Volume 1, Number 2



Joe L. Frost is Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas, Austin, and one of America's leading experts on play and playgrounds. In addition to having taught child development and early childhood education at Texas and several other universities, he has written or edited fifteen university-level textbooks and more than one hundred articles and reports, lectured throughout the world, and served as a consultant to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and myriad cities, schools, universities, hospitals, and public park systems. He served as president of the Association for Childhood Education International and of the International Play Association USA and continues to direct research at the University of Texas Play and Play Environments Research Project. Here Frost talks about what sparked his lifelong interest in playgrounds, their evolution over the last half century, their current state, lawsuits and other factors that influence the way children play outdoors today, and current trends in playground design and development. He also makes recommendations for correcting inconsistencies in state and federal playground safety standards and regulations.


by Linda E. Homeyer and Mary O. Morrison


Play therapy is an effective means of responding to the mental health needs of young children and is widely accepted as a valuable and developmentally appropriate intervention. The authors discuss the importance of play in development, the therapeutic benefits of play, the rich history of play therapy, and recent research and current issues and trends in the field, including the need for more mental health professionals trained to work with children.

by Thomas Henricks


This essay describes a range of perspectives and concerns that inform scholarly understandings of play. Along the way, the author explores issues and controversies within a series of five questions: What kind of "thing" is play? Is play morally good? Is play functional? Is play rational? Is play more "free" than other human activities? After describing the diversity of opinion about the subject and noting that play scholars typically reach some sort of working definition for play, the author pays particular attention to the work of Brian Sutton-Smith. The author then offers his own conclusions concerning the nature of play. Following Johan Huizinga, he understands play as either a pattern of individual action or a pattern of interaction, the first distinguished by its qualities of transformation and consummation, the second by contests and unpredictable outcomes. However, any definition of play, he cautions, should celebrate the diversity outlined here.

by Jay Mechling


Biology and the particular gun culture of the United States come together to explain the persistent and powerful attraction of American boys to both real guns and toy guns. The 1990s saw adults begin to conflate "the gun problem" with "the boy problem," sparking attempts (largely failed) to banish toy guns from homes and schools. Following the approach of play scholar Gregory Bateson, this article offers an understanding of play with guns, maintains this moral panic about boys and gun play is unfounded, and suggests some developmental and other benefits from boys' play with guns.

by Anthony D. Pellegrini


Some devalue recess because they assume it to be a waste of time. There is no theory or empirical evidence to support this point of view. There is, however, abundant and clear evidence that recess has beneficial effects on children's social competence and academic performance. The author tells how his interest in standardized tests led him to years of recess study, compares recess survey findings in the United States to those in the United Kingdom, and summarizes the benefits of recess for school performance.

by James Paul Gee


The author builds on arguments he has made elsewhere that good commercial video games foster deep learning and problem solving and that such games in fact promote mastery as a form of play. Here he maintains that some good video games engage players with an important type of play, namely of play as discovery, of play as surmising new possibilities in a given environment. The game Portal exemplifies this form of play, a form designed to give players a smart tool that enables them to see these new possibilities and use them in innovative ways. The author concludes with a discussion beyond games of young people using smart tools to become Pro-Ams, that is, amateur experts at something for which they have developed a passion.

Book Reviews

by Arne Trageton

The first edition of this work has become a standard reference for those interested in play, especially children's play. Now, Doris Pronin Fromberg and Doris Bergen have revised and supplemented it with new articles. The result is a work that offers a multitude of perspectives on play, varying from play's relation to cognitive, linguistic, social, and creative development to the communicative meaning of play in a sociocultural context. The book's forty short articles from play researchers in the United States are an excellent resource for those interested in exploring the many dimensions of play.

by Barrie Gunter

As the complexity, production quality, and popularity of electronic games have evolved, public concern about their impact on those who play with them has become increasingly vociferous. Much of this attention has been directed towards children, as always when the subject concerns popular media forms. Many of the anxieties associated with the alleged effects of television have been transferred to computer and video games, not least because so many of them have violent themes. The widespread use of self-contained electronic games, which can be bought off the shelf from major retail outlets, and the growing popularity of online games, which engage multiple players in real time, have drawn not just the usual lobby groups but even national governments into the debate about whether these games are good or bad for our children. Much of the concern stems from the fact that, in playing these games, children enter a realm where they know more than their parents. As a result, parents often feel they lack the competence to effectively monitor their children's behavior and therefore to know for sure whether they are at risk.

by Doris Bergen

This book is a compilation of material from a conference on Play = Learning held at Yale University in June 2005. The majority of authors are well known in the fields of expertise that correspond to their chapter topics. The editors' purpose was to counter recent perspectives that focus on teacher strategies, parent-structured activities, and government policies and have served to minimize the role of play as the major medium for young children's learning.

by Robyn M. Holmes

This edited volume is a compilation of papers presented at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Jean Piaget Society. The inclusive chapters reflect the breadth and depth of play research and the researchers themselves. As a topic of scholarly inquiry, the study of play has been pursued through an interdisciplinary lens and different theoretical frameworks. This volume reflects that diversity.

by Gary Cross

This well-illustrated and highly accessible history takes us from the first municipal swimming pool in Boston in 1868 across a century of change in a largely summer activity that at times surpassed the popularity of most other forms of physical play. The author, a young historian at the University of Montana, focuses on public swimming in the North. In the tradition of American social history, the book focuses on the issues of class, race, gender, and, to a lesser extent, age in the "contested" space of the pool, a site of bared bodies, cooled on hot summer days, in a setting that (compared with sports) was relatively hard to regulate. One of the most imaginative works that I've seen in this genre in years, it compares very favorably to the social histories of leisure that appeared in the late 1970s and the 1980s.

by Wanda Wakefield

Twenty years after she began her work on the development of women's sportswear in the United States, Patricia Campbell Warner has completed a compelling and insightful book that poses the question, "Which came first, the sportswear or the female athlete?" As she explains in her introduction, Warner's first interest has always been in the struggles of those women who wished to wear clothing that made sense. Since American sportswear has become the world's default clothing style in the past fifty years, she uses this book to explain how and why comfortable clothing for women came to be accepted as both appropriate dress for working out in private but also acceptable for exercising publicly in the presence of men. According to Warner, the establishment and growth of women's colleges in the United States during the nineteenth century is directly linked to the development of styles of dress more suited to the increased physicality of educated women. This, along with the discovery of new materials and the introduction of the sewing machine, allowed designers and individual sewers the opportunity to craft costumes both useful, and eventually, beautiful.

James Paul Gee is Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University. Previously the Tashia Morgridge Chair in Reading in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he comes to the study of video games from a background in linguistics. He has written widely for journals in that field as well as psychology, the social sciences, and education. His books include Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses (1990); The Social Mind: Language, Ideology, and Social Practice (1992); An Introduction to Human Language: Fundamental Concepts in Linguistics (1993); and Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning, and Literacy (2007).

Thomas S. Henricks is Distinguished University Professor at Elon University. His interests as a sociologist include social theory, modernization and change, popular culture, social stratification, race and ethnic relations, and particularly play and sport. He is the author of Disputed Pleasures: Sport and Society in Preindustrial England (1991) and Play Reconsidered: Sociological Perspectives on Human Expression (2006). His current research pursuits include change in the social organization of enjoyment in the last century.

Linda E. Homeyer and Mary O. Morrison are members of the faculty of the Professional Counseling Program at Texas State University–San Marcos. Both are also licensed Registered Play Therapist Supervisors. Homeyer is past president of the Texas Association for Play Therapy, has lectured internationally on play therapy topics, and is coeditor of The World of Play Therapy Literature: A Definitive Guide to the Subjects and Authors in the Field (1993) and The Handbook of Group Play Therapy: How to Do It, How It Works, Whom It's Best For (1999), and author of Play Therapy Interventions with Children's Problems: Case Studies with DSM-IV Diagnoses (1996) and Sandtray: A Practical Manual (1998). Morrison is president-elect of the Texas Association for Play Therapy, has written a number of articles and book chapters, and also presents internationally. She specializes in research on play therapy for young children and has been recognized for her work in Child Teacher Relationship Training.

Jay Mechling is Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Davis. Past president of the California Folklore Society and past chair of the California Council for the Humanities, he is an award-winning teacher, author of scores of essays and articles, and one of three senior editors of the Encyclopedia of American Studies (2001). Mechling is coeditor of American Wildlife in Symbol and Story (1987) and author of On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth (2001).

Anthony D. Pellegrini is Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota. Previously he was Director of the Cognitive Studies Group at the University of Georgia's Institute for Behavioral Research. He has written and lectured widely on a number of topics in educational and developmental psychology, including social contextual influences on classroom achievement and especially recess. His many publications include Recess: Its Role in Education and Development (2005), which significantly informs his article in this issue of the American Journal of Play.