Experts put new method of analysing children's play to the test

February 01, 2021

How to study the stages children go through as they play together has been highlighted in new research by a Swansea University academic.

Play is a crucial part of a child's development. It is how children develop cognitive skills and learn new information as well as social skills and it is an important topic of research by social scientists.

Dr Pete King, who specialises in play and childhood studies, devised a method of studying the process of children's play - the Play Cycle Observation Method (PCOM) - and has now published research which demonstrates how effective it is as an observational tool.

Working with collaborators Professor LaDonna Atkins and Dr Brandon Burr, his latest study put the PCOM to the test in real time by watching three-year-olds at play using an observation booth at the University of Central Oklahoma's Child Study Centre.

Dr King, senior lecturer at the College of Human and Health Sciences, said: "The PCOM focuses on the process of play and initially it was piloted using a video of children playing. We were able to show it could be used effectively in that situation, where the observer is able to pause or rewind to take a closer look at the children's activity.

"However, this is not an option when observing children in real time so how reliable would the PCOM be in those circumstances? This question formed the basis of our research paper."

He explained that the PCOM focuses on the process of play and the Play Cycle, the term used by play professionals to observe and understand play. The cycle can be broken down into several distinct phases - pre-cue, play cue, play return, play frame, flow and annihilation.

The play cue, either verbal or non-verbal, is an invitation to play from a child while the play return is another child's response. The play frame is the physical or imagined boundary that keeps the Play Cycle intact and annihilation is when play has finished.

For this study two members of the research team acted as the independent observers with no experience of using the PCOM. They watched play from the booth and used specifically designed observation sheets to quantitatively record play cues, play returns and Play Cycles. These sheets also collected qualitative data of play frames, annihilation and the role played by adults in the Play Cycle.

The observers watched the same 'target child' at the same time, each carrying out their observation simultaneously, without any discussion or comparison. This was repeated for 11 separate observations of different children. The data was then collected and analysed by a third member of the team.

Their findings have just been published in the Journal of Early Childhood Research.

Dr King said: "We proved that by focusing on the process of play, the PCOM is very child-centred and child-led observational tool. It is not restricted to a type of play such as pretend or social, so offers the opportunity to observe all types of play.

"The benefit of the PCOM is that it not only shows how we can support the various stages of children's play, but it can also be used by the student learning about play and the professional practitioner in respect of reflective practice. In addition, the PCOM is a useful training tool for trainers and lecturers teaching play."
-end-


Swansea University

Related Children Articles from Brightsurf:

Black and Hispanic children in the US have more severe eczema than white children
A presentation at this year's virtual American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting reveals the disparities that exist for Black and Hispanic children when it comes to Atopic Dermatitis (AD), commonly known as eczema.

Black children with cancer three times less likely to receive proton radiotherapy than White children
A retrospective analysis led by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital has found racial disparities in the use of the therapy for patients enrolled in trials.

The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health: First Europe-wide study of children confirms COVID-19 predominately causes mild disease in children and fatalities are very rare
Children with COVID-19 generally experience a mild disease and fatalities are very rare, according to a study of 582 patients from across Europe published today in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

Children not immune to coronavirus; new study from pandemic epicenter describes severe COVID-19 response in children
- While most children infected with the novel coronavirus have mild symptoms, a subset requires hospitalization and a small number require intensive care.

How many children is enough?
Most Russians would like to have two children: a boy and a girl.

Preterm children have similar temperament to children who were institutionally deprived
A child's temperament is affected by the early stages of their life.

Only-children more likely to be obese than children with siblings
Families with multiple children tend to make more healthy eating decisions than families with a single child.

Children living in countryside outperform children living in metropolitan area in motor skills
Residential density is related to children's motor skills, engagement in outdoor play and organised sports. that Finnish children living in the countryside spent more time outdoors and had better motor skills than their age peers in the metropolitan area.

Hispanic and black children more likely to miss school due to eczema than white children
In a study that highlights racial disparities in the everyday impact of eczema, new research shows Hispanic and black children are more likely than white children to miss school due to the chronic skin disease.

Children, their parents, and health professionals often underestimate children's higher weight status
More than half of parents underestimated their children's classification as overweight or obese -- children themselves and health professionals also share this misperception, according to new research being presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, UK (April 28-May 1).

Read More: Children News and Children Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.