Anna Beresin

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:


Play is the language of childhood, a complex, social, and multimodal process. Definitions abound but are often found lacking. The selections here are introduced first by general classics, each a mini encyclopedia of play, followed by a section on philosophical antecedents that emphasize the multisided essence of play. Play is multimodal, multidisciplinary, and multifaceted, and so these introductory sections address play in a literature that goes beyond childhood study. The next categories are broken down by discipline and are increasingly focused on the play of childhood itself. Ethology, the study of animal behavior, comes first and addresses the commonalities we share in play with other mammals. Ethology can be considered the root discipline of play observation. The subcategory of animal and human play fighting, also known as rough-and-tumble play, emerges as its own mini section. Classics in the examination of play across time in the study of history come next. Psychology, with its psychodynamic and cognitive emphases, introduces the subcategory of play therapy. Although new attention is being paid to the significance of play in neurology and medicine, it is not addressed here. Sociology books that address play and its relationship to power are followed by books in the hybrid field of education, followed by a special subsection on Early Childhood education and play. The anthropological studies address play and culture more directly. These are distinct from the section on play and folklore, although there is much potential overlap. The folklore studies section emphasizes play genres and offers comparative collections of games, songs, and playful forms, Folklore Monographs, and studies of Children’s Verbal Art. The final sections address playthings, toys, and technology. Historically, the use of objects is a newer topic in the examination of play, as children now spend increasing amounts of their time with things rather than with face-to-face playmates. Video game play and play with computers are the latest arenas for research. They remind us of the basic paradox of play study—that it is both observable and hidden inside the heads of the players.

Article.  8660 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »