Social activities with the goal to have fun, to interest and be with one another are known as social plays of games. An individual starts this social activity through co-construct vocal, gestural, and also multimodal social game routines in the first months of life.
Early social interactions between infants and their caregivers are characterized by a face-to-face context, close physical contact and a turn-taking structure where cycles of mutual attention between mothers and infants, engagement and cycles of non-attention disengagement alternate. Vocalizations, facial expressions, gazes, touch or gestures are some of the modalities through which pre-verbal communicative exchanges take place between adults and infants. The early effective communicative interactions have been described as playful because their only purpose is to share experiences with another person.
However, there is a difficulty in differentiating what constitutes social interaction as compared to social play. Social game routines have a clear recurring structure which allows infants to follow elementary rules in their social interactions. They also follow explicit rules and sequences that are observable at the vocal as well as the motor level of the game.
It was shown that infants are not active during the first social games and playful interactions. Only in the second half of the first year, infants play an active role in games. During this period they show a growing tendency toward structured games as well as motor capabilities, which allow them to contribute to the games more actively.
According to Fantasia et al., 2014 structured game routines take place already at 3 months of age in infants and infants are sensitive to modifications of these multimodal routines. Unlike the free unstructured play, game routines include fixed action patterns, which make them highly predictable. This feature makes it very easy for even very young infants to actively participate in the games.
Playing mothers, on average, have higher years of education than non-playing mothers, suggesting that engaging in structured game routines with infants may depend on maternal educational status. Social game routines occurred naturally during interactions between mothers and their 4-month-old infants and were clearly distinguishable from the remaining activities during the interaction. It seems that mothers use game routines as a strategy to regain their infants’ attention or interest in the interaction.
Playing structured social games may be considered another form of such joint routines that helps infants to assume different roles and experience variations of social exchanges; consequently, become skilled cooperative agents as they participate in them.
Source: The Games Infants Play: Social Games During Early Mother-Infant Interactions and Their Relationship With Oxytocin.