Essay: Problem solving, pragmatics and play

Problem solving is an essential tool at every stage of life. It is used in a variety of situations, from meditating a conflict over a toy to fixing a copier to fixing a potential world crisis. In some scenarios, one’s problem solving ability could mean the difference between life and death. Problem solving is an important skill one develops with growing-up but people are not generally conscious of. This section illustrates situations in which Manny and Isis display their cognitive development levels in terms of problem solving.
March 19, 2015 Manny, Eva, Aelyn, Skye and myself were playing a dice game where each player would roll the dice and the number it landed on equated to the number of pom pom’s they needed to count out and put in their cup. Whoever filled their cup up with pom pom’s first won. Manny would always say whose turn it was, but one time Eva tried to sneak the dice to go again; this really upset Skye. As the situation was about to escalate, Manny stepped in, told Eva it was not her turn, and gave the dice to Skye so that we could all continue to play the game.
Davenport, Hegland, and Melby (2008) studied problem solving interactions in preschool boys. The sample had 34 preschool boys from ages three to five. The researchers discuss how these children went about problem solving. In the study, the researchers observed that when trying to solve problems with a group of their peers, many of the boys were aggressive either verbally or physically. The boys who show more aggression when dealing with conflicts were also more capable handling their classmates who refused to compromise, whereas the boys who were not aggressive were not capable of handling conflicts. Manny’s move to take the dice from Eva and tell her off was very stern, almost an aggressive move. His tactic was quick, straightforward, and got the job done. He found the resolution before the conflict erupted into a big deal.
March 24, 2015 Manny was playing with Emilia, Miles, and Davis. In the middle of building a block wall, they ran out of blocks. Manny suggested that to solve this problem, they should go get more blocks from inside. But Miles pointed out that the blocks from inside were not the same size as the blocks they had been previously using. Manny tested Miles statement by putting on of the inside blocks in an empty space in their wall. It fit but there was a little bit of a gap. Manny and the other children decided to use the different blocks but had to fit them very carefully to ensure that their wall could be able to stand.
A study conducted by Ramani and Brownell (2014) and found that children learn problem solving through social play with their peers. They studied a preschool class from for two months and would observe children who had conflicts but adults would not interfere in the conflict. They found that 30% of the children who were in conflicts were able to work it out themselves with not adult interference. This concept was shown in the example above when Manny learned how to communicate and solve problems with his peers through play. They ran out of blocks and when a solution was found they communicated how the solution was problematic. Then they used non-verbal communication by taking turns trying each different sized blocks to see if they would fit into space and work for their needs. They used their actions to communicate with the others to see if the solution could work to solve their problem. The above researchers concluded that social interactions with peers help cognitive development of problem solving; without this engagement. a child is less likely to develop that type of skill.
April 21, 2015 Isis and Lily were hiding under the dramatic play structure in the preschool. They said they were hiding their animals from the monster. Isis grabbed the stuffed giraffe and was guarding it from ‘the monster’ when Lily attempted to grab it out of Isis’s hands. I heard Isis shirk ‘Stop!’ at Lily, so I went over to see what was going on. Isis explained to me that she was not done playing with the giraffe and that Lily was trying to take it. Then Lily told me that she wanted to play with it. So I told Isis to explain what she felt when Lily tried to take the giraffe from her. Isis said that if Lily had just asked to play with the giraffe she would have given it to her because that is what friends do. Isis then suggested trading stuffed animals with Lily; Isis said, ‘I will give you the giraffe if you give me the turtle.’ In the end, they traded toys and the conflict was resolved thanks to Isis’s solution. Isis coming up with a solution in order for both parties to be satisfied demonstrates that she has problem solving cognitive abilities.
According to research done by Goodwin (2007), preschoolers use language as a way to solve problems and to interact among their classmates. Goodwin also states when children play in an imaginative role-playing game, it is often seen that one child emerges as the leader of the group and rules over the less vocal children, while the less vocal ones are forced to be the subordinate characters in the pretend play. Goodwin talked about how in this type of pretend scenario assertive actions can also be used as communication. The researcher said that the dominant child in the situation uses straightforward dialect or actions to communicate that they have the authority in the social hierarchy. The more assertive child is normally the child who brings forth the confrontations. This concept is shown in the example above because by trying to forcibly take the stuffed animal, Lily is trying to be the dominant leader in this game. The study above also found that young children, especially the more dominate children, have a tremendously hard time seeing other people’s perspective. Lily demonstrates this when she tried to take the stuffed animal from Isis. She did not understand how it would affect Isis because she could not understand Isis’s perspective until Isis explained to Lily how it made her feel when Lily took the toy. That is when Lily could finally relate to how Isis felt because of her actions.
On February 26, 2015 Isis, Lily and Islay were playing in the sand box together. Lily was sitting on a tractor digging up sand. When she leaned over the front of the tractor, she lost her balance and fell forward. Lily began to cry. Isis, who saw the whole thing, looked at the teacher who then picked Lily up. Isis kept looking at the pair and said, ‘Teacher should we go get ice’? When teacher nodded, Isis ran inside saying, ‘Lily is hurt. I’ll go get her an ice pack so she will stop hurting.’ So Isis ran to the kitchen and came back with a SpongeBob SquarePants ice pack, which she gave to Lily. When Isis gave it to Lily, she stopped crying; Isis then said to her ‘Lily don’t do that anymore. You scared me.’ In this scenario, Isis was able to put herself in Lily’s shoes and take the appropriate actions to help her. Isis saw the problem of Lily hurting and she came up with a solution.
Researchers Warneken, Steinwender, Hamann, and Tomasello (2014) conducted an analysis of the children’s problem solving and collaborative planning. The sample was made up of 24 students, ranging from age two to four. The researchers gave each child a buddy to work with and each pair was given a task to complete. While the three and four year olds proved that they could plan and execute a task that was for their level, the two year olds would lose focus on their tasks and could not properly plan for the assignment at hand. The three year olds showed the most communication to each other on the task where as the four year old tried to complete it more independently. In the example above, when faced with a problem of Lily being in pain, Isis collaborated with the teacher to come up with a solution to help Lily.
Language development, specifically pragmatics, is essential for successful development; communication is a fundamental component of social interaction. Language can include how we say things, what we say to people, talking with our movements or body language, or even if what we said is appropriate given our context. Pragmatic language is very important in every culture and society because it gives context to the words we speak and background on what we are speaking on. It can help get our point across with hand gestures, or help us follow social rules.
Februrary 17, 2015 Isis came into preschool one day wearing everything pink; she even had a pink hat on. So I walked up to her and asked her about her outfit. She replied with ‘I dressed my self today. I’m pinkalious.’ When I asked her what that meant, she responded with, ‘it means I am wearing all pink because it is my favorite color.’ She went on to explain that she has a book called Pinkalious at home that she and her mom read together all the time. She tried to explain the book in more detail, saying ‘everything in the book is the color pink; that’s why it has it’s name.’ She asked me if my favorite color was pink also, to which I responded with yes but that I also like blue. She crinkled her face as if she did not like what I said and countered with ‘but blue is a boy color.’ I responded that anyone can like any color and because you are a girl does not mean you have to like pink. She said ‘okay’ and ran off. Another day, we were making pizzas out of play dough. She made one with peperonis and said ‘I don’t like peperoni’s because they are to spicy and make my tongue on fire, but my dad does.’ She then proceeded to tell me that she only likes cheese on her pizza and that she had pizza at a birthday party yesterday. She further elaborated that ‘the birthday party was fun,’ and said ‘I wish I could go to one today.’
In a study conducted by Rozendaal and Baker (2010), they studied the relationships between the children’s use of pragmatics and whether talking to adults improves their pragmatics and pronouns versus not constant interaction with adults. They observed 1,080 children ages two and three years old for over three months. The researchers would record the children’s interactions with their peers and other adults in addition to interviewing the children. They found that three-year-old children were more sensitive listeners than the two year olds were. They also found that the more verbal interaction with adults the child receives the more they develop better pronoun use. They found that children who had regularly lengthy conversations with adult figures in their life had far superior development in their vocabulary and over all better communication and social skills than the children who mostly conversed with peers. This article ties in with Isis’s development because she has improved immensely in her communication and vocabulary since starting this semester.
April 30, 2015 Manny dropped some money on the ground and walked away; when came back for it, it was gone. Nash was standing in the middle of the room so Manny came over and pointed a finger in his face and said, ‘You took it!’ Nash replied with ‘No I didn’t. Manny, we need to call the police.’ So Manny ran to the phone and dialed some numbers. Manny yelled in the phone ‘Hello police, someone took my money! You must come quick.’ When he hung up the phone he said, ‘Nash, we must be secret agent firefighters to find that money! Let’s start outside.’ Miles was watching them looking for clues when Manny ran up to him and asked Miles if he wanted to join them. After Mile’s nodded his head, Manny whispered, ‘Great, let’s start near the bushes.’
A study conducted by Kirk, Pine, and Ryder (2011) investigated if gestures could enhance comprehension of pragmatics in preschool age children. 47 kids participated in the study. In the test, the children were told a verbal scenario either with or without gestures. After both situations, the child was asked questions about the scene they had just heard to see which situation they recollected better. After the results were collect, the researchers found that the children answered more questions correctly about the scenario that included gestures. The researchers concluded that gestures that coincide with communication contribute to getting a point across or helping children understand the meaning of words. In the real-life example above, Manny’s uses pragmatic language by pointing at Nash while asking him a question and when he understood that Miles meant yes by nodding his head up and down. Pragmatic language, such as simultaneously using gestures and language, helps provide more understand and gives more context to a situation.
Hall, Belanger and Williams (2010) conducted a study with 144 four to five year old children. The researchers wanted to see if social cues assisted children’s memory of conversations, and how many of the children used social cues in their every day speech. They split the children into three groups. The first group experienced verbal conversations with social cues, like pointing, hand gestures, and gazing at the objects, that were either supporting or in reference to the conversation. The second group experienced only verbal communication with no social cues. The third group experienced verbal communication and social cues but they were misleading, pointing to objects that did not matter or holding an object that had nothing to do with the point. When tested later on, the three year olds in group three completely lost interest in the conversations when the researcher misled them with gestures. Only 15% could recall or have the slightest inference of the previous conversation. In group two, the group with just verbal conversation, 48% of the four year olds could recall some of a small part of the conversation, while in group three, the group with the verbal communications and the social cues, recall was raised to 54%. Among the five year olds who had misleading cues 36% of them still recall more than 1/3 of the conversation, while over 50% of five year olds in the just verbal group could remember more than 1/3 of the conversation, and lastly over 60% of the five year olds in the group with verbal communication and social cues could remember more than 1/3 of the conversation. In the data above is relevant to the previous experience because Manny shows use of pragmatics through speech as well as social cues, i.e. pointing at Nash and understanding Miles’ head nod. The situation showed that he understood both verbal and nonverbal cues. It also shows that Manny is developing his body language and sub context. Social cues are important because they increase understanding between the two parties communicating. Manny’s use of social cues displays his development of pragmatic language.
Play is a way children develop their cognitive, physical, and social domains. Although all of these domains are developed and important the focused one is on social development. Many children are put into a preschool for social interaction with their peers and how they learn to socially interact is through play. Play may seem nothing more then a fun activity that children do but it is so much more. Play is facilitating children to develop fine motor skills, balance, role-playing, cultivation their imagination and most of all it is a source of socialization. The type of play that will be focused on is cooperative play which is when children engage in group play, or role playing,. This is shown through the examples of the observations of Manny and Isis.
April 14, 2015 Isis and Lily were about to put on dresses when teacher Yvonne came over and asked them if they would like to be apart of the kitchen staff because she was opening a pizza restaurant for that day only. So Isis and Lily walked over to the dramatic play area and put on chef hats and aprons. Isis said to Lily ‘we should be the people who serve the food to people in the restaurant.’ So they went to the table and took the orders of Eva and Aelyn and teacher Yvonne. Once all the orders were taken Lily and Isis went back to the ‘kitchen’ to create a pizza. Lily said ‘I think we should put worms in the pizza because it would be funny.’ Isis shook her head and said ‘No Lily that would not be nice to do to our friends and the teachers. We should just cut the pizza and give it to them and maybe they will give us next.’
Cohen (2011) conducted a study on imaginative play and social development. She studied two preschools for three months. She gathered information from interviews from parents, teachers, and kids while also observing. The schools both used a play based curriculum. She found that the children were more likely to engage in cooperative play if they were using imaginative play, which promoted social interaction more then any other type of play. She also noted that relationships with peers become more involved then just the pretend game if the children had pretend played together multiple times. Children who were less likely too engage in imaginary play were also less likely to have social interactions with their peers. Instead they would play solitary games like read or build blocks. This study captures Isis’s social development thus far in her life. Especially in the observation that was mentioned above her pretend play with Lily just seems like play to her but it actually is cultivating her relationship skills, her co-operating techniques, and role playing.
On April 28, 2015 Manny was in a koala costume trying to move a tire but he realized he could not do it by himself so he turned to Miles who was right by him and asked for his help. The two picked up the tire together and lifted it on top of a tire that was lying on the ground. So there was two tires stacked on top of each other and then they got another tire and lifted it onto another tire that was laying on the ground. So they had two sets of stacked tires. Manny said to Miles, ‘now get into the tires Miles because they are rocket ships about to blast off.’ So they both got into the tires and counted together ‘three, two, one, blast off!’ After the had blasted off Manny started to make engine noises and then told Miles to get out because they were on the moon. They both started to walk really slowly and take huge steps as if they were walking on the moon.
In a study done by Brown and Gupta (2012) how cooperative play with peers makes a difference in children’s social development among preschool age children. They were ages three to four times a week for over a year. The preschoolers were ages three to five. They found that play fosters a social connection necessary for child to develop in order to eventually create friendships. Social play is the biases of how children learn to create social relationships with others. What they found in this study could not be truer for Manny. At the beginning of the year he used to be very quite and kept to himself most of the time going to every curriculum station but not really going in the fun with other kids. According to Hurwitz (2003) free play allows for children to explore the world and to accumulate personal relationships through different avenues. This includes sharing, exchanging items with each other, or even decision making. He also talks about how important it is for adults to not get to involved because it disrupts the growth of the peer relationship. Which is true for the observation above because if an adult had helped Manny instead of Miles that relationship bond they have now might not have happened or it might not have been as strong. The experience they have playing together would not have been there either. As the year went on he became more and more comfortable with the children around him and eventually cultivated friendships with the children through social play. In the observation above it talks about how Manny and Miles worked together in order to play together the man and koala on the moon scenario. If Manny had not been social and played with the children like Miles he could not have cultivated a friendship with him.
Overall both children have shown that they are developing and are capable of problem solving in situations and that cognitive ability is a sign that they are getting older and their brains are developing in a way that they are able to handle more and more complex functioning as days go on. They have also both shown that they are capable of understanding pragmatics although different forms. Manny being older is a little more developed so he not only understands verbal communication but he comprehends the subtext of body language. Isis comprehends verbal communication and facial expressions but she has yet to realize the context of people’s gestures and body language, but she is definitely on her way. For the last area they are both doing leaps and bounds better then they were in the beginning of the semester. Manny has become a social butterfly having friends include him in games, projects or pretend play wherever he goes. Isis has gained a deep true friendship with Lily this semester and although there is conflict they both grow everyday with how to interact and handle a close friendship. Learning the meaning of what it truly is to be a friend.
To conclude Manny and Isis still have a ways to go when it comes to development, their road may be bumpy but they have shown vast improvement throughout the semester that leads me to believe they will both be happy, healthy, and intelligent people as they get older and I am touched to have been apart of their life for a brief period but I know that they have nothing but the brightest future ahead of them.

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