Children’s Play in the City: Participants needed!

Post by Kiera Kent

Kiera Kent

Kiera Kent

Currently, I am in the early stages of fieldwork. It has been fun getting to know families in Wollongong and talking about my study. I thought I would share on the AUSCCER blog a bit about my project and advertise to anyone who is interested in participating in the local area. Also, I would like to share some really great media coverage that I have had the last month!

Generally, my PhD research project is looking at play in the city. Play is often associated with children’s activities (Aitken, 2001; Skelton, 2009). Children are assumed to be playing outside of adults’ supervision and in their free time (Van der Burgt & Gustfson, 2013).  However, play is a term that has been socially and culturally constructed, and a term used by adults to understand what children are doing (Thomson & Philo, 2004). Through theorizing play, children’s geographers have tried to unravel social constructions of play, and to understand, from a children’s perspective, what exactly play means (Cloke & Jones, 2005).

Perhaps, if you have worked with children or have children of your own, you will notice that play can take many forms. For example, some children might be seen climbing a tree, creating a make-belief story, or quietly sitting and drawing in the sand. Play has different meanings depending on the child, the space where play occurs, and what the space affords for play. Play is not a straightforward term, and is very complex to define (Harker, 2005). This is due to the nature of play and how it is entangled into the everyday.

Play occurs in a variety of spaces and includes other people and other materials that also occupy the space (Harker, 2005; Rautio, 2013; Woodyer, 2012). For example, play takes place in designated “spaces for children” such as playgrounds, but play also occurs throughout city spaces. Play may occur on the sidewalk when walking to the shop, or in a puddle when it rains. Thinking about play spatially, as a fluid activity, extends the thinking around children’s play spaces as not just being confined to structured “spaces for children”, but as possibly occurring anywhere (Rasmussen, 2004).

Wollongong rock pool

Wollongong rock pool

For my study, I am thinking about play as a fluid activity and how it is not just confined to a playground. To understand the everyday nature of play, I am looking at two spaces, rock pools and playgrounds in Wollongong. I am also looking at the materials that are used in these spaces. It is often the small things that children find important for play, such as a really tall tree, a leaf on the pavement or a clump of seaweed on the sand. Although these may seem insignificant from an adult’s perspective, they shape children’s play and are important to how children interact with the space around them and other people who occupy the space. I am hoping to better understand how children play with these everyday mundane materials and how it shapes their play experiences. This is in the hope to contribute to city planning and design with children in mind, and to challenge how children’s play in the city is conceptualized.

I was asked to chat on ABC Illawarra briefly last month, and here I talk about what I hope to achieve from this research.

Also, in last week’s Illawarra Mercury, you may have spotted my research on the front page! The full article is available ‘University of Wollongong PhD student looking for rockpools, playgrounds and families who like to use them‘ along with a previous article ‘UOW researcher’s focus is simply child’s play‘.

Kiera Kent's work featured on the Illawarra Mercury's front page!

Kiera Kent’s work featured on the Illawarra Mercury’s front page!

If your child or children play in Wollongong’s rock pools, researchers at the University of Wollongong would like to hear from you.

There are three parts to my study. First, families will be invited to take part in an initial interview about their play experiences in Wollongong. The initial interview with parents will go for approximately 45 minutes and will cover themes such as: your play experiences as a child; your family’s play outings; and your child/ren’s play practices. Children will also be asked to draw playing in rock pools and draw playing in playgrounds. They will then be asked to chat about what they drew. This will last 15-30 minutes.

In the second part of the study, families will show me a rock pool and playground that they often go to.

Lastly, families will be asked to reflect on these go-along trips. This will provide an opportunity to talk further about their family’s play experiences in Wollongong. This follow up interview will last approx. 30-60 minutes.

If you would like to take part, please contact Kiera Kent for more information:

Email:                                                                                     Phone: 61 4 7758 7362                                                                                                       Mail: Department of Geography and Sustainable Communities                                   Faculty of Social Sciences                                                                                       University of Wollongong                                                                                              Wollongong, NSW, 2522

A profile on Kiera Kent and her work can be found in the AUSCCER blog post Meet Kiera Kent. You can also follow Kiera on Twitter @KieraKent.


Reference List

Aitken, S.  (2001).  Geographies of young people: The morally contested spaces of identity. T. Skelton & G. Valentine (Eds. ). London, UK: Routledge.

Cloke, P., & Jones, O.  (2005).  ‘Unclaimed territory’: childhood and disordered space(s). Social & Cultural Geography, 6, 311-333. doi: 10.1080/14649360500111154

Harker, C.  (2005).  Playing and affective time-spaces.  Children’s Geographies, 3, 47-62. doi: 10.1080/14733280500037182

Rasmussen, K.  (2004).  Places for children-Children’s places.  Childhood, 11, 155-173. doi: 10.1177/0907568204043053

Rautio, P.  (2013).  Children who carry stones in their pockets: On autotelic material practices in everyday life.  Children’s Geographies, 11, 394-408. Doi: 10.1080/14733285.2013.812278

Skelton, T.  (2009).  Children’s Geographies/Geographies of Children: Play, Work, Mobilities and Migration.  Geography Compass, 3, 1430-1448.  doi: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2009.00240.x

Thomson, J. L.  & Philo, C.  (2004).  Playful spaces? A social geography of children’s play in Livingston, Scotland.  Children’s Geographies, 2, 111-130. doi:10.1080/1473328032000168804

Van der Burgt, D., & Gustafson, K.  (2013).  “Doing Time” and “Creating Space”: A case study of outdoor play and institutionalized leisure in an urban family.  Children, Youth and Environments, 23, 24-42.  doi: 10.7721/chilyoutenvi.23.3.0024 .

Woodyer, T.  (2012).  Ludic geographies: Not merely child’s play.  Geography Compass, 6, 313-326.  doi: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.0047

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