Volume 2, Number 1
Bowen White is a physician. He founded the Department of Preventive and Stress Medicine at the Baptist Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1983 and later established the center’s Department of Wellness and Health Promotion. White is also a clown who goes by the name of Dr. Jerko. For years he mixed these dual interests, skills, and egos while practicing medicine, and more recently he combines them as a writer, speaker, and consultant to a wide range of institutions and corporations. He is the author of Why Normal Isn’t Healthy: How to Find Heart, Meaning, Passion, and Humor on the Road Most Traveled and has lectured and clowned across the globe, in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, homes for the aged, hospices, schools, refugee camps, prisons, and more. Play and playfulness lie at the center of how he views the world, and here he discusses how, in his opinion, clowning, play, and playfulness intersect with healing and good health.
Play is sometimes said to be paradoxical because it displays one quality and the opposite of that quality at the same time. One of the best examples of this is the copresence of order and disorder. This article explores the differences between orderly and disorderly play. The author emphasizes the ways in which any event can be said to be orderly or disorderly; the identification of cultural, social, and psychological sources of order; and the importance of this theme in the work of some prominent play scholars. Following this, the author suggests a variety of functions for both orderly and disorderly play.
Friedrich Froebel, the German educator and founder of the Kindergarten Movement, developed a series of play materials including geometric building blocks and pattern activity blocks designed to teach children about forms and relationships found in nature. Froebel’s notions about using activity and play in preschool education complement many principles of early childhood education used in contemporary schools. But few modern teachers and educators study the nineteenth-century education pioneer or his ideas. This article explores how his system of learning through directed play focused on his play materials, called gifts, is still important and relevant to children and learning today.
Beginning with Lev Vygotsky’s long-established assertion that the play of children always involves both imaginary play and rules of behavior, this article argues for a theoretical framework that connects such play with the construction of social identities in kindergarten peer groups. It begins with a discussion of Ivy Schousboe’s model of the different spheres of reality in children’s play to explain symbolic group play and applies the model to the play of a group of five-year-old kindergarten soccer players. The article finds that the soccer games of kindergartners and their negotiations of play rules intrinsically involve their social identities, both those that are real and those that are imaginary.
The authors investigate the nature of child play for young children with disabilities using two different research models—the traditional psychoeducational research paradigm and the more recent interdisciplinary approach of the childhood studies paradigm. They base their discussion on a research study of toddlers with disabilities, and they review the history of the scholarship on the issue. In considering such matters as voice, agency, identity, and equity, which are typically concerns of the more recent paradigm, they find that the need young children with disabilities have for all kinds of play has been misrepresented by the more traditional approach. In fact, when viewed from the perspective of childhood studies, play appears to be as necessary to the quality of daily life for young children with disabilities as it does for all young children. The authors advocate the same right to play for children with disabilities granted to other children by society in general, a right acknowledged and codified in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Historians of childhood and youth are forever in search of the agency of their young subjects, the ability of children and youth to have some control over their lives in a world where they are relatively powerless. Our own experiences as children tell us that the adult regime is not omnipotent. As children, we found some spaces to resist adult power and to create autonomous folk cultures. Leslie Paris’s fine book on American summer camps nicely demonstrates how social and cultural historians can connect this autonomous world of children with the history of childhood. As Paris notes, at summer (sleep-away) camp, adult control and adult surveillance of kids proved far less complete than in schools. Adults might have constructed the formal organization of the camp, but what happened at camp—the actual experience of camp, its informal organization— was a collective project where adult aims and the folk cultures of children and adolescents interacted to create a third thing.
Popular Culture in Counseling, Psychotherapy, and Play-Based Interventions is a collection of works written by researchers, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and persons with specialized training in public relations, advertising, and the arts. The book takes a fresh look at the use of popular culture, innovative approaches, and creative techniques in research and counseling practices with clients of all ages. Although less a focus, the book also integrates popular culture with clinical training and supervision.
Sugar and spice and everything nice—far from it. Marjorie Harness Goodwin’s ethnographic account of the interpersonal behavior of preadolescent girls shatters the antiquate stereotype. In this well-researched book, we witness firsthand the Machiavellian politics of the playground, where scheming behavior is the rule rather than the exception. What clearly emerges from this important research is that the negotiation of power among middle-school girls is complicated and clumsy. For example, Goodwin’s systematic account of a seemingly benign childhood activity such as hopscotch reveals intricate details about rules, status, and competition. Clearly the play of girls is highly circumscribed, and what looks like play to an adult outsider is in effect a convoluted series of interactions. In these interactions, games act as a pretext for trying out, albeit awkwardly, different social roles.
It is rare to find a collection of selected writings focusing on the topic of children’s play tat can hold a reader’s interest from article to article. After all, the topic is usually embedded in nostalgia and personal reflections, and thetypical reader will likely doze off in a comfortable chair after pondering fond memories of childhood activities. However, A Place for Play is an anthology of articles, research summaries, essays, and poems that blend the works of more than twenty national and international experts into a captivating rationale for restoring and preserving child’s play. The book makes a convincing argument that as society has become more complex, play has also become more regulated and regimented with fewer opportunities for children to interact in a natural setting. This change has strong implications for a child’s normal, healthy development.
It has become commonplace in histories of computing to separate the uses of computers as calculating engines and thinking machines from their more widespread applications for communication, knowledge work, creativity, and information sharing. An eclectic group of computer-science pioneers working in the 1960s, including J. C. R. Licklider, Douglas Engelbart, Ted Nelson, Ivan Sutherland, and Alan Kay, has received credit for shifting the emphasis from computational power to human use. A persistent aspect of the use of computers since the 1970s— alongside efforts to increase, augment, and extend human productivity—has been entertainment, and more specifically, play.
The extended essay No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk Averse Society presents a coherent, well-documented description of the interacting forces (especially parents, schools, judges, recreation workers, regulators, and the media) that severely limit five- to eleven-year-old children in their development of confidence, agency, knowledge, and happiness. The essay considers children of the United Kingdom in particular but, by extension, children in the United States too. These encroachments of the adult world include excessive monitoring, placing of some experiences and spaces off limits, the loss of natural environments, and the reduction of recess and other free time. Tim Gill bases his argument on child development theory and research and on practical experience. He also notes that children in northern European countries (particularly Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and Germany) have more opportunities for play.
Some people believe that if the next generation is not, indeed, going to hell, it is on some kind of downward trajectory created by bad parenting. These days some of those expressing such opinions know how to write, how to organize their arguments, and how to present their facts, all in a way that makes the age-old complaint seem less sentimental and even, somehow, scientific. At least this is so of the authors of three recent books on, respectively, the culture of hyperparenting, invasive parenting, and parenting obsessed with raising star athletes. Let us consider all three books together because all three authors see the way so many parents raise children to satisfy their own egos as a growing worldwide problem.
Michelle Buchanan is Associate Professor of Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education at the University of Wyoming. She has more than thirty years of experience in these fields, and her research and teaching interests include development and facilitation of play in young children with special needs, inclusion and blended practices in early childhood, and parent and professional partnerships in research and education. Her coauthored articles have appeared in, among others, Public Health Nursing, Young Exceptional Children, and the Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education. Tricia Giovacco Johnson is Assistant Professor in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education at the University of Wyoming. Her research interests include equity, social justice, and inclusion in early childhood; early childhood special education; and teacher education. She has contributed to Childhood Education and presented papers on topics as diverse as participating in the implementation of change and constructing curriculum that reflects children’s participation in local culture.
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). Among his current research interests is change in the social organization of enjoyment in the last century.
Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr. is Professor of Teaching and Learning at the University of Miami. Author of numerous books—alone and in collaboration with others—his chief scholarly interest is education as a social and cultural phenomenon, with particular emphasis on the role of teachers in American society. He has also studied and written about the impact of computers and video games on children and education. Provenzo is general editor of the Encyclopedia of the Social and Cultural Foundations of Education and author, coauthor, or coeditor of Foundations of Educational Thought; Teaching Science in Elementary and Middle School: A Cognitive and Cultural Approach; Teaching, Learning, and Schooling: A 21st Century Perspective; and 100 Experiential Learning Activities for Social Studies, Literature, and the Arts, Grades 5–12.
Ditte Winther-Lindqvist is a graduate student in psychology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, where she is completing her doctoral thesis on children’s develop ment of social identity during transitions. She has made presentations on children’s identity at scholarly conferences in Canada and the Czech Republic, and she has a chapter on symbolic group play and social identity in Symbolic Transformations: The Mind in Movement through Culture and Society, a forthcoming volume in the series, Cultural Dynamics of Social Representation.