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Theorizing play

-The difference between children and adults -

October 2nd, 2015


What is play for children? When I tried to analyze it, I realized that I have never thought about it. This is because I still think myself as a child rather than an adult, and children never consider the meaning of play. For them, life itself is play and they don’t have the border between “play” time and “work” time. Play is something they do spontaneously and subjectively. Imagination is one of the most attractive abilities that children have. Do they really need specific place or objects to play with? I do not think so. Children can play anywhere with anything using their imagination and creativity.

I focused on the post “The superpowers of imagination” because this story illustrates that point. Purple and her best friend often played as being spy-girls. In that game, they had various super powers they wanted to use. They became spy-girls on the playground or in the school bus. They even called each other by their code names. In the reading, she stated,We spent endless hours at the playground and in our houses giving new lives to people and structures, making them part of our pretend world. Innocent bystanders at the playground became the villains we hid from or victims in need of saving, and the slides and swings became unfathomable obstacles.” (purple, 2015) This is fantastic as they could change what they see or what they have into what they want. They were in the real world, but at the same time, they were in a different place at the moment they changed into spy-girls. Using imagination literally makes a new world without specific places or goods.

Also, according to Playing in Industrial Ruins (2011), children can show their creativity in places which are not supposed to be used as playing places, such as ruins. “For ruins are often well-used places, sites of pleasure and leisure as well as spaces for productive practices that blur distinctions between productivity and pointlessness, creativity and destruction, legality and illegality, and respectability and abjection”. Play is produced by creativity and imagination, and play does not have specific purpose for children. It just excites them.

As I mentioned first, I still think myself as a child since I still play and imagine a lot of time. I do what I want to do first, I often find myself imagining wonderful future, and I take two acting classes to enjoy being someone else. Adults can play as well, but it is difficult for most of them to believe their imagination completely. They consider purpose or meaning at first, and cannot be absorbed in the imaginative situation. As being stated in play in ruins, play is something “blur distinctions between productivity and pointlessness”. (Edensor, 2011) In terms of this, being able to imagine and also believe it is the factor of children’s play.

However, it is also true that children need something to be inspired. In this case, purple was affected by Power-puff Girls and spy books. I also need experience and information about the objects before acting. In terms of this, adults have more knowledge as tools to imagine than children have. Then what keeps adults away from imagining freely? In my opinion, the cause is the accumulation of disappointing memory. People imagine and expect when they are young, but when they are faced with reality, and got disappointed many times, they stop expecting. They learn just to handle their reality and gradually forget how to play automatically.



Purple. (2015). The superpowers of imagination.


Edensor, Tim, Bethan Evans, Julian Holloway, Steve Millington and Jon Binnie. (2011). "Playing in Industrial Ruins: Interrogating Teleological Understandings of Play in Spaces of Material Alterity and Low Surveillance." Urban Wildscapes. Ed. Anna Jorgensen and Richard Keenan.