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Drawing Back the Lens on Play:

A Frame Analysis of Young Children's Play in Puerto Rico


Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Trawick-Smith

Previous research on young children's play has focused narrowly on behaviors that are highly valued in Western societies. The purpose of this study was to draw back the lens on play-to examine a broader range of early childhood pastimes that are more common and meaningful to children of color. Using Bateson's work on play frames, the play behaviors of 49 four- and five-year-old children from Puerto Rico were observed, described, categorized and analyzed over a six month period in two classrooms in San Juan. Children were found to play in very large groups. Rarely-studied play behaviors were identified: music play, humor/teasing, replica play, and art play. Commonly studied play forms, such as pretend and construction, were also common, but were often observed in unexpected locations and embedded in other, primary play activities, making them difficult to identify and evaluate. Findings suggest that professionals should observe and assess children's play through a more inclusive lens, evaluating and facilitating all types of play, in all areas of the classroom, at all times of day, and in naturalistic peer groups with no groups size limits. Play centers and materials should match the unique play interests of children across cultures.

See more Previous Studies

  • Trawick-Smith, J. (2010). Drawing back the lens on play: A frame analysis of young children's play in Puerto Rico. Early Education and Development. 21, 1-32.

    Trawick-Smith, J. (2010). Can classroom play ease the transition to a new culture?: Applying research on young children from Puerto Rico. Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, 4: 1-11.