Play in Developmental and Cultural Context

Intermediate—Spring

“For many years the conviction has grown upon me that civilization arises and unfolds in and as play.” —Huizinga, Homo Ludens

Many adults look back fondly on their memories of childhood play and the rich imaginary worlds created. Yet, play in our current sociopolitical climate is threatened by the many demands of our over-regimented lives and standardized goals of education. In this course, we will look closely at the amazing complexity of those playworlds and at the many aspects of children’s experiences through play. Observing and reading about play offer the opportunity to understand children’s thinking, communicating, problem solving, nascent storytelling, and emotional and imaginative lives. We will also consider the variations in play within different family and cultural contexts, as well as play’s relationship to scientific and aesthetic activities of adult life. Other topics will include therapeutic uses of play, importance of play for early literacy, and the current efforts underway to train “playworkers” to guide play in new adventure playgrounds. Students will be encouraged to choose a context in which to observe and/or participate in play either at our Early Childhood Center or in other settings with children or adults. Previous course work in psychology is required.