2-4 | A History of Children’s Play and Play Environments: Toward a Contemporary Child-Saving Movement
A History of Children’s Play and Play Environments: Toward a Contemporary Child-Saving Movement
Joe L. Frost
New York, NY: Routledge, 2010. Illustrations, bibliographical references, index. xx, 295 pp. $49.95 paper. ISBN: 9780415806206
Children's play, so goes the story told by historians, is a universal phenomenon, a force of nature considered by adults as too trivial to describe or disturb, a fact which secured its autonomy and transmission from one generation to the next. Aside from a few classical references (Plato and his Renaissance followers), play was first "discovered" by the Enlightenment and made into a fundamental philosophical entity supporting the modern ideal of the self as spontaneous and free. Since play does not require the use of compulsion, it was refined by social reformers during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a successful social, educational, and therapeutic practice. The golden age of public play ushered in by these developments, as Joe L. Frost argues convincingly in his timely and alarming A History of Children's Play and Play Environments, has come to an end. "Even under the most terrible conditions children played their traditional games in their traditional ways—until now," writes Frost. "Now, for the first time in history, the children of entire industrialized nations, especially American children, are losing their natural outdoor grounds for play and forgetting how to engage in free, spontaneous outdoor play. The consequences are profound" (pp. 269–70).