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Play Essentials: Field Observation

Play is known to be a spontaneous interactive activity, without rigid structure or direction, where two or more people engage in pleasurable conversational and behavioral exchange depending on the mood and situation of the present moment. When play is noted as spontaneous interactive pleasure, it is wise to consider the idea that no kind of purposeful plan can be premeditated before the interaction actually occurs. A date and time can be set up, such as schoolyard playtime, yet much of what play is, if not all of what play is, cannot be prescribed and must simply unfold between the players.

In observing the play of elementary aged children, perhaps 10 years of age, in a schoolyard, it is exhilarating to note their exuberance as they burst through the school doors and out into the yard. They know they are free here, and can interact without many rules or impositions being placed upon them. It is clear that they relish this time. A group of four boys and three girls run over to where the balls are kept in an open wooden box and begin playing some sort of a kickball game.

The bases are named after some deliberation, a tree, two cracks in the pavement, and the home base bush, and they begin their game, taking turns being the kickers, runners, and rollers, and catchers, depending on their team and their mood, team members sometimes shifting between the two small groups. A teacher notes the supposed laxness of their rules and emphasizes the need for the children to remain on their teams, but luckily, the children don’t take heed to this unnecessary imposition, and continue playing their way, the best way, freestyle.

In considering how the children could have been better supported by their teacher, it important for adults to value freedom and unstructured personal time. In this culture of fast paced capitalism, it is sometimes impossible for people to see the necessity for play, the need for leisure. If something isn’t prearranged and dictated, then it is often considered a waste of time. However, luckily for the children on the playground, they would not let their precious play become destroyed, and, hopefully, the teacher may have even learned a lesson is letting go and allowing fun to occur on its own terms.

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