Children's Collaborative Playcrafting

Reference: Huard, R. & Hayes-Roth, B. Children's Collaborative Playcrafting. Knowledge Systems Laboratory, May, 1996.

Abstract: We examined the nature of children's interactions when they worked with peers (same-age and cross-age) and with an adult (mothers) on a computerized playcrafting activity called Improvisational Puppets. Our findings show that mother's used a "guidance" approach -- demonstrations, suggestions, and guided-questioning -- as a way of involving their preschool child in the playcrafting activity. Mothers were sensitive to the preschool child's needs and skills -- for example, they responded to all of their child's questions and requests for help, and relinquished control to the child when the child became more competent in the activity. In contrast, older siblings were more likely to dominate the playcrafting, using physical intervention and directives. When age-mates collaborated, the interactions were more equal. No one partner dominated the talk related to the task nor controlled the storyline. We also examined whether the Improv puppets program, which has collaboration features "built-in," would support young children's ability to collaborate. We found that preschool children were able to effectively collaborate on the playcrafting activity. The preschoolers were active participants -- they responded to their partners request for participation, asked for guidance or clarification when needed, and provided alternatives to scripts or actions proposed by their mothers or older siblings. Finally, the children were able to collaborate in-character to create their stories. Extensive verbal exchanges between the preschoolers were not necessary to carry out the goal of story creation.

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