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Take Critical Play as a Whole

Amy Ma's picture

This week in Chinatown, I was in a shop looking for a birthday gift. Some girls walked in: they looked like fourteen or fifteen. As they were talking fluently in Chinese about how things were expensive and how much money their parents make, one of them said, “I will start working soon. I will make my own money and I can buy anything I want!” Actually, she used the word “Dagong” in Chinese which specifically indicated to a full-time job which they are too young for. I recalled documentation about Chinese stowaways. They came to US when they were teenagers, they don’t have ID, and they feel lonely. Most of them served in Chinese restaurants for their whole life. Some of them have never left Chinatown. They are never happy about their life but just get used to it. Then why do they come to the States? In the meantime, it raises a question to me: “Why do I come to the States?”


Today, in order to experience the new transportation, Yancy and I decided to go to Philly to write paper. It took us quite a few minutes to get to R-100 Station. As we walked towards the station, the stores on the road became fewer and fewer. When we were standing across from the train station, the surroundings looked desolated. In the dazzling sunlight, those plants looked like they were going to burn. The train was just one carriage, and it was in such a small carriage that I heard a baby crying in a stroller, and her mother (I guess she was the baby’s mother) sat next to the stroller, did nothing but looked at the floor. Walking out of the train station at 15th street, I saw a lot of trash on the stairs. Am I really in Philly? At that moment, I questioned. Philly to me was the City Hall, the flags on both sides of a street, the big library.The different train line leads to a different Philadelphia. How does a train make Philly different to me? Just 1 or 2 bucks cheaper, and the whole journey is different. Does one dollar make everything that different? By the way, this journey does make me want to save money......Don’t waste!


I try to play critically in the most recent trips, and I think I somehow succeeded. However, these trips are no longer play for me. In fact, I don’t really consider going to a food festival in Chinatown play, or taking a different transportation play. They are activities in which I can find serendipity, or questions, or difference, or play.


“After reading the introduction of Critical Play, I started to question if I played critically in Philly. I think the answer is no.”  That’s what I wrote last week. According to Flanagan, “critical play means to create or occupy play environments and activities that represent one or more questions about aspects of human life.”, while play is described as fun, voluntary, intrinsically motivated, incorporates free choices…This Saturday, when my friends and I were at Ardmore eating frozen yogurt, I was confused why frozen yogurt is called frozen yogurt . At least for me, it doesn’t taste like any yogurt I had before. It is the same for my friends. We all agree it tastes like ice-cream. Then why is it called frozen yogurt?

Is critical play play? It doesn’t feel like play to me. Just like frozen yogurt doesn’t taste like yogurt, but it is still called frozen yogurt, and every one knows what it is. Should I stick to the definition of play to say “Oh, critical play is not play.” Or should I just let the definition of “play” go. If I take “critical play” as a whole, as a foreign word I don’t recognize, then “Critical Play” makes sense. “critical play means to create or occupy play environments and activities that represent one or more questions about aspects of human life.”, according to Flanagan. May I erase the word play in this sentence to make my own definition of Critical Play?  Critical Play means to create or occupy environments and activities that represent one or more questions about aspects of human life.


clarsen's picture

1. Amy reflects on the

1. Amy reflects on the situations of costumers she overheard in a store which later makes her wonder why both the costumers and herself came to the States.

2. Amy's description of the setting made it easy for me to picture what she was experiencing.  The second paragraph lead me to question the differences between play and activities.  

3. Amy lays out the setting using descriptions of what she sees around her such as the "dazzling sunlight", "plants about to burn", and the neglected crying baby.  This works helps the reader really visualize and experience her day.

4. Amy plays by using comparisons between her experience with the "frozen yogurt" definition and "critical play" one.  This similie aids the reader in understanding her confusion and doubt.

AnotherAbby's picture

Essay Reaction

  1. In the first paragraph, Amy focuses on a conversation she overheard in Chinatown and how it led her to think of the status of Chinese immigrants living in America, and ultimately question her own place and reasons for coming to the US.
  2. When I read it, at first, it seems like another one of the anecdotal papers to which I have become accustomed, but when it takes the sharp left turn and Amy begins to question her own motives for being in the US, it raises even more questions for me. Does her reasoning for coming to the States make her “better” than the others, and is the unhappy familiarity she talks about in terms of how immigrants in Chinatown feel about their lives truly just a product of that area? I have to think it’s not, since I know far too many people living that way.
  3. The work Amy is doing lies in the way she transitions ideas—first, she seems to be simply describing the scene around her, but then she takes the ideas of those rather serendipitous interactions (the eavesdropping), and applies them to concepts like immigration and identity. I had to think of things through the framework she gave me, in response, and move on from there to apply that framework to the other ideas she will present.
  4. She’s being playful in the way she forms her essay from an overheard conversation. She is introducing everything she will talk about based on a snippet of something she heard, and more than that, what really attracts her to it is the subtle use of a word with a connotation that it’s English translation loses, but that makes all the difference in terms of what she will take away from this overheard conversation.