1-3 | Children's Pastimes and Play in Sixteen Nations


Children's Pastimes and Play in Sixteen Nations
Is Free-Play Declining?

Dorothy G. Singer, Jerome L. Singer, Heidi D'Agostino, and Raeka DeLong


This article is based on a study of the role of play and experiential-learning activities beyond formal schooling in sixteen nations. The study, supported by Unilever PLC, gathered information from the mothers of twenty-four hundred children in countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia who described and rated their children's daily activities in telephone interviews or face-to-face conversations. They answered questions about their beliefs and attitudes concerning experiential learning, about their worries for the safety and health of their children, and about the general values of their children's various pastimes, including the use of electronic media. The study concerned children of comparable socioeconomic status in each country and looked at equal numbers of boys and girls and an equal distribution of children's ages ranging from one to twelve. The study's findings indicate surprising similarities of children's play in all nations. The mothers interviewed agreed, for example, that a lack of free-play and experiential learning opportunities was eroding childhood. The study indicates that children's major free-time activity is watching television. In analyzing the data collected in the study, the authors discuss detailed cross-national comparisons and differences in play activities by degrees of industrial development.