
Boys were as likely to call for or get the teacher as were
girls for both types of block play. The teacher intervened
almost equally during both types of block play to take care
of behavior problems or to comment on the children's struc
tures or other aspects of their block play;
The results of the analysis of all the variables over
time and their interactions were discussed. It was sug
gested that care be taken when interpreting these findings
because many of these variables occurred very infrequently.
In addition, because such a large number of variables (39)
was analyzed at a .05 significance level, there is a strong
possibility that two of these significant interactions are
the result of chance for each ANOVA.


54
(1981) found no sex difference in the level of social par
ticipation of preschoolers and kindergartners. Moore et al.
(1974) and Roper and Hinde (1978) pointed out there may be
differences in the manner in which young children play at
each of these levels. Moreover, Roper and Hinde (1978) em
phasized the importance of solitary as well as parallel and
group play for the development of the child. They further
warned against calculating a composite index of social par
ticipation from the categories of solitary, parallel, and
group play because solitary play does not necessarily indi
cate immature play. Play at each of these levels of social
participation is important to the development of the child.
The following section will review those studies con
cerned with the sex differences in children's social behav
ior during play.
Sex Differences in the Social Behavior of Young Children
Massey (1970) found no significant sex differences in
the "social interaction" of 32 white middle-class, five-year-
old kindergarten children, 16 male and 16 female. She de
fined "social interaction" as the total number of verbal
contacts to another child, cooperative block building, ver
bal directions carried out, and physical directions carried
out. She observed each child in three separate 20-minute
sessions (individually, a boy and a girl, and two boys and
two girls) in a specially designed observation room filled


Next I would like to thank my family: My wife, Gail
Gillespie Rogers, for her help through every aspect of this
study and for her patience, love, and understanding through
out the dissertation process; my children, Amy and Nora, for
their hugs and kisses and for putting up with an irritable
and harried daddy; my mother and father, for their faith in
me, exemplified by their love and support throughout grad
uate school and life; my Uncle Bob, who thought I'd never
make it but never gave up hope.
Finally I would like to thank my friends: Connie Green
and the children, for their acceptance, kindness and willing
ness to be involved; Tish Denny, for her friendship and the
hours she spent reading, discussing, answering questions,
and suggesting new and better approaches to problems; Gri-
selda Forbes, for her painstakingly careful editing and re
viewing of the entire manuscript and her patience with me
in my "hour of need;" Karen Kilgore, for her help as an ob
server and her interest in this study and my family; Cherry
Travis, for her friendly hellos and constant technical sup
port.
v


14
observations over a period of a school year, so many obser
vations were made of these relatively few children.
In her study of 271 middle- and low-SES kindergarten,
first-, and second-grade children, Farwell (1930) introduced
"specific constructive play materials" into the classrooms
and recorded the percentage of time children interacted with
each material during a 30-minute period for 14 days. She
found that boys ranked the Hill Floor blocks (large hollow
blocks) "first in importance." The interest in building
blocks by girlsespecially the Froebelian Gift blocks (like
unit blocks)"decreased from fair interest in kindergarten
to practically no interest in second-grade" (p. 531).
Van Alstyne (1932) observed 112 mixed-race and mixed-
SES two- to five-year-old children in seven different pre
schools and kindergartens over a period of four months.
Each child was observed for at least 10 hours. Her findings
indicated that of the 25 play materials studied, blocks were
the most preferred play material of four- and five-year-olds.
Parten (1933) recorded the activities of 23 high-, mid
dle-, and low-SES two-, three-, and four-year-old children
for one minute each day during free-play period until at
least 60 independent behavior samples were obtained for each
child. She noted 110 different activities; 33 were observed
only once, 79 less than 10 times, 24 from 20 to 100 times,
and 12 more than 100 times. On the basis of "frequency of
occurrence," building with blocks was ranked eighth. The


141
Robinson, H.F., & Spodek, B. New directions in the kinder
garten. New York: Teachers College Press, 1965.
Roper, R., S Hinde, R.A. Social behavior in a play group:
Consistency and complexity. Child Development, 1978,
49, 570-579.
Rubin, K.H. The social and cognitive value of preschool toys
and activities. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science,
1977, 9, 382-385.
Rubin, K.H., Maioni, T.L., S Hornung, M. Free play behaviors
in middle- and lower-class preschoolers: Parten and
Piaget revisited. Child Development, 1976, 4_7, 414-419.
Rubin, K.H., Watson, K.S., & Jambor, T.W. Free play behav
iors in preschool and kindergarten children. Child De
velopment, 1978, 49y 534-536.
Smilansky, S. The effects of sociodramatic play on disadvan
taged preschool children. New York: Wiley, 1968.
Smith, P.K., & Connolly, K. Patterns of play and social in
teraction in preschool children. In N. Blurton Jones
(Ed.), Ethological studies of child behaviour. Cam
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.
Spodek, B. The problem of play: Educational or recreational?
In D. Sponseller (Ed.), Play as a learning medium. Wash
ington, D.C.: NAEYC, 1974.
Spodek, B. Teaching in the early years. Englewood Cliffs,
N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1978.
Sponseller, D. Introduction: Why is play a learning medium?
In D. Sponseller (Ed.), Play as a learning medium. Wash
ington, D.C.: NAEYC 1974.
Starks, E.B. Block building. Washington, D.C.: National
Education Association, 1960. (ERIC Document Reproduc
tion Service No. 020 Oil)
Tarrants, K. In favor of blocks. California Journal of
Elementary Education, 1950, 1!3 169-173.
Tieger, T. On the biological basis of sex differences in ag
gression. Child Development, 1980, 51, 943-963.
Updegraff, R., & Herbst, E.K. An experimental study of the
social behavior stimulated in young children by certain
play materials. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 1933,
42, 372-391.


77
be relatively brief, so as not to become unwieldy, and (3)
it doesn't readily allow for recording the sequence of be
havior.
The checklist to record the behaviors observed during
the 15-second time intervals was designed by the researcher
to reduce the limitations cited by Leach. A space was pro
vided on the checklist, marked Other Behavior, to record any
unlisted social behavior that might occur during each 15-
second period. Although having the predetermined units of
behavior listed right in front of the observer is certain
to influence his/her coding behavior; providing the oppor
tunity to record behavior not listed on the checklist gives
it more flexibility. Leach is certainly correct in pointing
out that a checklist should be somewhat brief; however, as
explained in greater detail below, the researcher's check
list was designed with the smaller units of behavior listed
under more global behavioral categories in order to aid the
observers and simplify the recording procedure. The major
weakness of the researcher's checklist and the time-sampling
technique is that it does not allow for recording the se
quence of behavior.
In deciding on an observational technique, all of the
above factors were carefully weighed by the researcher. The
use of the time-sampling technique and a checklist to record
the observed behavior was deemed to be the most appropriate
method for observing and recording the social behavior of


120
For unit blocks, Group play was observed 34% while
Solitary and Parallel play were recorded 14% and 12% of the
time. Onlooker and Unoccupied were observed for 4% and 1%
of the unit block observation time while Not Present accounted
for the remaining 32% of the time.
2. What social behaviors occur as kindergarten
children play with unit and large hollow blocks?
Ask/Offer/Suggest, Playnoise, Smile, Talk, and Announce
were the social behaviors that occurred most frequently for
unit and large hollow blocks. Apologize, Cry/Scream, Pout,
Hit at. Reject, and Fight were least likely to occur with
either type of blocks. No Fights were observed while the
children played with either type of blocks and Apologize,
Pout, Hit at, and Reject were never recorded during unit
block play. Nine behaviorsImitate/Take Turns, Accept,
Laugh, Refuse/Deny/Negate, Blame/Complain/Condemn, Command,
Help, Give, and Receiveoccurred on the average of one or
two times per 7 1/2 minute observation. Eight other behaviors
occurred an average of less than once per observation. These
behaviors were Threat, Take/Tug/Pull, Frown, Touch, Hit/Push,
Throw, Rough and Tumble, and Comfort/Praise.
3. What are the differences and similarities between
a) the levels of social participation, b) the block
area participation, and 3) the social behavior of
kindergarten children as play with unit blocks and
large hollow blocks?


105
Table 8. Summary of Sex ANOVAS for Social
Participation
DV
SV
SS
DF
MS
F
P
Solitary
Sex
0.70
i
0.70
0.02
0.8832
Error
114.72
4
28.68
Parallel
Sex
3.83
1
3.83
0.56
Error
27.21
4
6.80
Group
Sex
12.40
1
12.40
0.10
0.7652
Error
485.61
4
121.40
Onlooker
Sex
0.05
1
0.05
0.02
0.8965
Error
10.42
4
2.60
Unoccupied
Sex
0.05
1
0.05
0.03
0.8642
Error
6.01
4
1.50
Table
9. Summary of Sex
Participation
ANOVA for Block Area
(Not Present)
SV
SS
DF
MS F
D
Sex
1.01
i
1.01 0.03
0.8811
Error
159.01
4
39.87


80
observation of at least 15-seconds duration with only one
type of social/cognitive play occurring" (p. 272). Their
definition of "play episode" upholds the use of a 15-second
time interval as an appropriate length of time to determine
the observed childs level of social participation (social
play), whereas a 10-second interval may not be enough time
to reveal the particular level of social participation in
which the child is engaged.
In summary, the 15-second time interval was selected
because it was deemed the smallest unit of time (Hutt & Hutt,
1970) appropriate for the observation of social behavior
(Gottfried S Seay, 1973) and social participation (Johnson
et al., 1980) of young children. Also, the fact that a
minute can easily be divided into 15-second periods makes
this time length preferable in terms of computational ease
(Hutt & Hutt, 1970).
The following section will discuss the method of ob
serving social participation and further define this term and
the behaviors associated with it.
Observation of Social Participation and Block Area
Participation
In addition to recording the units of social behavior,
the observers also recorded the children's level of social
participation and block area participation. All levels of
social participation except Inside Structure were adapted
from those developed by Parten (1932) and used by Smith and


Definition of Block Area
Participation ....... 84
Definitions of the Units of Social
Behavior 85
Definitions of Teacher-Directed Behavior
and Teacher Intervention Behavior 89
Description of Observational Checklist 90
Summary 91
IV RESULTS 93
Introduction 93
Findings ......... 94
Summary 114
V DISCUSSION 118
Summary of Findings 119
Discussion ......... 122
Suggestions for Further Research 126
Implications for Kindergarten Teaching 129
Conclusion 134
REFERENCES 137
APPENDICES
A OBSERVATIONAL CHECKLIST 144
B SUMMARY TABLE OF CELL MEANS AND STANDARD
DEVIATIONS FOR ALL DEPENDENT VARIABLES 146
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 151
vii


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN BLOCK PLAY AND THE
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF KINDERGARTEN CHILDREN
By
Dwight L. Rogers, III
December, 1982
Chairperson: Dr. Linda L. Lamme
Cochairperson: Dr. Dorene D. Ross
Major Department: Curriculum and Instruction
This naturalistic observational study investigated the
social behavior of kindergarten children as they played with
unit (small, solid, hardwood blocks) and large hollow blocks
The subjects, 10 boys and 10 girls, were observed in a uni
versity laboratory school kindergarten classroom, whose pop
ulation is representative of the population of Florida.
The children were observed in assigned groups of two
boys and two girls each. The children were observed for a
total of 60 minutes per child, 30 minutes for each type of
blocks. Every child was observed on eight occasions, four
for unit and four for large hollow blocks. Two observers
each observed two children for alternating 15 seconds. The
observer first recorded one child's behavior for 15 seconds,
then observed the second child following the same procedure,
viii