ERG SES C 10, Children and Education
Children’s play is an omnipresent activity in the human being an essential element of childhood growth and the most important and representative activity in children’s lives. Because of its importance, many efforts have been made to recognise this activity as a right in childhood. It was testified in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) as well as in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). Although most researchers point out the difficulty of conceptualising playful activity, it can be summarised into four essential aspects that define the children’s play: a) intrinsically motivated; b) voluntary, not instrumental, c) self-directed by children and d) imaginative and conducted in an alert active but relatively unstressed frame of mind (Gray, 2011; Veiga, Neto & Rieffe, 2016).
Through their playful experiences, children develop self-regulation, social skills and the abilities to manage day-to-day situations. Researchers and education professionals agree on the value of play as an individual and group factor in the construction of the identity of individuals and culture, as well as their human development and learning in its different dimensions. On the one hand, there are numerous developmental theories that have shown the value and benefits of play in all areas of child (Power, 2000, Pellegrinni, 2009, Whitebread, 2012;): physical, intellectual (Piaget, 1962), social (Vygostsky, 1978; Rowe, Salo & Rubin, 2018), emotional (Freud, 1962; Zych, Ortega-Ruiz & Sibaja, 2016) and creative (Burghardt, 2014; Bateson & Martin, 2013). On the other hand, children’s play implies a spontaneous and natural way of approaching to reality (Lancy, 2014) and, ultimately, a mode of socialisation with culture. In this sense, some authors point to the democratic value of the playful activity. In its democratic meaning, children’s play helps them to learn the respect of certain norms, to coordinate actions, to confront interests, contributing to build the basis of coexistence, and even an initiation into the values of a democratic life (Jover, Prieto and Sánchez-Serrano, 2017) and, at the same time, children are also invited to the exercise of imagining and creating multiple possibilities for democratic re-recreation (Camas, 2018).
In spite of its recognised importance as a human activity, the investigations warn about the decline of play referring to the progressive loss of spaces and times for free play in the lives of children in modern societies (Frost, 2012; Gray, 2011; Whitebread & Basilio, 2013).
The development of changemaker skills is essential to become an autonomous and responsible citizen, aware of social challenges, with confidence in their ability to positively transform the world where he or she lives. Considering the fundamental role of play in childhood and, given the critical situation in which it finds itself, the aim of this study is to analyse the role of children’s play to the development of skills that promote democratic culture associated with active social change. These four abilities - creativity, collaboration, empathy and problem-solving - promote to be an agent of change, or similarly, a person capability of generating systemic changes that solve large problems that we live with in a society. In particular, this contribution analyses the results of the dimension on creativity as an ability for social change and its relationship with the play scenarios.
This contribution presents some of the most relevant results of the study “The contribution of children's play to the development of skills for active social change" (Jover, Camas, Martín-Ondarza & Sánchez-Serrano, 2018) conducted by the Civic Culture and Educational Policy Research Group of the Complutense University of Madrid. After having established a niche of study and, in order to address the aforementioned aim of the study, two short semi-structured questionnaires were designed. The main proposal of these instruments were to explore the children's perception of their playful experience. On the one hand, one of the instruments collected data regarding to children’s voice of time, space and playmates while playing. On the other hand, in the second questionnaire, questions were asked regarding the skills associated with active social change: creativity, problem solving, collaboration and empathy. Due to the difficulties accessing the sample, the sampling procedure was incidental. A total of 1186 children between 3 and 12 years old from different points of the Spanish geography participated in the study. From the total number of children who participated in the study, 1080 participated in the first questionnaire while 100 children participated in the second one. This contribution explores children's view of the "play spaces" dimension, specifically, how this analysis dimension shapes or influences their perception of the play experience. One of the four abilities, creativity was the one examined for this analysis. Finally, the results of the exploration of these two dimensions were discussed.
While the case study date is still in a preliminary stage of analysis, it is expected to be an imbalance between indoor and outdoor participation play spaces. The most common areas of play are home (44.7%), followed by schools (35%) and parks and streets (18.3%). A greater leisure participation is observed in indoor spaces (75%) and less in outdoor spaces (18.3%). This trend in child-youth participation changes in favor of public and outdoor spaces when older ages are considered. Therefore, age turns out to be a key factor that could explain the change of experiences in the participation of play spaces. Although the trend changes with age, it has been observed that participation in indoor spaces is maintained. The children who have participated in the research have expressed the creative sense of the playful activity by having to decide what to play in an unstructured scenario. They propose mainly four forms of action: a) manipulative and with a transforming purpose, b) manipulative and without a transforming purpose, c) through the representation of symbolic play and d) through physical activities, sports or popular games. In short, the situation has been shown to provide children with various opportunities for the expression of the creative and transforming sense of children. This reveals the possibility of the create, imaginative and inventive sense that characterizes the children's play experience. Finally, the main conclusions are outlined and suggestions for future research are discussed. Some limitations are also presented, and future areas of research are proposed.
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