Research projects Centre for the Study of Play and Recreation

Our research projects make an important contribution to the university.

'Multi-Cultural Toys'

The range of toys in mainstream outlets in the UK is limited in comparison with the diversity of the population in the contemporary UK, as well as in the world as a whole. This project is intended to research the diversity of toy use and play in global contexts, and to develop new kinds of play materials in the present. In June 2013 an exhibition entitled Multi-Cultural Toys was held in the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, co-organised with members of the Pollock Toy Museum Trust, and Pollock's Toy Shop in Covent Garden.

The material culture of the exhibition was underpinned by the themes of natural objects, sustainability, ideology, and the mutual influence of East and West. A one-day conference showcased perspectives from museum studies, showing the significance of memory (Eureka Heinrich, King's College, London), of "loose parts" (Grant Lambie, Free Play), colonial games (Adrian Seville), toy soldiers (Roger Stearn), Chinese toys (Valentina Boretti), risk (The Hon Jocelynne Scutt), open-ended play materials (Eloise Robinson) of toy manufacturers (Jeroen Staring), and Barefoot toys (Jennifer Patterson).

The themes underpinning the exhibition were key to Mary Clare Martin's paper on toys and overseas missionaries in the nineteenth century. Versions of this have been presented at the international conferences at the University of Latvia (ISCHE) and University of Nottingham (SHCY) in the summer of 2013. It is being written up for a book entitled Creating Religious Childhoods, to be edited with Hugh Morrison (University of Otago).

A special issue of papers from the conference is in process for the SSCIP journal Childhood in the Past (Maney Publishing) and a seminar series will take place during 2013-14. A research project with children on their views about toys and play is being planned, as well as further archival research on play in the past.

'Youth Movements: Research on Girl Guides and Brownies'

Mary Clare Martin has published on Roman Catholic Girl Guides in Sussex, and British and French Girl Guides in Peace and War, 1910-1950. She has given talks to local Guide groups in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, and will be working with them to plan ways to celebrate the centenary of the founding of the Brownies in 1914. She is completing essays on Girl Guides in Britain, France and Poland, disability and the Girl Guides Association, and Girl Guides in the Global South.

'Play and Evolutionary Biology'

John Smith is researching the functions of play in human development and the links to the social environment, focusing on the idea that a social environment that is inappropriately structured will produce adverse responses of avoidance which become habitual. This is a strong phenomenon within educational institutions, children and young people, the antidote to which is play and recreation. Avoidance in children is linked to consciousness that they do not like being in certain places. Adaptive responses which are habitual become locked together, not amenable to reason, negotiation, even therapy. His general point is that play is widespread in the biosphere, yet human society regards it as superfluous to need: the biosphere is right.

'Play and Recreation in Hospitals'

In the past is part of Mary Clare Martin's project on the social history of children's illness in international perspective, 1700-2000, which has a particular focus on the child's point of view. Papers on this topic have been presented at the Institute of Historical Research in London, at the University of Latvia (35th ISCHE conference), in Glasgow, and at the British Society for the History of Paediatrics and Child Health Annual Conference in 2013.

'Children's play and transitions'

Marianna Papadopoulou has researched children's play in Greece and will be presenting on this in February 2014. She and Ewa Sidorenko have also conducted participatory research in local schools about transition to secondary school.

Centre for the Study of Play and Recreation is part of the Faculty of Education & Health, University of Greenwich.