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Who said playground games were dead? Recent research has discovered that clapping, singing and boisterous playground games are very much alive – but with a modern twist.

Children are adapting their experience of modern technology for use in their school playgrounds at the same time as incorporating today’s “culture” and “famous” figures into simple, energetic games such as “tag” and “chase”.

Professor Jackie Marsh, a researcher into childhood at the University of Sheffield, said: “A lot of people talk about the demise of play but our project has found out that is just not true.” Many of the observed games and activities involved characters out of virtual games and computer scenarios – some used combat activities incorporating imaginative weaponry.

“A fascinating insight into the world of the playground as seen by the children themselves”

The study’s findings – Children’s Playground Games and Songs in the New Media – were unveiled recently by the former children’s laureate, Michael Rosen, accompanied by a documentary film, “Ipi-dipi-dation: My Generation”, produced by Grethe Mitchell of the University of East London, and a British Library website that chronicles a century of rhymes and games from children. A segment of the research was based at the British Library where existing archive material has been analysed and digitised from old analogue data including fascinating audio work recorded in the 1970s by Peter and Iona Opie. There is also film footage of children’s playground activity from the beginning of the last century.

This latest study, which is co-researched by the Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth as well as the Nintendo organisation, shows that pretend play still flourishes.

Andrew Burn, the project leader, from the Institute of Education, said: “Children have always enjoyed enacting home/school life scenarios as well as fantasy stories involving witches, zombies, princesses, warriors and other figures.” Far from copying and aping what they see on television, children use their inventiveness and creativity to come up with new interactions.

But for those of us who remember games like Hopscotch, Marbles and French Skipping, the study found a decline in the old games. The imaginative world of Dr Who’s Tardis has opened up new improvisational play and “battles” to save the world. “Children have always engaged in play fighting as a way of understanding violence . . . many researchers see rough and tumble play as a key part of children’s development,” said Marsh.

Professor Marsh also noted that: “The increasingly complex worlds of information and technology . . . are crucially important for a child’s social, emotional and cultural development. The playground provides a space for children to engage with how their culture is changing in a digital age.”

Useful links

British Library interactive website for educators, parents and children:

Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth:

Report on Children’s Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age: index.php

Childhoods Today Journal:

“The playground provides a space for children to engage with how their culture is changing in a digital age”

IN BRIEF Teacher’s Pet

As reported in the Daily Mail, a school has taken the idea of “teacher’s pet” to a new level – by getting its own chocolate labrador called Oscar. The dog was brought in to Cantell Maths and Computing College to help with some pupils’ behavioural problems and the school has seen student misbehaviour cut by 40%.

The rescue dog is part of the school’s restorative approaches policy for pupils who cause trouble in class or have fallen out with friends. Oscar spends every day in the school’s RA base, a secluded classroom where pupils can continue their work or talk to staff. He plays with the children, sits while they read to him or they can just sit and stroke him. Said one Year 7 pupil: “All the times I’ve been upset he’s come over to me to cheer me up.”

Phonics Test

Six year-olds will be subjected to a reading test, despite opposition from teachers, reports The Telegraph. The test will include a number of made-up words to ensure pupils can decode unfamiliar words using phonics – the system that breaks down words into individual sounds. Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the plan is unnecessary and risks narrowing the curriculum.

Eds Up trademark is under registration. All of the articles, photographs and images in this edition are covered by copyright and cannot be reproduced without the express permission of the editor. Eds Up wishes to point out that the views expressed in any commissioned article may not be the views of the editor or the editorial board. A complete list of sources and publications referred to in Eds Up is available on our website: Eds Up is published 5 times a year.


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