271 – Playing with digital toys can be part of children’s imaginative play-worlds

Presentation - ECV2022-271

Playing with digital toys can be part of children’s imaginative play-worlds

Kristín Dýrfjörð, University of Akureyri (dyr@unak.is)

Background: The presentation discusses a study conducted among preschool children where they played with creative materials such as paints, paper and Lego blocks together with interactive robots such as Blu-bot and Cubelets. The focus of this paper is on discussing how the children created their own make-believe worlds and micro-worlds.

 Aim: To investigate how children play with coding devices and creative materials together in an imaginative play.

Method: Participatory research methods were applied. Video and Go-Pro cameras, iPads, photographs, field notes and research diaries were used. The participants in the study were children in a rural preschool, their preschool-teacher, and a Masters-level preschool-teacher student. The children participated in workshops that took place twice a week over three weeks in the children’s preschool environment, and each workshop was usually 1 to 1.5 hours.

Results: The children decided which characters they wanted to create and made play stages based on their own experiences, preferences, and imaginations. The stages became part of the children’s play and narratives as they framed and directed the play taking place.

Even though the interface and affordances of the play were different from what the children were used to, the play itself was contextualised within the children’s environment. In this way, it can be said that they used the play stages to understand and contextualise the digital play objects by framing and moving the play into their own play orbit.

Conclusions: When the children got the opportunity to play freely with the digital objects and their own play stages and characters, they collaborated, used their imaginations, and showed empathy towards each other. The digital play objects became natural parts of play and children’s play narratives.

Implications for children and families: Some parents are worried that coding devices will take away children’s play and imagination, but if children are allowed to use the materials as any other toys and materials, they will find a way to play freely.

Implications for practitioners: Give children an opportunity to find out how they can use coding devices through play.

Funding: University of Akureyri, Research fund and EU H2020-Grant agreement ID: 734720

Key words: play, digital devices, robots, imaginative

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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