Play Culture in a Changing World

27th October 2006 at 01:00
Play Culture in a Changing World

By Marjatta Kalliala

Open University Press pound;17.99

Do children play with dolls now in the way their parents, and grandparents used to - dressing them, "feeding" them? Once you've asked yourself the question, it dawns on you that, no, they don't. Part of the reason, Marjatta Kalliala suggests, is that adults don't join in now as they used to.

"At home, in the 1950s," she writes, "mothers, aunts and grandmothers all supported play with dolls."

Women's magazines, she also points out, carried patterns for doll's clothes then, in the run up to Christmas.

Part of a series called Debating Play, and originally published in Finnish in 1999, this book adds to the extensive literature on children's play by setting it in the adult cultural context. As well as the discussion about dolls, there is a lot of interesting material on the way children's make-believe games mirror contemporary culture - children become Power Rangers bursting out of terrible peril, and, rather more disturbingly, play "suicide" on the playground slide.

Sadly, the author concludes, if early childhood is, as often described, a garden, then, due to easy access on TV to sexual crudity, high-tension family drama, and simply polarised adventure stories, "There is some evidence that children are being 'taken out of the garden'."

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