Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Ann M. Berghout Austin


Ann M. Berghout Austin


Shelley Lindauer


Cecelia Foxley


Twenty females and twenty-three males from the Utah State University Children's House participated in this study which compared traditional preschool play with computer play. The Parten/Smilansky nested social/cognitive play hierarchy was used. Sociometric and cognitive assessments were incorporated in order to more clearly define behaviors. Five types of play were observed: computer, art, locks, manipulative toys, and the dramatic area.

No gender differences were found in terms of the amount of time or type of play at the computer. However, sociometric status did influence computer play. Children who engaged in more positive social interactions used the computer constructively, while those who engaged in more negative interactions used the computer in a more dramatic fashion. Duration of play at the computer was similar to duration of play with blocks and art activities, but different from duration of play with manipulative toys and in the dramatic area. Group play was the most common level of social play observed at all types of play centers, including the computer center, suggesting that computers do foster socialization in young children. Summing across all centers, including the computer center, constructive play was the most prevalent type of cognitive play observed. When each center was analyzed individually, games with rules, the highest level of cognitive play, was observed significantly more often at the computer center. Thus, computers may be fostering higher cognitive levels of play.