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12th Conference of the European Sociological

Association 2015, 25.8-28.8

(Prague, Czech Republic)

hildren's Play Activity through the

of Sociological Imagination

Author - Maria Sibireva, PhD in Sociology

In this paper, based on the oral presentation at the 12th Conference of the European

Sociological Association 2015, 25.8-28.8 (Prague, Czech Republic), I argue the childrens

play activity can be considered through the paradigm of sociological imagination. This fact

gives us the opportunity to understand the sociological significance of childrens play because

this activity of children is the route into understanding the complex relationship between

everyday lives of children and a broad sociocultural context. A simple play or a structured

game with rules is closely tied to historical circumstances, contains a power relationship and

the preparation of the child for the future life. At the same time, the childrens play is

produced by children. The play activity has a lot of variations, which throw light on the

behaviour and the aspirations of children. These facts give us an opportunity to understand,

what we can expect from the modern children. The methods of the research include visually

narratives approach, the analysis of art and historical literature.


The play of child is the key element of his/her development and socialisation process.

Play is the activity of children which is directed at the knowledge of the social and physical
world. Play is also the way of learning.

During the following analysis, I will address to a free, spontaneous play with toys, objects,

etc., and also to the games with rules [1].

The psychological, physiological, medicine researches and explorations have been carried out

on childrens play, but we have not enough researches of this sphere of childrens life in

sociology. I can mention at least three interconnected reasons, why this situation exists. First

of all, it is a long presence of children in a silent group, when they have not been allowed to

speak for themselves, or they have been marginalised (James and Prout, 1997; Wyness, 2006;

Corsaro, 2011). Secondly, it is the rationalism of sociology: both in traditional, and in

modernistic directions, the sociology is constructed on the rationality of those who are the

objects of its studies (Weber, 1990), and children (because of their age and social status) were

often excluded from this science. And the third reason is the difficulty of the definition of

childrens play. Even in linguistics the word play is described by joy, fun, and

irresponsibility. In such cases play does not get any sense, aim, and value. Except it, we

often read about the concept of a western childhood, when the main characteristics of

children are the dependence and the obligation to be happy (Wyness, 2006: 9-11).

Childhood, children, play are associated with the freedom, the imagination, the chaos and the

absence of duties, i.e., if to speak briefly, with the happiness. This happiness puts the

question about the significance of childrens play.

It is impossible to avoid the philosophical concepts of play analysing the play of the child. But

if we address to philosophy, we will read about adult characteristics of play: we play in

our families; we play in political, religious and the other aspects of life. The whole culture

is a big play (Huizinga, 1955). And there is again no place for the child and his or her play.

Sociology of childhood and the new vision of the child inside this science try to overcome

these difficulties. Giving the child a voice is a good way to understand different aspects of

childrens life. Children explain their understanding of play and help us to figure out, why

play is serious and we must study it in sociology. Moreover, the data collected from children

(Sibireva, 2014) pushes the further exploration of sociohistoric circumstances in which play

and games exist.

Research Methods

During the research of childrens play activity through the paradigm of sociological

imagination the following methods were used:

the analysis of literature and art;

the reviews of biographies;

the method of participant observation;

the visually narrative approach, when the authors of the drawings, photos, videos, etc. make

comments to them, and there is a necessity to combine the visualisation and narratives of the

respondents. I used the drawings of children, the photos and the interviews to them, which

were received during my researches, and also my pictures and comments of children to them

(Sibireva, 2014).

The Significance of Childrens Play and Sociological Imagination

The play of even very young children is not a waste of time; it is not a luxury. The childrens

play can give us a lot of information about values, aspirations, hopes, habits, and problems of

the society. The theory of sociological imagination helps to prove these statements. This

theory assumes that there is an intersection of the own lives of people (their biographies) and

a sociohistorical context.

We have come to know that every individual lives, from one generation to the next, in some

society; that he lives out a biography, and that he lives it out within some historical sequence.

By the fact of his living he contributes, however minutely, to the shaping of this society and to

the course of its history, even as he is made by society and by its historical push and shove

(Wright Mills, 1959: 3 ).

An individual is being raised by the society and the history since the childhood. It is

impossible to avoid children in the analyses of the biographies of people because in the

nurseries the future of the society, the country and, maybe, the whole world history is being

created. Play is a part of biography and life of an almost every child. This circumstance

allows us to include this childrens activity in the sociological analyses.

Nowadays there is a sharp necessity to study a developing individual in a developing world.

Children have stopped to be only the objects of socialisation; they are becoming the active

social agents during this process, and nowadays this reality is recognising.

So, during the consideration of childrens play, I will take into account the following points.

The first point is the childrens play has a social nature. Its occurrence is connected with the

certain social conditions of the life of a child in society (Elkonin, 1978). Some authors

(Pokrovsky, 1895) argue it is not surprising that the characters of the whole nations affect

children's play and games sharply and distinctly because the children prefer to play with a

great enthusiasm and a great freedom. Simultaneously, the characters of the whole nations can

be described owing to the current types of play and games. These types of play and games

make us expect specific reactions and, hence, consider opposite reactions rough or dishonest.

Certainly, the contrast between games of two nations is not the most reliable explanation of

conflicts between them, but it can become their powerful illustration (Caillois,

2001). Margaret Mead (1928: 230) described a case happened in Samoa, which illustrates the

differences in the perception of play:

I had a box of white clay pipes for blowing soap bubbles [] But after a few minutes delight

of the unusual size and beauty of the soap bubbles, one little girl after another asked me if she

might please take her pipe home to her mother, for pipes were meant to smoke, not to play

with. Foreign dolls did not interest them [] They never make toy houses, no play house []

Little boys would climb into a real outrigger canoe and practice paddling it within the safety

of the lagoon. []

The second point is the childrens play is deeply interconnected with the nearest social

environment a play context (Unesco, 1980: 10-11).

As I understand, "play context" includes the place for play, the time for play, the toys for play,


The play context varies from culture to culture, from one historical time to another, from one

family to another. The definition of the play context is a difficult task. On the one hand,

there are places and times, which do not provoke play, but, at the same time, the children can
use any opportunity to play during wars, disasters, illnesses, situations, which seem

impossible for it. I want to share the situation from a real practice, which happened during the

civil war and the revolution in Russia.

In the composition written by a Russian girl Mury Korgan who was the pupil in the English

school for Russian girls (Proti Island, Turkey), the immigration from the native country, the

death of the father, etc. are not in the centre of the plot. In the heart of her memoirs is the

wonderful story about the doll, presented to her by English philanthropists because she was

the best pupil of the school. She described this doll, having made this toy the main hero of her

story, in spite of the difficulties with which her family has met (Salnikova, 2007: 115).

The third point is the play of children may exist without external attributes, but it does not

mean the absence of imagination, play, and creativity: the battles, the stories, the poems, the

new images can exist only in the fantasies of the child. The children are the best informants in

such cases:

The boy is walking. It seems that absolutely nothing is interesting for him. When I asked what

has happened, he answered: Do not interfere with my thoughts, please! I imagine what I will

build of cubes when I come home. And some minutes later the fascinating play and the star

wars with toys were possible to observe (Sibireva, 2015).

So, the focus on the childrens play is a window on everyday lives of children.

According to the tradition of sociological imagination, I argue that the existing trends of the

development of society (including social, economic, political, fashion, art, educational

tendencies, etc.) "define" play trajectories of children. Every child may follow these trends or

revolt against them. This micro level of childrens play can be transformed into a bigger

story about historical facts, changes in the attitudes toward children, the social history of play.

This transformation can be done according to the following abilities of sociological

imagination (Sztompka, 2004): to understand deep, hidden resources and constraints that

influence social life; to recognise the continuing influence of the past on the present; to see all

social phenomena as produced by some social agents; to recognise the diversity of the forms

in which social life may appear; to perceive social life as the process of social becoming.

The Influence of Deep, Hidden Resources and Constraints on Childrens Play

The Influence of the Past on the Present Play Activity of Children

To conduct researches, devoted to the play activity, is both interesting and challenging task

because you try to perceive the elements of an invisible social structure' (Komarovsky, cited

by Sztompka, 2004: 256), which are interconnected with this activity.

I want to emphasise the central element (both resource and constraint), which, according to

my opinion, defines the consideration of children's play activity. It is the prevailing attitude

toward children. The prevailing attitude, which exists in society, is one of the main factors of

the influence on the perception of any activity of children. But the following allocation: 1.the

absence of childhood, 2. the children as the problems, 3.the reproductive approach to the

childhood, 4.children as active social actors, - is relative because may exist in different

societies and historical times (Sibireva, 2015). Moreover, I will include in the analyses some

conceptions of socialisation which can help to study the children's play activity from the point

of view of sociology.

First of all, I need to remind that the childhood was not an independent category for a long

time. According to the Philippe Aries's conception (1962), the child was considered as a small

adult, and the analyses of the different components of a sociocultural reality proved this fact.

In the pictures, the represented children were similar to the small men and women' because

their images contained the reduced proportions of the bodies of the adult persons.

Psychological development of the child was also represented from this point of view: the

process of growing was considered as the quantitative increase of the qualities which were

typical for the child from the birth. Thus, the children's play was something which did not

require attention; even the term play' had different meanings.

The famous pictures used now as the examples of the various forms of play and games can

give some information.

In the picture of Pieter Bruegel "Children's games" (1560), there are 84 traditional national

games in the city. However, the figures of people look like children only in their sizes. The

central question is: "Do these games mean only games in a classical (common) sense?" The
interpretations which I have met more often than the others are: the games in this picture

have the meaning of the senselessness of a human life; the chosen plot is the comparison with

the play of the God'.

Combining depictions of games and toys with mottos and texts that moralise about the

behaviour of young and old alike, Dutch emblem books appear to offer a key to understanding

the deeper meaning behind images of play. Individual games found in emblem books such as

Jacob Cats's Silenus Alcibiabes (1618) and Pieter Roemer Visscher's Sinnepoppen (1614)

have been matched with comparable motifs in Children's Games, with damning results: the

boy blowing a bubble in the left foreground has been read as a vanitas symbol of the

transience of life, while the games with hoops in the right foreground have been seen as

representative of the futility of life's endeavor (Orrock, 2012).

Certainly, there is a criticism of the Philippe Aries's conception. But if I addressed to the

traditional societies (the differences between adults and children are being levelled too), I

would describe the play and games as the vestiges of ritual and as the final stages in the

process of decaying social institutions' (Swede Yrjo Hirn, cited by Unesco: 8).

All attributes of play, like toys, some actions, some repetitions, etc. are associated with the

social institute of ritual.

According to my opinion, despite the fact of the long absence of childhood as the independent

category, it is impossible to separate play and games from the children cardinally. Children as

beings' are always present in every society.

In their play and games, the children keep the traditions, which adults have forgotten (Aries,


The "sacral" elements (like in rituals) have remained in the modern games, the descriptions of

which you will see below.

The protection components (corresponding words, the using of circles and the other actions to

hide from the opponent, etc.), which are typical for the children's games such as tags, hide-

and-seek, etc. are similar to the adult's activities which were used in the rituals to avoid the

meeting with an evil spirit'.

When the children play the game Zombies' (one of the children is Zombie, others must
prevent the meeting with this Zombie-child'), they interpret and reproduce one of the forms of

the game a blind man's buff', the main sense of which is to avoid the meeting with the blind

man', who means the death or the mystical sphere ("the dead person is searching the alive",

"the blind man is searching the person who can see"). In the game Zombie the children also

want to hide from the dead', to avoid "infection" and the meeting with the mystical world.

These examples can prove the fact the games have an exclusive stability (Caillois, 2001):

when empires and social institutes are disappearing, the games are remaining. Even in the

modern games, it is impossible to avoid the echo of the past'.

When the existence of childhood and children is recognised, unfortunately, children are

sometimes considered as the problems. The corresponding social and historical circumstances

cause the anxiety and the fear of the future generation. For example, during the domination of

puritan moral, it was considered that there is a necessity to battle' with children to socialise

them correctly (to expel the devil essence' from them). I suppose the play activity of children

was always difficult for the control. Because of it, play was condemned and forbidden.

But the desire to supervise the child was typical for people not only several centuries ago. The

conception of a methodical socialisation' developed by Durkheim (cited by Filloux, 1993),

the functionalism of Parsons (1951) (which had the greatest popularity in 1950s, in 1960s)

had the similar idea: an asocial' child is full of primitive instincts, he or she is a dangerous

force inside the society. Since the children threatened' the order of the society, socialisation

was considered as the turning of the individual beings into the social beings, and the right

direction of this process provided the survival of society'. Different historical circumstances

(migrations, revolutions, and after war periods, etc.) resulted in the corresponding

consideration of children's play: playgrounds, kindergartens were the places to control

children, to institutionalise all their life, because the society is afraid of the future events, the

main participants of which the children will be.

But did children want to follow all existing rules? "The days of disobedience", which are well

known from the history, the wishes to play not only in the yards and on playgrounds are the

real cases of the infringements of adult instructions by the children.

Modern adults do not refuse from the fear of children and their play completely either.
Nowadays, the fear of children's play and games is explained by the computer and video

games and the Internet. Some sociologists suggest the concept of a dangerous child

(Wyness, 2006: 81) because when children use technologies, they can learn too much about

violence, wars, economy, political problems, destroying borders between adulthood and


The child is visible partly during his/her computer game, and there is a big invisible part of

the participation of the child in these games: what does the child think when he/she is

involved in the shooting game, what does the child feel during the moments of violence? To

answer these questions, we must take into account, that the child can continue or destroy the

plot of a computer game in his/her real play.

One more system of the attitudes toward children, which exists in different societies, in

different historical times, is the reproductive theory of socialisation. Socialisation here is the

process of repetitive reproduction of the particular members of society, the mechanism of

management of a class inequality. Different families, children, etc. have access to various

resources, to the support of the different social institutes, according to the prevailing class

system. Play, games and toys also participate in the reproductive process. Various conditions,

in which play exists, show to what resources the children have access. Good children's

playgrounds are not provided in all districts of cities; not all children have an opportunity to

visit the shopping centres or safe parks. The same facts concern toys: some children have a lot

of dolls, toy automobiles, etc., while others make all toys from the improvised materials.

Let's consider the several historical and modern examples.

Example 1. The main aim of the pedagogy of John Locke (1968) was to bring up a gentleman

and a businessman' who is useful to society. He recommended avoiding telling the children

the stories about ghosts and goblins. According to the researchers, the given interdiction

pursued specific purposes: Locke concerned that supernatural tales were the province of

servants and the poor, and one of his main aims was to remove the children of the middle and

upper classes from the influence of their social inferiors' (Grenby).

Exanple 2. For a long time in Russia, the game gorodki' (townlets) was considered as the
game for the lowest classes. In the engravings of the 19th century, the players are represented

as the muzhiks' - people of the lower class. But in the USSR the attitude to this game

changed: gorodki (townlets) became a proletarian game and oppositional to the "bourgeois"

games, such as billiard or golf (The Moscow Regional Federation of Townlets Sport).

Example 3. One of the examples of the attempt to transform the reproductive approach into

life is a doll Barbie.

To stop buying accessories for Barbie is impossible: it is necessary to get them because she

must have the house of dream, the prestigious car, the swimming pool, etc. The life of this

doll is an infinite summer vacation and travel, free from school, family and financial

problems (Cox, 1977). The offered image of the doll Barbie comprises certain components of

a "magnificent" life, which includes the elements of a social stratification. There is

somewhere a beautiful life, which the child has never seen, but can dream of it, because

Barbie is the princess, the rich girl, with the ponies, with the sports equipment, etc. However,

it is necessary to remember, that children can transform the rich image of the doll into the

poor Cinderella, the engineer, the housewife, the mother of a big family with a lot of children.

So, is it possible to accept the reproductive approach completely? Probably, no: the children

can resist to this approach by deviations, hobbies, etc. However, to refuse it is impossible:

play and games, even partially, reproduce the future of the children playing them.

In the frameworks of the reproductive approach, there is an opportunity to observe the

constant influence of the past on the present and future.

Games pass from father to son. Game originates in the past and game is directed to the

future. At the transition from one generation to another, games can change or lose the

intensity. However, there is a tendency to marry the people playing the same games or, at

least, related games (Bern, 1964).

During some centuries in the different cultures, the play and games were the significant part

of the adult culture too. The history of holidays and traditions, some works of art show us that

adults and children played together a lot of games, and unfortunately, this tradition is

gradually disappearing in a modern society. The results of the conducted researches proved

this assumption (Sibireva, 2014). It is important to mention this fact, because through games
children join the life of adults, satisfying own needs of the participation in this life.

Summing up the said above, I can conclude play is produced by children and they are active

social actors: children can keep the traditions, they can create new games, children can revolt

against existing trends. We must consider playing as the activity which requires respect,

exploration and support.

Play as the Product of Children and the Diversity of the Forms in Which Play May


The consideration of play as only the way to receive pleasure is inaccurate for different

reasons. In the childrens play there is an opportunity to observe:

1. the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1935, 1966, 1977);

2. the reproduction of a social world;

3. the self-organisation of children;

4.power relationships.

1.According to the conception of Vygotsky (1935, 1966, 1977), the zone of proximal

development can be visible in childrens play very well. While the child is playing alone or

with friends, he/she is trying to pose problems, which decisions are more difficult than the

decisions of problems, with which child meets in everyday life.

For example, a little boy is learning to talk, but he does not want to do it during the serious

conversations with adults. Only when the favourite toy is appearing, he is trying to talk to

this toy, answering not only simple questions about his name and age but constructing a

dialogue about the place of living, interests, favourite games.

A second situation, which is familiar to a lot of adults, is the process of writing a letter to

Santa-Claus. The child is adding to the picture of a desirable gift the description of the

situation and the toy, the words of gratefulness.

2. During play, the child is constructing and reproducing the surrounding world, satisfying
the emotional, psychological and social needs.

For example, I was the participant of the game, when a boy tried to understand the behaviour

of girls in the situation of the first meeting: I played with dolls (I imitated the girls), and the

boy wanted to understand what he must expect from the opposite gender, what he must do, in

the case of a joint play.

The construction of own places using improvised materials also demonstrates the wishes of

children to understand some parts of an adult world such as a family life, the functions of

households, the plots of favourite movies and fairy tales.

3. Childrens play is free in its expression and has not an obligatory set of rules, whether it is

the play with dolls, automobiles, etc. At the same time, the children are self-organised in a

free unstructured play: even the imaginative situation of play comprises the requirements to

the individual behaviour in spite of the fact that the given situation does not demand the

formulated installations.

For example, while playing with dolls, the child is imagining him/herself mother or father

(the toy is becoming a child) and he/she is following the trajectories of parental behaviour.

So, during free play, all children are active social actors who produce this form of social


Girl, 5 years old: Girl and boy are swinging. Their names are Kirill and Dasha. There is a
nest: a bird-Mum has remained to incubate eggs, a bird-Daddy has flown away

Boy, 6 years old: The birds are sitting in the tree. Children are playing Twister [] This is
a playground, it is possible to look at a flower, to slide down the slide [] [2]

But if we talk about games with rules (chess, cards, football, hide-and-seek, etc.), we must

understand that every game with rules contains an imaginary situation in a concealed or a

non-concealed form.

A small toy is playing a famous game Monopoly.

4. Play activity of children is one of the "languages" of children - one of the ways of the

communication of children with world. The repeating conflicts, the chosen habits and

characters of toys, can give some information about the lives of children. Power

relationships in play are very informative in such cases.

First of all, external restrictions establish the power relationships in play and games: gender

stereotypes, age frameworks, etc. define the status of children's play and games.

Historically some competitive games (and also antagonistic - with the using of force) were

more associated with men and boys than with women and girls because the space of play and

games was connected with risk and mysticism and it was not a female' business (Sleptsova,

Morozov, 2001).

Age restrictions existed too. These recommendations were sometimes very strict: for example,

football was allowed at the age of 17 18 years old, because the child has not enough

preparation for this game until the recommended age (Philitis, 1927).

According to the results of the conducted researches, the association of some games with the

gender and the age are also typical for the modern children. Rollers, skateboarding, hockey,

football are attributes of adulthood for small children because only at the certain age these

games will be permitted by parents, and children will play these games. Besides,

skateboarding is the attribute of masculinity for boys.

But it is necessary to make a remark nowadays some girls don't lag behind in these games

and break all stereotypes and ideas of gender inequality.

Secondly, power relationships of play have internal characteristics.

This circumstance is reflected in the children's folklore when using simple word

manipulations the boys and the girls try to show that they are strong in verbal expressions, to

protect themselves from the opponents.

To some extent this component of play is a part of the social institute, which helps children to

satisfy the desire to try their hand, to learn the limits at the relationships between people. The

conflict is a permanent element of a sociality and a life in the children's world, one of its

brightest features: breaking the rules and adult instructions, kids check a degree of their

autonomy and establish the rules among peers (Corsaro, 2011).

This statement is characteristic for the sociodramatic role play too, when children, imitating

the behaviour of adults, receive force (Corsaro, 2012).

It is also typical for such obligatory element of children's play as the doll. The doll shows the

ideas of authority, manipulation, social constructivism (Morozov, 2011); this subject is the

source of fears and the tool of their overcoming. The child can identify him/herself with the

doll, or he or she can destroy the toy, punish it, and show the authority.

Some games with rules comprise the power relationships. For example, the dodge-ball is a

straight way to find out who is stronger and who is more courageous. But this harmless game

may sometimes be considered as a real conflict between weak' and strong' children, the

transformation of the conflict from a real life in a play life when there is a necessity to prove,

that you are better than the friend or the enemy.

So, power relationships are deeply interconnected with the social context, include the

relationships with adults, peers, and a broad sociohistorical context. They demand our


Thus, the play activity of children has subjective and objective characteristics. In play,

children are active agents, who influence an existing social reality both in the imagination and
in real life. This conclusion allows assuming that play activity can exist in the diversity of

forms and contain this diversity.

The Process of Play as the Process of Social Becoming

We often meet with the assumptions that play is defined by freedom; play is not connected

with a social reality; play is irrational and play exists in the limited time and space. But if we

recollect some forms of play we will deny the isolation of play in the social world.

A lot of scientists tried to explain the meaning of play as the atavism. But according to the

theory of William Stern (cited by Vygotsky, 1984), play can be understood through its

connection not only with the past but with the future. Play is the preparation for the future life,

this activity is interconnected with the process of social becoming.

Let's consider several examples, which illustrate how play and games are changing according

to the change of a social context and a social inquiry.

1. Hopscotch is one of the games most recognisable by children (Sibireva, 2014). In a modern

world (especially in big cities where there are a lot of asphalt roads) hopscotch does not

demand anything except a chalk.

But the hopscotch had a lot of meanings during its existence.

One of the meanings is connected with religion.

According to the literature (Caillois, 2001; Chech, 2003), for a long time the hopscotch had a

specific meaning of the travel of a soul' the soul (in the classic interpretation it is a small

stone) had to reach the paradise' (the last square of the drawn hopscotch). It is interesting

that in Italian versions of the game the last three squares were called, with a bow in the

direction of the Italian national poet, Dante: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso' (Chech,


I assume we can notice the analogies with the described interpretation in the modern version

of this game: the child must allow the friend to play if the stone has not fallen in the

corresponding square or the jumps have been outside the drawn squares. The main sense of

these instructions is that you must not break the rules; otherwise, the game will stop for you.

The other meaning is connected with the preparation of the healthy men, who will be able to
participate in the wars.

Some researches claim that the hopscotch has been invented by the Romans, to train their

army. The soldiers should hop through the courses, which would be 100 feet in length, in full

armour to build their endurance and keep them fit (Play and Playground Encyclopedia).

This game appeared in Russia during the 19th century. It was also the game of boys. In the

description of this game, we can find that the games with jumps like hopscotch were strongly

recommended because these games helped to develop physical forces and muscles

(Pokrovsky, 1895). This game was also popular during the 20th century, but after the Second

World War, this game was more associated with girls.

In the modernity, there is also a modification of this game, which is used by some mathematic


It may be the preparation for the future life because we live in the conditions of the

economics of knowledge.
Due to the hopscotch, we can see some training of children through play for the social reality:

when hopscotch was associated with religion, even the form of this game has changed

according to the schemes of the cathedrals (Callois, 2001); and this game had a corresponding


when there were a lot of wars, the hopscotch and the other games with jumps were considered

as the training of muscles, physical forces, endurance. And during the after war periods this

game was becoming female because the spirit of militarism was disappearing;

when there is an information war, the ability to solve tasks is being appreciated.

2. Children's games with songs and dances also have their history. During several centuries

they were 'natural', because children spent a lot of time with adults (women), even if they

worked. Adults accompanied their actions by the singing (the work was connected with the

sewing, knitting, etc.) because it helped to support physical health. Pleasure and the

monotony of life and labour were the prevailing motives owing to which songs were the

satellites of many children's games (Pokrovsky, 1895). Such games with songs and dances

helped not only to support physical health but to establish the deep interconnection between


A social context has changed. Such type of games is not popular now (Sibireva, 2014).

Firstly, singing and dancing are being professionalised. The society inquires professionals in

these spheres, even if these professionals are young children. Secondly, it is easy to track the

trend of individualisation in the modern world. According to the results of the participant

observation, children have very few uniting collective games.

Scientific researches, architectural explorations are directed on the searches of an optimum

place and the best materials for the play of preschool children and teenagers. But the practice

shows that a playground equipped with a swing, small houses, turnstiles, etc. does not contain

all components which are necessary for the useful and pleasant pastime of the child.

Unfortunately, we often meet with a sad reality: there are no children on a good children's

playground. Children can explain this fact: There are no friends here, "Boringly", and

There is no sense to play. The main factors inducing children to play on a playground are

the communications and the presence of children's collective. But according to my research,

in the pictures of children and their interviews, there is a catastrophically small percent of

friends and peers (only 9 %). Peers and friends are crucial agents of socialisation of each

child, whose influence on the child is not less than the influence of the significant adults

(Sibireva, 2016).

The considered examples of games give us an opportunity to analyse the inquiry of

society because the change and the disappearance of games are connected with the social
circumstances. And, certainly, it is impossible to avoid in this analysis the technologies and

their role in children's play and games, since technologies are the agents of socialisation of

modern children.

Certainly, the adults play a significant role in the choice of the children of concrete games, but

the children play an active role when engaging with technology, and they do it in their way

(Elvstrand, Hellberg, Hallstrom, 2012).

There is an important fact in my research, the most of the respondents could define the boy

who is playing computer games in the picture; they also mentioned the titles of computer

games. It is not surprising because the person, who can use a computer, is demanded in the

modern world. But an alive play (outdoor, mainly) has more value for the children of young

age (Sibireva, 2014).

The play and games with the preparation of the children for the future life help us to

understand what we can expect from the children. The new play and games, the disappearing

play and games are deeply interconnected with the process of a social becoming, provoke us

to think about the tendencies in the development of the generation of children, reveal existing

problems and think out new decisions of these difficulties.


Summing up the said above, it is necessary to make the following concluding observations.

When we try to learn play as the main part of socialisation process of children from the point

of view of sociological imagination, we can see play as a 'mirror' of our adult world.

The theoretical approach and the examples I use above can be taken as the starting point to

understand how to combine everyday lives of children and a sociocultural context. Tracking

play of children sociologically is a method of linking the personal life and the social life, the

personal life and the historical context.

Children are active social agents during play. They can keep the traditions; they can revolt

against existing trends. A power relationship inside childrens play and games, some games

with the preparation of the child for the future life help us to understand what we can expect

from the modern children.

Childrens play and games may be seen as a key to unlock invisible mechanisms of the
essence of the concrete part of the social life.


1. It is typically and correctly to differentiate the terms play and games. Play is a free

activity; games have rules and structure. But play and game are terms which are

closely interconnected because when children play imaginative or fantasy play, they

think out norms and children also act within some imaginary situations in rule-

governed games (Vygotsky, 1966). In a spontaneous play or a strict game with rules,

children have aims, learn and cope with difficulties.

2. More pictures and interviews are available at :




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