Play Culture in a Changing World

Kalliala, M (2006) Play Culture in a Changing World, Debating Play series, Open University Press, Maidenhead

This is part of Kalliala’s original research which emerged in English as “Angelprincess and Suicide on the Playgound Slide,” European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, Vol 10, No 1, 2002, reporting on a longer study. She uses the theoretical work of a number of writers to explore what might be behind the changes in children’s play, and to explore what enduring themes might emerge.

While some of her conclusions read as a little more judgemental than is perhaps customary (“There are bare breasts on the TV…” p132), in fact this is not the case throughout the book; Kalliala is aware of the ambiguities of play in the modern world, from the institutional/custodial vision of Early Childhood settings, in which children are allowed to flourish (she makes a good case in passing for the careful use of plant/garden/land imagery) to the inhibitions of parents involved in children’s play. “Children,” she remarks sadly, “have moved indoors from the outside.” (p134)

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Her interest in the work of Roger Caillois and his book Man, Play and Games helps her to run counter to the advocacy for play that many of us in Early Years teaching and teacher-training would see as axiomatic; she is therefore able to pose the awkward but criticvally important questions; her subtitle (p20) “Children don’t play in order to learn, although they learn while they are playing,” is a case in point. This makes her book an important stepping stone for students of Early Chidlhood working towards a greater criticality.

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