New research by the Institute of Education, the University of East London and the University of Sheffield as well as a ground-breaking website from the British Library and a documentary film all show that, rather than dying out, children’s play is in robust health. It is simply changing and adapting to today’s society: The researcher’s findings counteract the belief that the media is destroying the imaginative play of children. By observing play over two years in playgrounds in Sheffield and London, researchers have found that games consoles, pop music and television actually enrich children’s pretend play, adding topical themes to fantasy scenarios as youngsters incorporate their favourite characters, reality TV stars, pop songs and dance moves into their make-believe worlds. Today’s children act out the Jeremy Kyle Show, or Britain’s Got Talent, as well as engaging in play based on computer games, in which scenarios of combat, stealthy hunting, fantasy weapons and warriors, and computer consoles feature. Other media sources include pop stars such as Beyonce, musicals such as Mamma Mia and High School Musical, adventure films and novels such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson or computer and animation characters such as Mario and Ben 10. “Pretend play is still flourishing,” says Andrew Burn of the IOE, leader of the project. “Children have always enjoyed enacting scenarios from their home or school lives, as well as fantasy stories involving witches, zombies, princesses, martial arts warriors and other figures.”
What do your children like to play? Are they interested in the games that you played as a child or are Wii and TV their best friends?