From Here to there – R & D on Natasha’s bridge project

December 15, 2009


 The Research and Development project took place over 6 days between Oct. 22nd  and  Nov. 12th 2009. It included observation and explorative workshops, performative material generation and short theatrical presentations.  The observation and experimental workshops took place at ‘Playmates’ nursery in Huddersfield. The presentations were at the above nursery, Silkstone Preschool nursery and The Takeoff International festival of children’s theatre. The project was supported by The Lawrence Batley Theatre & funded by Arts Council England, Yorkshire.

The company observed how young children (between 2 – 4 years) play both individually and together, and how that ‘shared play’ is negotiated.  The company also studied the differences & similarities between how girls and boys play to determine potential content for a performance targeted at very young children. 

With a five strong artistic team which included two performers, a designer, a musician/percussionist and a director and a group of 12 children from Playmates nursery the ‘play’ could begin.

 Observations of Play

 The artistic team split into 2 groups: ‘director and designer’, ‘performer and musician’.  Both groups had different questions to help focus their observations, ie;

  • What kind of toys/objects are the boys and girls most attracted to?  Are they the same?
  • Do the boys and girls play with the same objects/toys in different or similar ways?  If so how?
  • What is their physical relationship to the objects/toys they are playing with?  And to each other?
  • What patterns/shapes or paths do their games/play make in the physical space (indoors and outside – is it different?)
  • How do they negotiate that play, directly ie you do this!  or indirectly ie. through objects?
  • How do the boys and girls negotiate ‘playing together’ are there any differences?

 The main discoveries made can be summarised as follows:

  • The girls and boys were in the main attracted to different objects in their ‘free play’ session. 
  • The girls tended to negotiate playing together directly, the boys tended to negotiate playing together indirectly through an object or toy that was being played with.
  • Both boys and girls did lots of circling movements or keeping to the outer perimeters of the space when looking for something else to do or when watching someone else’s game and finding a way of joining in.
  • When playing together the leader within the game was the person who had most ‘fun’ with the object.  If someone else introduced another activity with that object, that appeared to be more fun, then they were allowed to become the leader.
  • In general the boys’ play was much more physical, where one boy would become a monster and the others would have to hide, under coats, cushions and cloth.   They would use sounds and vocalisations to enhance their play ie. ‘roar’ for monster, ‘brums’ for the cars they manipulated.
  • The girls particularly enjoyed role play and imitating their carers with copied expressions ie, saying “Good boy!” to one of the boys when he let her have a go on the tricycle.
  • Both boys & girls used ‘imitation, repetition & recognition’ within their play – to push the limit of their activity and the boundaries of either ‘what an object can do’ or the ‘structure of a routine’.

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