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PLAYTrack Conference 2020 - CANCELLED

Important Update on Learning, Breaking, Making Conference (COVID-19) - 27. OCT 2020

After careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the Second International Playtrack Conference Learning, Breaking, MakingWe believe this to be the most appropriate course of action, given the developing COVID-19 outbreak and the current ambitions to reduce the further spread of the virus. 

Learning, Breaking, Making: analysing processes of play

Within play research, two oppositely directed narratives seamlessly co-exist. On the one hand, play is described as a learning activity that helps children and adults reduce the uncertainties they encounter in the world so that they, over time, may navigate it with more ease. On the other hand, play is also considered to be a creative activity that facilitates novel behavioural patterns and innovative breakthroughs by changing and manipulating the environment and by breaking down traditional rules of conduct. Satisfactory models of play have to account for both of these aspects. They have to explain why it is that play is as much about learning rules as it is about breaking and making them.

The Interacting Minds Centre (IMC) at Aarhus University, Denmark, is organising the second international PLAYTrack Conference on the theme “Learning, breaking, making: analysing processes of play.” The conference invites scholars to explore and analyse the dual nature of playful processes on individual and societal levels and discuss the implications this may have for research, education and innovation.    

Organisational Team

Marc Malmdorf Andersen 

Savhannah Schulz 

Kat Heimann

This Research Topic - published by Frontiers in Psychology - is intended to capture the outcome and development following the Playtrack Conference. Covering topics such as fun, naughtiness, norms, surprise generation, transgression and playing with rules, we welcome contributions from a range of researchers from a multitude of disciplines that each explores and analyses the dual nature of playful processes. By mixing psychological, sociological, anthropological, and educational approaches to play, we are aiming to explore the effects of such processes on individual and societal levels and discuss the implications this may have for development, education, innovation, and research.


List of Speakers

Laura Schulz

Early Childhood Cognition Lab at MIT, US

The infrastructure of human cognition — our commonsense understanding of the physical and social world — is constructed during early childhood, where exploratory play is dominant. Laura Schulz studies the representations and learning mechanisms that underlie this feat. Her research looks at 1) how children infer the concepts and causal relations that enable them to engage in accurate prediction, explanation, and intervention; 2) the factors that support curiosity and exploration, allowing children to engage in effective discovery and 3) how the social-communicative context (e.g., demonstrating evidence, explaining events, disagreeing about hypotheses) affects children’s learning.  

Vasu Reddy

University of Portsmouth, UK

Vasu Reddy is a psychologist interested in the origins and development of social cognition, mainly of young infants. She explores the role of emotional engagement in social understanding, focusing on less investigated phenomena such as joking and showing-off or feeling shy, teasing or mocking. She shows that even in the first year of life, infants create and maintain novel humorous initiatives, actively looking for opportunities to elicit others’ laughter by playing the ‘clown’ and playfully provoking others by teasing them. She has argued for the power of these engagements in her book How Infants Know Minds and in a co-authored book Humor in Infants.  She is the Director of the Centre for Situated Action and Communication (Portsmouth, UK) which explores ideas of context and situation on different kinds of psychological phenomena. 

Susan D. Blum

University of Notre Dame, US

Susan D Blum is an anthropologist seeking to understand the patterns in the world we see around us, whether in China, the United States, or anywhere else. Her current research obsession is the divorce between schooling and learning (especially in Higher Education), which has led her to author the book “I Love Learning; I Hate School”: An Anthropology of College. In her work, she addresses how play can be introduced to the college classroom and under which circumstances this can yield meaningful results.

Doris Pui Wah Cheng

Tung Wah College,  Hong Kong

Doris Cheng Pui Wah’s research and publications focus on early childhood curriculum and pedagogy including teaching and learning through play, the impact of play on children and the role and professional development of early childhood teachers. As the former centre director of childhood research and innovation at the Education University of Hong Kong, she has been highly influential in the discourse on play-centred education internationally and especially in East Asia.

Lior Noy

Arison School of Business, IDC & Theatre Lab, Weizmann Institute, Israel 

Lior Noy is a creativity researcher and trainer. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the Weizmann Institute of Science, with background in psychology, computer science and theatre. He is a performer and teacher in Playback Theatre, an improvisation form based on real-life stories. His research focuses on finding the basic principles of creative exploration, and he is currently a lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, where he teaches courses on creativity and digital innovation.  

Cas Holman

Rhode Island School of Design & Heroes Will Rise, US

Cas Holman has spent the last ten years immersed in play, education, and imagination. Through her company Heroes Will Rise, she designs and manufactures tools for the imagination. These materials are manipulable parts and pieces which inspire constructive play, imaginative forms, and cooperative interactions between people. She recently featured in Netflix's Design Series Abstract, that provides an overview of her work and thinking. 

Ben Fincham

University of Sussex, UK  

Ben Fincham is the author of The Sociology of Fun, in which he explores the social and ambiguous nature of fun in contexts from memories of childhood to power relations in the workplace. Building on his research on the matter, he is currently developing projects on gendered fun, fun in childhood and also boredom.

Zuzanna Rucinska

University of Antwerp, Belgium

Zuzanna Rucinska’s research interests include pretend and imaginative play, forms of creativity, embodied and enactive cognition, dynamical systems theory and mechanical explanations of cognition, sensorimotor theory and theory of affordances. She is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Philosophical Psychology at the University of Antwerp, working in Philosophy of Mind, Psychology, and Philosophy of Cognitive Science. Her current postdoctoral position looks at development of role play and imaginary play, and aims to explore the enactivist account of complex pretending.

Mark Miller

University of Sussex, UK

Mark Miller is a philosopher of cognition. Over the past five years he has been exploring the Predictive Processing framework, and working to develop a view of the predictive mind as deeply embodied, emotional and extended. This research has several profound implications for topics such as play and curiosity. Mark is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Sussex, where he works with Andy Clark on the ERC project Expecting Ourselves: Embodied Prediction and the Construction of Conscious Experience (www.x-spect.org).

Sebastian Deterding

Digital Creativity Labs at the University of York, UK

Sebastian Deterding is a play and design researcher, as well as the co-director of the Digital Creativity Labs in York. He was, and continues to be, a defining voice in the academic conversation on gamification, including the differences between gamefulness and playfulness. In the past, his research has focused on creating motivating, gameful, and playful experiences that support human flourishing.

Ben Mardell

Project Zero, US

Ben Mardell is a principal investigator at Project Zero, a research organization at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He works on the Pedagogy of Play, Children are Citizens and Inspiring Agents of Change projects. Ben has been associated with Project Zero since 1999, initially as a researcher on the Making Learning Visible (MLV) project and helped co-author Making Learning Visible: Children as Individual and Group Learners. After continuing his work as a preschool and kindergarten teacher, Ben returned as a researcher on MLV and co-authored Visible Learners: Promoting Reggio-Inspired Approaches in All Schools

Andreas Roepstorff

Interacting Minds Centre, DK

Andreas Roepstorff is a Professor of Cognition, Communication and Culture in the departments of Culture and Society and Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University. He works at the interface between anthropology, cognitive science, and neuroscience, and is equally interested in the workings of the mind and brain, and in how cognitive science and brain imaging, as fields of knowledge production, relate to other scientific and public fields. He is the director of the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University and is involved in a number of transdisciplinary collaborations, focusing on aspects of human interaction.  

Andreas Lieberoth

Danish School of Education &
Interacting Minds Centre, DK


Andreas Lieberoth is an assistant professor in educational psychology, studying how digital technologies influence behavior, work, learning and play. In addition, his work focuses on building cross-disciplinary collaborations and developing mixed methods approaches, from field experiments in gamification, over cross-cultural implementations of game/play based interventions, to exploratory studies of media use. He currently studies everyday play and popular concerns about digital media.

Dr. Lieberoth is the head of the SEER (School of Education Experimental Research) unit, and an advisor to the Danish Ministry of Health’s Center for Digital Health. His research into games and digital media is funded by, among others, the LEGO Foundation and the World Health Organization (WHO), and has appeared in outlets like Nature, Simulation and Gaming and Games and Culture.

Katrin Heimann

Interacting Minds Centre, DK

Katrin Heimann is trained in philosophy and cognitive neuroscience and currently assistant professor at the Interacting Minds Center at Aarhus University where she combines physiological measurements and micro-phenomenology (a guided introspection method) to explore playfulness, aesthetic experiences (with a focus on audiovisual productions and film) and their relation to sustainable development.

Marc Malmdorf Andersen

Interacting Minds Centre, DK

Marc Andersens is a cognitive scientist and member of the PLAYTrack group at the Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University. His research focuses on the cognitive and physiological underpinnings of play in humans, as well as the development of methodologies to study play in experimental and ‘ecological’ field situations. The theoretical backdrop of his research is the increasingly influential ‘predictive processing’ framework, which he is currently utilising for theory development on play as well as for empirical studies on object play and pretend play.

Ella Paldam

Interacting Minds Centre, DK

Savhannah Schulz

Interacting Minds Centre &
Danish School of Education, DK

Savhannah Schulz research focuses on the role of reflection in learning and play-centred education. Over the past years, she has been conducting Fieldwork in schools to develop an understanding of reflection that connects classroom reflective practices with current meta cognitive theories. She is a PhD Fellow at the Interacting Minds Centre and the Danish School of Education with an interdisciplinary background in Cognitive Science, Psychology and Visual Design. 

Richard Dewhurst

Interacting Minds Centre, DK

Richard Dewhurst has knowledge and experience broadly within the realms of Eye Tracking, Cognition, Perception, Neuropsychology & Learning. More specifically he has applied eye tracking methodology to research themes varying from training eye movements, through to visual memory representations in the brain. Presently Richard works within the PlayTrack project for the LEGO Foundation, investigating eye movement components of creativity with an open-ended building task.  

Poster Presenters in alphabetical order

Becky Willans

University of Bristol, UK

Becky Willans is doctoral candidate at University of Bristol, reading Autism and Play. Her research is inspired by 18 years of playwork and positive experiences with disabled children, and her fun-loving, creative and wild daughter, who happens to be diagnosed with Autism. Becky has a MA Play and Playwork, PGCE Post Compulsory Education and BA (HONS) Playwork and Youth Studies. Becky’s previous research focus on the play experiences of children during WWII, therapeutic play and supporting play with disabled children.

Towards and understanding of autistic play culture

The perception of play and autism documented within playwork literature is contradictory to recent writings within the field of disabled childhoods and play. It also belies the experiences of autistic children at play. Personal observations, made at the adventure playground in London, UK, have led to the belief that the preconceived notions of autism and play within the playwork field have little foundation to the actual reality of autistic children's play experiences. Autistic people described their own play in a variety of autistic autobiographies and memoirs. These personal accounts discussed play behaviour which reflected my observations when working as a play worker, with autistic children. This included; watching particles of sand, pieces of gravel or leaves being poured through hands, running in circles with a stick, looking through coloured plastic, looking at hair, noses, belly buttons, mouths and ears, following lines, looking at wallpaper and objects closely, watching coins spin, looking at the rainbow and light on bubbles, spinning bike wheels to reflect light, arranging and organising objects, spinning, watching grass and watching others from height. The play behaviours mentioned above suggested to me that autism has its own play culture. As research into autism and play has been largely task- based and compared to the play of non-autistic children, it is likely to have influenced the misconceptions relating to autism and play. My primary research aims to explore this further by using playwork practice to observe the playfulness of autistic children and young people. The purpose of which is to gain knowledge of what autistic children’s play tell us, as playwork professionals, about our understanding of (i) play and (ii) disabled children’s childhood. The theoretical perspective for my research follows interpretivism as the aim of the research is to understand and gain knowledge autistic play culture, rather than to make predictions or theories based on the subject matter. I will be using ethnography as a methodology. Ethnography is a well-suited research methodology for playwork research. Both ethnography and playwork require the researcher or playworker to be present in the play provision with limited interference. Similar to ethnography, playwork is based on reflective practice and low intervention. I will be using three research methods, overt observations, critical cartographies and photo collage discussions. The method of observation means I can not only look at playfulness and playful responses of the participants, but it also allows me to consider other factors which can influence and impact on behaviour, such as weather, light and temperature; the context in which an event or behaviour occurs such as, the place, situation or experience. This is particularly important when researching with autistic children, as changes in environmental factors and sensory influences can often directly impact, on mood and behaviour, both negatively and positively. For the critical cartography I will create maps of the playground and track the areas where the children are playing. The idea of using mapping is a method regularly used in the study of childhood geographies and the playwork field to evidence and document how the space is used by children and young people. Lastly, I will use photo collage conversations to gain the participants’ perspectives on the research and the analysis of data. This is for the following reasons; firstly, I am not autistic and I am also no longer a child. Secondly, the social movement of disability and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network hold firm the perspective of ‘ Nothing about us without us’. To overlook this it is likely to impact on the ethical framework of the study and go against the UNCRC Articles 12&13. Lastly, the inclusion of participants’ perspectives will help to share knowledge about autistic play culture and assist their voice (both verbal&non-verbal) to be heard.

Burak S. Tekin

University of Basel

Burak S. Tekin has recently completed his PhD project, which examines the social organisation of body-based videogaming activities. He is particularly interested in how people coordinatedly build and craft their social lives while engaging in gaming activities. In a side project on pétanque games, he looks into the ways through which people locally make the use of rules relevant in and for their games. His research draws on ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, and concerns human sociality and the interplay of language, bodies and technology.

Hanna Svensson

University of Basel, CH

Hanna Svensson is a post doc researcher and lecturer at the University of Basel. Working within the fields of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis, her research takes an interest in the local production of knowledge as a situated, embodied achievement in and through social interaction. One of her current research interests concerns games at play as a perspicuous setting for examining practical problems of knowing and understanding in interaction. 

“You didn’t check the rules yet I observe”: Correcting projectable breakings of turn-taking rules in pétanque games

Games embody constitutive expectancies providing a set of explicit rules, which can be followed, altered or violated (Garfinkel, 1963). This study takes an interest in how amateur players of pétanque establish the relevance of specific rules by indicating and resolving emerging troubles with initiated and ongoing moves in the games.

This paper adopts the analytic mentality of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis, which empirically examines the minutiae of situated actions and activities in social life. Drawing on video recordings of naturally occurring sessions of pétanque game playing activities, we investigate members’ situated practices for managing emerging game conducts as breaking the turn-taking rules of the game. Through a sequential analysis of correction sequences, we show how players monitor each other’s courses of actions within the game as relevant for the progressivity of the game according to a rule.

In pétanque games, players take turns as and within teams in playing their balls towards a target ball – the cochonnet. Each throw makes another throw relevant next, which relatedly implies the continuation or change of player/team. The participants observably project to be next players either by staying in the throwing circle or moving towards it. These embodied trajectories are inspected for their relevance and corrected by others when treated as incipient violations of turn-taking rules. Participants format the corrections with linguistic and embodied resources, including pointing gestures and negative polarity markers, designed to locate troubles and indicate solutions. These corrections are recognized as doing correcting by projected next players who not only suspend their imminent courses of actions but also confirm them through linguistic and embodied means. This shows that whereas the normative aspects and orders of the game are embedded in the know-how of playing the game, incipient violations of rules prompt and invoke participants’ orientations towards situated expectancies, occasioning rule formulations in a post-hoc fashion. These formulations also provide resources for players to learn the rules.

This paper contributes to the existing literature on games and play as situated activities from an interactional perspective (see Bateman, 2015; Goodwin, 2006; Livingston, 2008; Sacks, 1992), and to the understanding of participants’ praxeological understanding and use of rules in games, locally and reflexively accomplished in and through social interaction. The analysis demonstrates that participants collectively and collaboratively treat “who plays next” as a basic rule in the game as they orient to projectable rule breakings of taking turns. By way of engaging in correcting the trajectories of embodied actions projecting to break the rules, participants achieve the progression of the game in ways that conform to the rules.


  • Bateman, A. 2015. Conversation analysis and early childhood education. London: Ashgate.
  • Garfinkel, H. 1963. A conception of, and experiments with, ‘‘trust’’ as a condition of stable concerted actions. In O. J. Harvey (Ed.), Motivation and social interaction: Cognitive approaches, pp. 187–238. New York: Ronald Press.
  • Goodwin, M. H. 2006. The hidden life of girls: Games of stance, status and exclusion. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Livingston, E. 2008. Ethnographies of reason. London: Ashgate.
  • Sacks, H. 1992. Lectures on Conversation. Oxford: Blackwell.

Emily J. Goodacre

PEDAL, University of Cambridge, UK

Emily is pursuing a PhD at the Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development, and Learning (PEDAL) at the University of Cambridge, supervised by Jenny Gibson and Paul Ramchandani. Her research looks at children’s social communication during play, examining children’s interactions with their friends and peers. The primary focus of her research is to explore how children make decisions together about the ongoing play and to consider how this may be related to children’s socio-cognitive skills.  

Dyadic social communication: An analysis of connectedness across two play contexts

The poster will analyse processes of play by comparing and examining dyadic interactions across two play contexts. In particular, it will analyse how children’s social communication processes differ across interaction settings. Social communication is a complex process which may include behaviours such as sharing ideas, negotiating, and turn-taking in a conversation. This poster will focus on children’s social communication through the lens of connectedness. Connectedness refers to the process through which communication partners topically link each conversational turn to the previous statement made by the partner. Connectedness in play settings can allow children to build on one another’s ideas and develop a play scenario. However, the processes through which connectedness occurs, including the interaction contexts and activities that might promote connectedness to occur, are not known. Does the unstructured nature of freeplay promote connectedness, or do goal-directed tasks provide a focus that facilitates this type of social communication? This poster will examine the quantity of connectedness that occurs in a freeplay context and a goal-directed context in order to begin answering this question. Dataset: The data used in this research were collected as part of the Children’s Relationships with Peers through Play (ChiRPP) study and include video observations of dyadic interactions, tests of various socio-cognitive skills, and children’s friendship preferences. Participants in this research are 152 children (6.12 - 8.26 years, M = 6.80, SD = 0.38) who were assigned to dyads based on friendship preferences. Each dyad was filmed playing with a treehouse toyset for eight minutes (the freeplay context) before being instructed to draw the treehouse for eight minutes (the goal-directed context). Analysis: To analyse connectedness, each statement will be coded as an initiation or a connected response, based on whether the statement was topically related to the partner’s previous turn. Statements will then be further sub-coded as connected/sustained or end based on whether they elicit a connected response. Following coding, analyses will be conducted in two stages. Initially, two connectedness scores will be calculated for each dyad, one for each context, indicating the average length of their connected sequences. The average length of connected sequences will indicate how long, on average, children were able to maintain topical alignment with one another before disconnecting. These scores will be compared across the two contexts to determine whether overall differences exist across the two contexts. Secondly, each child will be assigned an individual connectedness score per interaction by tallying the total number of connected turns during the relevant interaction. This score will give an indication of the overall contributions to connectedness by each child. The second analysis will consider if there is an interaction between the context and the child’s socio-cognitive skills when predicting a child’s individual connectedness. Hypotheses: For the first analysis, I hypothesise that the average length of connected sequences will be higher in the goal-directed context due to the need for collaboration to achieve the goal. For the second, I hypothesise an interaction between context and other socio-cognitive skills, where children with lower socio-cognitive skills use higher quantities of connectedness in the freeplay setting. This is because these children may find connecting their communication less challenging in the freeplay context where there are fewer external constraints and more varied opportunities to engage in connected talk. This would implicate research on adult involvement in play, where guided play or goal-oriented tasks may be a productive learning context for some children, whereas freeplay may be more appropriate for others.

Jan Ole Størup

Interacting Minds Centre, DK

Jan is a trained pedagogue with a Master’s degree in educational psychology from the School of Education (DPU) at Aarhus University. Currently, he is working as a research assistant to Andreas Lieberoth on the PlayTrack project at IMC. Together, they are looking into the various uses and influences of digital media in the lives of children, as well as the discourses circulating in Danish news media on this highly debated topic.

Digital media in Danish early childhood education and care: practical tools or facilitators of play? A mixed-methods study

Traditionally, prioritizing children’s play has been the established norm of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Denmark. Since the implementation of a national curriculum in 2004, an emphasis on facilitating young children’s learning and development through play has been a pedagogical priority. Due to both the pervasive presence of digital media in modern society and a political impetus to promote digital literacies in the very young, tablets, smartphones and other digital media have become common objects in Danish ECEC institutions. Digital media both act as scaffolds for existing play practices, and offer their own modes of active and passive participation, for example through singing games apps or streaming children’s TV-shows. Given the recency of this development little is known about the best implementation of digital media in children’s day-to-day lives. This study examines how, when and why digital media are put to use, and in turn, how digital media affect and facilitate play and learning processes. Because of the polarized public debate and the scarcity of evidence regarding the consequences of children’s “screen time”, there is a need for research examining lived experiences: When do digital media advance processes of play and learning, and when do they not? We use a sequential mixed-methods design, first conducting phone interviews with a sample of 746 nationally representative and distributed ECEC institutions. Following descriptive coding, data were categorized into broad models of varying digital media uses. Based on these models, we chose particular institutions for on-site ethnographic field studies in order to observe and describe digital-pedagogical practices in action. This poster presentation provides statistical insights into broad and distinctive digital uses and outcomes of ECEC institutions on a national scale, as well as illustrative case descriptions. More specifically, this presentation will display and discuss observed digital play and learning practices, such as: - Playing educational games on the iPad - Programming robots to follow the lines of children’s drawings - Following children’s interests by googling what a bat, blackbird or volcano looks like - Transforming children’s own photographs into puzzles or memory games Findings are discussed in relation to educators’ motivations towards and experienced outcomes of the use of digital media in ECEC settings.

Jan Ole Størup(1), Andreas Lieberoth(1, 2) & Ditte Winther-Lindqvist(2)
Interacting Minds Centre (IMC)(1) & Danish School of Education (DPU)(2) Aarhus University, Denmark  

Josh T. Jordan

Texas A&M University Commerce, US 

Josh T. Jordan is an English as a Second Language teacher, and roleplaying game designer in Texas. He is pursuing a PhD in English (Discourse Theory & Practice) concentrating in linguistics at Texas A&M University Commerce. His research interests include corpus-assisted textual analysis of instructional texts, roleplay as an educational and language -learning tool, and the relationship between game instructions and playful behavior.  

Corpus-Assisted Textual Analysis of Nano-RPG Game Rules: A Comparison of 200 Word RPG Challenge Submissions 2016-2018

The 200 Word RPG Challenge is a yearly design competition. Participants design a complete tabletop roleplaying (RPG) in 200 words or less. I will present an analysis of over 1700 submissions to this Challenge and will measure their similarities and quantify the differences between winners, finalists, and other participants. A measurement of small, novel rule sets for roleplaying games addresses both aspects of the PlayTrack Conference 2020's focus on the tension between play as a rule-limited learning activity and play as a creative, rule-generating activity. The 200 Word RPG Challenge is itself a rule-limited activity in which participants generate rules for future play. In other words, the Challenge facilitators have set a few rules to encourage participants to play around with their designs. The participants, in turn, create rules to encourage RPG players to play around with cooperative storytelling. But what are the features of the most successful rule sets? Do the winning designs have something in common? Do the winning designers have some shared past experience as players or designers? Ultimately, this research project provides an answer to the following play research question, "What features, if any, are common among successfully designed small tabletop roleplaying games?" This project applies corpus-assisted textual analysis to submissions from the past three years, which each contain a complete rule set and the designer's responses to a survey about the experience. This analysis can answer questions about what makes a good 200 Word RPG rule set. The project does so by quantifying linguistic and demographic similarities among participants, that is, by measuring what textual or experience-related features distinguish Challenge entrants, finalists, and winners.

Krishna Kulkarni

PEDAL, University of Cambridge, UK

Krishna Kulkarni is a second year LEGO PhD student at the PEDAL research centre, at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education. She is supervised by Professor Paul Ramchandani. Through her research in England, Krishna wants to determine how early parent play might be associated with child development. In India, her research seeks to understand the attitudes and perceptions of Indian parents towards play.  

Breaking down parent play: how are various aspects of parent play associated with child development?

Through my research, I hope to answer the question: is there an association between parent playfulness and child outcomes (behaviour and executive function; EF)? In my poster presentation, I will discuss how various aspects of parent play might be associated with these child outcomes, and the extent and direction of any association. It has been established that parent factors such as parenting style (e.g. Miner & Clarke-Stewart, 2008) and parent mood (e.g. Ramchandani & Psychogiou, 2009) can influence children’s behaviour. But little is known about the specific role of parent playfulness on child outcomes (Menashe-Grinberg & Atzaba-Poria, 2017). I want to, therefore, explore how parent playfulness might affect children’s behaviour. EF skills have been used as a key marker for children’s development in relation to their outcomes through life (e.g. Moffitt et al., 2011). Research has found that EF could be influenced by the home environment in the early years (Rhoades, Greenberg, Lanza, & Blair, 2011), maternal scaffolding (Bernier, Carlson, & Whipple, 2010; Hughes & Ensor, 2009) and sensitivity (Bernier, Carlson, & Whipple, 2010), and paternal autonomy support (Meuwissen & Carlson, 2015). This raises questions about whether parent playfulness could also affect children’s EF and whether any aspect of parent playfulness is particularly beneficial to the development of EF. Methodology: Using video data from a 2-year longitudinal study, Healthy Start Happy Start (HSHS), I am analysing parent-child interactions to break down the processes of play. The participants are 49 two-parent families, and 43 mothers were primary caregivers. At baseline (T1), the children (34 boys) were 1-3 years old (M age = 21.92 months). The second timepoint being considered (T3) was 24m after the baseline, where children were between 3-4 years old. I have begun analyses on T1 and T3 to explore the following questions: - Longitudinal: how play might change from T1 to T3 - Caregivers: how play might differ between mothers and fathers (also at different timepoints) - Dyads and triads: how play might differ when one parent plays with their child, and when both parents play with the child together - Types of play: what play a parent engages in (e.g. pretend play, physical play) Measures of play: 1. Scale of Playfulness (SoP; Atzaba-Poria, Cabrera, Menashe & Karberg, 2014): this uses a 7-point global score and focuses on the complexity of pretend play. 2. Parent Playfulness Scale (PPS; Basilio, Laverty, & Whitebread, 2018). this has two subscales – the first one uses a 9-point global scale and considers factors such as parent participation and intensity of the play; the second considers minute-long segments of the play session and records the switches between different types of play. By using two different scales, I plan to harness the strengths of each and consider different elements of play. Outcome measures: 1. Behaviour: Parents’ responses to the Child Behaviour Checklist, completed at all timepoints. 2. Executive Function: assessed at T3 using children’s performance (Delay of Gratification, Go/No-Go, Dimensional Change Card Sort). I expect to complete coding all videos by early April. The data for behaviour and EF outcomes have been collated and will be analysed following video coding.

Line Klingen Gjærde

BørneRiget and Juliane Marie Centre for Children,
University of Copenhagen, DK

Line Klingen Gjærde is a postdoc at the New Children’s Hospital Copenhagen (BørneRiget). She is a medical doctor pursuing training in pediatrics and holds a PhD in life course epidemiology from the University of Copenhagen. Her research has focused on early origins of later disease and currently, she is investigating the effects of play in hospitals. She is particularly interested in defining the concepts of play in hospitals and clarifying ways of integrating play in clinical treatment and care.  

Effects of play in hospitals: a scoping review

Background: Being hospitalised can be a traumatic experience for a child. Play is often used in hospitals as a safe and recognizable tool to reduce stress and anxiety, and different traditions and practices exist. However, the use and effect of play in hospitals is not well-described scientifically, and an overview of the current evidence is needed. Objective: To synthesize and map the existing evidence on the effects of using play in a hospital. Methods: We used a scoping review methodology following the PRISMA extension for scoping reviews (Tricco et al, 2018). We searched five electronic databases (PubMed, Cochrane, CINAHL, ERIC and PsycInfo) from 1 January 2000 through 4 June 2019. Studies were screened by two independent reviewers and were included if they reported research including empirical data on the effect of play in children or adolescents (age 0-18 years) in a hospital setting. Data from included studies were extracted by one reviewer and verified by a second reviewer. Preliminary results: We screened 3694 abstracts for relevance and assessed 365 full-text articles for eligibility of which 250 studies were included. Most of the included studies were quantitative studies published within the last five years of the search period. The studies were conducted in hospitals in middle- and high-income countries from all over the world, mostly as pilot or feasibility studies along with other small single-centre studies. The definitions and concepts of play were heterogenous across the studies. Play was either used within specific disease groups or in relation to procedures across disease groups. The type of play varied from simple interactions with a toy to complex digital gaming (VR/app) solutions. Play was frequently used to distract during painful or stressful situations; in other cases, play was integrated in the treatment or used as a tool to educate or to improve well-being. Generally, the use of play was well-accepted and had positive effects. Current gaps in the literature are, multi-centre studies, studies of play for other purposes than distraction, qualitative studies based on a theoretical framework, and studies of play within certain disease groups. Conclusions: Research on the effect of play in hospitals is an emerging scientific field. Play in hospitals has been most studied as a means of distraction to ease complicated situations or painful procedures, and in general, play has positive effects. Future research should seek to clarify and describe the concepts of play in hospital settings. Moreover, studies are warranted to assess the effects of play integrated before, during and after procedures or treatment, and address whether play in hospitals can create a more normative environment for children to allow for normal development.

Line K. Gjærde*, Daniel Dybdal*, Morten A. Schrøder*, Jenny L. Gibson‡, Paul Ramchandani‡, Martha K. Topperzer§, Elisabeth I. Ginsberg*, Bent Ottesen*, Thomas L. Frandsen* Jette L. Sørensen*

* BørneRiget and Juliane Marie Centre for Children, Women and Reproduction, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

‡ Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development & Learning, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

§ Paediatric Oncology Research Laboratory, Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Mahnam Monfared

Toy Designer | Iran University of Science and Technology, Iran

I am Mahnam Monfared and I am a toy designer. The reason why I am fond of my job, lies in my very first university research. I studied a Master of Industrial Design at the “Iran University of Science and Technology” and most of my research in both bachelor and master were related to play and toy design. That’s how I entered the world of toys …  

Ali Shirkarami

Toy designer | Allameh Tabataba'i University, Iran  

I am Ali Shirkarami and I have studied Educational Technology. All of my projects in university involve children’s need for education and play. My interest has always been to blend play and learning so the process of learning become more appealing. I have designed several concept games and toys all with an educational sense. 

Toy design inspired by Rumi's stories with playful experiences approach

Literature is an important part of any society's culture, and "culture" is a heritage that is essential to humanity. One way to keep the culture alive is to transfer it to new generations through play that unfortunately remains hidden from designer’s cultural viewpoints. In order to properly define toy design as a media for conveying culture and rich concepts to children and adolescents. This research has attempted to develop a holistic approach to the idealization phase by cultural inspiration in toy design by examining the origins of play and its elements.This research hopes to inform designers of playful features of literature and lead them to use these features in the right direction of toy ideation. The method used in this article is descriptive-analytical method.

For many years, researchers in the field of product design have done extensive research on user experiences. In the first step, the theoretical, descriptive, overview of definitions and attitudes in playful experiences has been discussed. In addition to explaining and describing the terms, the researchers have examined and analyzed their design ideas and approaches. The second step includes analyzing and comparing the results from the first section and examining them in the field of toys and play values from the perspective of children led to a holistic method of designing toys and games, and in the final step, after studying 20 stories of Rumi, a story was selected and, using the second step’s analysis, a toy was designed with the concepts of the story according to the values of play from the perspective of children aged 8 to 12 years.

Keywords: playful design, toy design, literature

Michael Pleyer

Universität Koblenz-Landau, Germany
twitter: @symbolicstorage

Michael is a lecturer in English linguistics and language practice at the University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany. He completed his PhD on “Perspectivation and Pretend Play in Language Acquisition” at the University of Heidelberg in 2019. His key research interests are usage-based, constructionist, and cognitive-linguistic approaches and their application to language acquisition and language evolution research. In particular, he is interested in the relationship of play, cognition, language, and interaction in evolution and development.  

Corpus Data: A Window Into the Development of Perspecitvation and Pretend Play

This paper aims to demonstrate that corpus data can yield insights into the development of perspectivation and pretend play in language acquisition. Pretend play seems to be a uniquely human behaviour that is culturally universal and displays a predictable developmental sequence (Lillard 2017). Pretend activities also make up a significant amount of children’s daily interactions (Haight & Miller 1993). This has prompted many researchers to propose that pretend play has a crucial role in children’s development (e.g., Bergen 2002). Indeed, pretend play has been found to be closely connected and tightly integrated with other uniquely humancognitive and interactional abilities. For example, pretend play has been positively related to Theory of Mind, executive functions, and advanced sociocognitive capacities, especially in the form of pretend social role play (e.g., Carlson & White 2013). Pretend play is also strongly associated with language and language acquisition (Lillard 2017). This view is consistent with the general framework of Cognitive and Usage-Based Linguistics, which sees language as being based on and as being tightly integrated with general cognitive capacities. For example, Cook-Gumperz & Kyratzis (2001) have shown that pretend play situations can be seen as a training ground and crucial scaffolding for the acquisition of progressive and simple present constructions. Regarding the relationship of pretend play, language and sociocognitive capacities, Rakoczy (2006) has argued that pretend play can be seen as a crucial cradle of the development of shared intentionality, that is, the capacity to engage in shared cooperative activities with others with shared intentions, which is a crucial foundation of language acquisition (e.g., Tomasello 2008). Research on cultural variation in pretend play has shown that pretend play universally serves the function to practice and internalize culturally salient frames, scripts, schemas and routines with the aid of linguistic interaction (Gaskins 2013). This can also be seen as a crucial aspect of language acquisition, which also depends on the acquisition of linguistic frame knowledge in order to express and understand utterances regarding situations and events containing frame slots and schemas such as transactions, actors and objects in various situations. It is therefore not surprising that, as Lillard (2007: 136) notes, “[l]inguistic cues to pretending are the most researched topic in the area of how pretend differs from real.” In addition to the examples given above, there have been numerous experimental studies of children’s use of pretend language (e.g. Whitebread & O’Sullivan 2012; Orr & Geva 2015; Garvey & Kramer 1989). The pretend lexicon of children is therefore of immense research interest. However, little is actually known about how children use these words in their everyday life (Bunce & Harris 2008: 446). The fact that pretense is important in children’s language acquisition is evident, for example, in the fact that the lexical item pretend is part both of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Inventories (CDIs) (Fenson et al. 2007) as well as the 200- word Level II Short Form Vocabulary Checklist of the CDI for young children aged 16-30 months (Fenson et al. 2000: 108-109). There is then, a wealth of data on the acquisition of the lexical item pretend. What we do not have is corpus study investigating how the lexical item pretend is actually used by children and caregivers in their everyday interactions. In this paper, I present such a study, using two densely sampled CHILDES corpora: the Thomas-Corpus (Lieven et al. 2009) and the Manchester Corpus (Theakston et al. 2001).

Robb Mitchell

University of Southern Denmark, DK
twitter: @telecosy 

Social Play Is Wobbly: It is Good Play But It Wobbles, And The Play Gets In The Wrong Places

This poster embraces play’s paradoxical nature as offering both uncertainty reduction and transformation of the known, and argues that it is the interchange between habituation, and defamiliarization and the back-and-forth between prediction enhancement and originality is at the heart of social play. This is illustrated through comparing different strands from the author’s playful experimentation in bringing people together. Firstly, a series of physical toolkits intended to provoke fresh ideas and build common understandings across disciplinary and linguistic boundaries on strategic organisational dilemmas. Analysis led to arguing for the value of design workshop materials and activities involving artefacts with uncontrollable kinetic properties such as balancing, bouncing, rolling and falling can lead to surprises that provoke a lively challenging of assumptions. Larger in scale were the author’s “social contraptions” wooden mechanical art gallery installations designed to foster positive face-to-face interactions between strangers who may not otherwise interact. Each contraption or social catalyst presented participants with a shared physical obstacle which was intended to create a situation in which there were no predetermined rules as to how to behave. Providing a novel constraint on “normal” behaviour was intended as a route to dissolve the everyday norms (both internal/individual and social/collective) which may inhibit social interactions. This in turn, appeared to provoke and encourage fluid interaction between strangers. Participants’ encounters with neither physical contraptions nor the “kinetic business models” were or labelled or framed as toys or games, but responses were markedly playful – frequently in ways unexpected by the designer, and often the play emerged through step-wise processes of participants iteratively and dialogically making small adjustments from what might be considered “normal” actions until a collaboratively created new situation or perspective was reached.


  • Mitchell, R., Caglio, A. and Buur, J., 2013. Oops! moments: Kinetic material in participatory workshops. Nordes, 1(5).
  • Mitchell, R., 2009. Physical contraptions as social interaction catalysts. In Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Physicality (pp. 37-42). Lancaster University. Computing Department.
  • Mitchell, R., 2014. Co-created facilitation and perspective plurality to foster mutual understandings of risk. In DRS 2014 (pp. 951-966). Design Research Society.
  • Mitchell, R. and Olsson, T., 2019. Facilitating the first move: Exploring inspirational design patterns for aiding initiation of social encounters. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Communities & Technologies-Transforming Communities (pp. 283-294). ACM

Tanya Maria Paes

University of Cambridge
twitter: @PaesTanya

Tanya is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, supervised by Michelle Ellefson. Her research interests include how play influences the development of young children’s self-regulation, language, and pre-literacy skills. Tanya’s work particularly focuses on children from diverse ethnic and language backgrounds. 

Pretend play and the development of children's self-regulation and language skills

There has been increasing interest in the contribution of pretend play towards children’s cognitive development. The present study examines the efficacy of a pretend play intervention on the self-regulation and language skills of four- to five-year-olds with English as an Additional Language (EAL). Pretend play includes a pretender projecting a mental representation onto reality (Lillard, 2013). Other studies have demonstrated the link between pretend play and children’s self-regulation and language skills but to date, there has not been an interventional study that has examined these skills in tandem. Imagination which forms the premise of pretend play, encourages children to utilise their self-regulation skills to negotiate their feelings and control their behaviour (Savina, 2014). Pretend play also establishes opportunities for children to utilize their language skills as they have seen typically practiced (Saracho & Spodek, 2006). The present study’s sample consisted of 151 children from schools in deprived neighbourhoods located in a city in the east of England. The inclusion of self-regulation and language skills as presented in the format of a pretend play was hypothesized to relieve the pressure of the learning environment and allow for development in these areas. The children were randomized into two groups: (a) Experimental group- Pretend play intervention; and (b) Treated control group- Art activities. A third untreated controlled group was also included in the study which allowed for examination of the results with respect to the type of activity carried out–pretend play and art. The design of the pretend play intervention is based on shared storybook reading, and subsequent role-playing (Pentimonti & Justice, 2010). The intervention specifically included sixteen 30-minute sessions over 13 to 15 weeks, in groups of five to six children. Each session included: (1) shared storybook reading; (2) role-playing; and (3) review. The shared story-reading component lasted 10 minutes, during which six target words were identified that were critical to the comprehension of the story and were unlikely to be familiar to the children (Carroll & Snowling, 2004). Explicit phonological awareness (PA) and vocabulary instruction were given for the six target words because they provide the basis of word-level reading skills and, along with other wider language skills, are critical to the foundation of children’s reading comprehension skills (Hutchinson et al., 2003). The children received exposure to four books over the course of the sessions as each book was read four times. The shared storybook reading component of the first session for each storybook did not include explicit PA and vocabulary instruction for the target words as it allowed the children to become familiar with the contents of the book in its entirety. Following the shared storybook reading component, the children were provided with props that were related to the storybook in the first component. The children were able to engage with the props in different contexts which has been shown to have a positive effect on their language skills (Pentimonti & Justice, 2010). Lastly, during the 10-minute review component the PA and the vocabulary for the target words were revised, and the children were provided with corrective feedback to further develop their learning. The children in the art activities group also received 16 sessions that had the similar setup as the children in the pretend play intervention group with regards to timeframe, but instead of engaging in role-playing activities following story reading, they participated in art activities unrelated to the book. Several measures were used pre- and post-intervention to evaluate children’s self-regulation and language skills. In terms of the results, the children in the pretend play group had significantly higher post-test phonological awareness scores than children who were exposed to typical curriculum.

Location and Venue: Aarhus University AULA

Aarhus University, Building 1412
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