Play behavior and language use in Cantonese-English-speaking bilingual dyads

Erin Foo* & Erin Reilly, CCC-SLP, PhD

This study addresses two research questions: Do caregivers utilize both Cantonese and English when playing with their children? What level of play behavior do bilingual preschoolers exhibit in the context of dyads with their main caregivers?             To answer these questions, children growing up specifically in Cantonese-speaking households were recruited in the New York area and were asked to play with kitchen toys and dolls with their caregivers for fifteen minutes. Caregivers and children were video recorded on a phone and audio recorded utilizing a voice recorder. The children’s play was examined using the (Wolfberg, 2003) play scale (Wolfberg, 2003). Ths play scale was  provided a checklist of play behaviors in both higher level and lower play. High level play behaviors included, symbolic-pretend play where the child performs acts representational of someone or something, orientation-onlooker where the child shows awareness and interest in other people’s play, common focus where the child is interactive with play with others and engages in reciprocal exchange, and a common goal where the child plays cooperatively with others in a coordinated activity or shared agenda. Lower level play behaviors included not engaged (child does not direct actions towards toys or others), manipulation-sensory (child utilizes materials to gain sensory input), functional play where the child shows understanding of function of objects, isolate (does not show interest in others), and parallel- proximity (playing beside peers using the same space and materials). After reviewing watching the videos, the children’s play behaviors that were exhibited were marked on the play scale certain play behaviors were checked off based on what was seen. In order to determine if caregivers utilized both Cantonese and English when playing with their child, the audio recorded file was used to count how many Cantonese and English utterances were spoken to the child.             The results of this study will enable us to have a better understanding of play behaviors and language use in bilingual Cantonese-English dyads.