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The Association for the Study of Play Conference, 2012

Dorothy Justus Sluss




Organized sports

Pay for play (bouncy houses)

= are these “play” ?

















Plato: essential nature of man to play.  He discussed the “play leap” that occurs when children jump, skip and dance.


Play was viewed as behavior

Children were viewed as miniature adults


Aristotle (saw play as imitation)




Comenius – wrote first pic book


Locke – one of the first to recognize the value of materials – especially blocks – blocks with letters and picture on them (he invented)


Rosseau – nature wants children to be children before they are men…  “Emile”


Froebel – play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.   Wrote “Mother’s songs, games and stories.” Wrote patty cake – “invented” circle time, block play – gifts… “Occupations” “Education of Man”  Froebel had specifc things he wanted them to do with the blocks – Patty Smith Hill wanted FREE play with the blocks.  Gifts = toys, Occupations = crafts

Froebel blocks were not standard unit blocks PRATT introduced unit blocks

Froebel was the first to say that play and learning are related. He was most responsible for the idea of nurturing play and he implemented the concept that play and learning are related.


Von Schiller – play as the spending of surplus energy, considered play an adult activity- more romantic approach


Pestalozzi – children should be free to explore and draw their own conclusions. First to use action as a way of learning wrote “How Gertrude Teachers her children” Begin with concrete and move to the abstract. Objects more important that ideas.


Play viewed as a mental activity





Evolutionary theory/Surplus energy (Herbert Spencer)


Relaxation/Recreation Theory  (Moritz Lazarus)


Practice/Pre-exercise theory (Karl Groos) viewed play as civilized and modern, play as educational, unstructured play, play prepares for adulthood


Recapitulation theory (G. Stanley Hall) children recreate evolution through their play – different levels of play, father of American playground movement, monkey bars,


Humans as Players: (Johan Huizinga) civilization arises and unfolds in and as play…   he provided the first definition that is still used as a basis of play





Patty Smith Hill

Developed the idea of free play studied with HALL and disagreed with Froebel.


Caroline Pratt

Also disagreed with Froebel

Believed in free play

Developed the unit blocks – went to Sweden to learn how to cut them



Lucy Sprague Mitchell

Talked about here-and-now curriculum – why study elevators if they have never seen one? Been on one?

Student of Dewey

Worked with Pratt


Harriet Johnson

Research on how children used the patty smith hill and Carolyn pratt blocks

**any modern work to add to her work? Dissertation idea: recreate the patty hill block studies – replicate her work as dissertation…


John Dewey

In play the activity is its own end instead of its having ulterior result.  Process not product is his… – he unbolted the chairs from the floor! RADICAL


Susan Blow

First kinder in public school, st. louis, mo.


Mildred Parten

Focused  on the social interactions bet children during play activities







Erikson (foundation for play therapy)









Arousal Modulation Theory

Berlyne = CNS wants to maintain a certain state of arousal




“Why People Play”


Communication Theory

Gregory Bateson


Cognitive Adaptive Theory

Jerome Bruner

Children are meaning makers






Gail Cannella


The Trouble With Play (book)


Comment from audience:

Do Piaget’s stages apply to dual language learners???




Brian Sutton Smith


Concerns that play is romanticized

Real play is not always pleasant

“The Ambiguity of Play” 1997



if we only approach the study of play with one lens we are limiting our understanding




BF Skinner has an aspect of play that was instrinctly motivated – we think about him as external rewards, etc. but there is a part of his work that pointed to the fact there is instrinsic motivation when children are allowed to play…..





Play as a transitional tool for the elderly (handout)

Maricia Nell


NPS = neuropsychiatric symptoms


2 main ways to manage:

antipsychotics (yet many deaths are associated with ALZ use) so there is a need to find alt methods of intervention for patients with ALZ


Play experience





Play as a transition to what????


Increased attention to details

Increased social interaction

Increased focus time (1 hr 20 min painting, 1 hour clay, 90 min block play)


Good questions from audience:

Did the PT get to choose where they sat? interacted with materials?

Did the pt initiate any “play” with the mat’ls  next day?

Did Nell’s role as “audience” influence the length of the focus time?

Self initiation with the materials? (follow up question)



Concepts of play and play experiences in student service learning with homeless children (also handout)

Eva Nwokah


There is a CCC for homeless kids in San Antonio



Children’s perspectives on play and electronic games

(Also handout)


Janice Butler

Georgiana Duarte



play behaviors of roma children in transylvania

Fraser Brown


materially disadvantaged – but are they play deprived??  Do they have a “chronic lack of sensory interaction with the world”?


Themes that emerged in his observations:


Played everywhere with everything

Engagement with the environment

Creativity and the theory of loose parts (Nicholson)

Boisterous physical activity

Semi-organized games

Chanting games




Post lunch keynote


Interpretive reproduction and children’s peer cultures: negotiation and compromise in children’s play routines


William (Bill) Carsaro


Going back to work he did 30-35 years ago (!)Berkley 1975



3 examples of routines in peer culture:


Routine #1: Approach Avoidance

Phase 1: Identifying phase: children discover or create a threatening agent


Phase 2:  Approach phase: children cautiously approach the threatening agent. As the children draw near the threatening agent is disabled.  (more successful play when the children decide who the threatening agent is).


Phase 3: Avoidance phase:   the threatening agent is empowered and kids flee pretending to be afraid. The threatening agent chases the kids until they reach the home base


Precursor to run/chance games with rules but there is no discussion of rules


<<Picture of the IMPORTANCE in peer culture:>>


A/B/C (look at pic)



Routine #2: Spontaneous Fantasy


During Spontaneous Fantasy Play children use self descriptive language to cue other players in to what they are doing – this extends the play.


Paralinguistic cues


They also use language with strong hi/lo intonations, character voices, etc.





Danger/Rescue sequence


We don’t appreciate what is actually happening until we try to do it without talking about what we want to do!



Routine #3: Dramatic role play


More than just imitating adults






Discipline scripts emerge


The context between language and behavior


“Plying the frame”

**stretching the frame – child orders something that girl has already said she doesn’t have.


Playing with the plying of the frame





Questions from audience:


How important is shared history of the children for this level of play to happen?

Can it be this “rich” if they have never met before?


Children are natural improvisers….


They are willing (without realizing of course that they are “willing”) to continue the, “Yes,  AND _________”



Trouble entering the play when they don’t honor the yes ??

Children who don’t “see” the YES have a harder time entering the play…


Question: define your use of the word “negotiation”  is it really mediated, thought from the head and then out the mouth?


Does communication breakdown lead to the breakdown of the play?  what is comm. breakdown??


Too much adult intervention and “assistance” breaks down the play


Are private CCC teachers more likely to intervene bc $$ is changing hands? Vs. federally funded programs?




“you are nobody!”

three chronotopes of play


Ana Marjanovic-Shane




Ontologically significant meanings (picture #1)

Pic #2


3 types of chronotopes (pic)






Orientation #1 – stay in action – weave the events happening into the drama/play (baby crying)


Orientation #2 – staying in play that is s private event – if someone starts to watch then it becomes audience driven one upping each other.  Playing for ourselves, not performance.





Playground politics and backyard bargains


Abby Loebenberg


Took pics of all her slides…



El Trencito (the little train game)

A school game that emerged during the argentine dictatorship  1976-1983


Maria Ghiggia


<<She read her paper>>



The little school 



Grandma wants to play dodgeball


Kerri Schiller


Active games for older adults


Teaches a class called recess for adults

They are seniors 60, 70s 75 years old

most are engaged in some other form of physical activity

Inspired by playground games: tag games, base tag, 4-square, dodge ball, Frisbee, kick soccer balls, it has to be FUN





Physical safety


how will I look?? More a ? for folks not IN the class


making it safer:

red rover? No

tag? Maybe

british bull dog?

Modifying the rules

Walking vs. running

Tagging below the waist

Softer props

Beach balls good when reaction time is an issue

…but they still want to be challenged!


Benefits (pic) part 1







Her toys are becoming softer







The in between places


When does play become no longer play…




Day 2


(Gregory) Bateson 1904-1980 Reconsidered

(I guess I need to “consider” him before I re-consider him…)


Dorothy Sluss


Reconsidering Bateson’s work in light of recent brain research findings.


**worked with Margaret Mead


is mary Catherine bateson a relative?


Communication – sometimes the nip is just a nip, not a NIP  (ramifications for rough and tumble play) monkeys in the SF zoo


Implicit language – literal misunderstandings


Her students want to discount anything over 5years old.


TASP is where you can present your wonderings – then come back the following year and present your findings.


Comparison to signaling to connecting to using the language that the culture is using – she said her evals went down until she started making cultural references and bringing in youtube etc… then went up again.





The importance of play as a distancing phenomenon Shakespeare’s dramas


Took pics of the slides

Must read the abstract in order to understand the connection between title and what was presented (slides)


Young children who understand humor as an indicator of “giftedness”


Humor theory


“distancing”  – language allows for comic relief, so you can go back into the comedy or tragedy “refreshed”





agency and metaphor in playworlds


playworld pedagogy


pics of all slides (her slides changed color – couldn’t see)



there are more people in the room than bodies – “invisible participants”





“oh the language – I wouldn’t say that in Serbian, I’m too polite”


re the F-bombs in the transcripts of the playscene she is narrating.

Play without transformation is boring…

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