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Considering Western Canadian Parents’ Perceptions of Children’s Play in Development and Learning



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The present study employed a basic, qualitative interpretative design using semi-structured focus groups to investigate the cultural perspectives and developmental assumptions of play among Saskatchewan caregivers using secondary data from its larger project, Northern Oral Language and Writing Through Play (NowPlay). These focus groups were organized and run by a member of the research team, with the student researcher being tasked to transcribe, review, and discuss the data from these preliminary focus groups as part of her thesis research study. Sociocultural theory (Rogoff, 2003; Vygotsky, 1978) supported the analyses of the data generated from the interviews. Four major themes emerged from the interview data. The first theme, The Nature of Play: Dominant, Divergent, and Diverse Conceptualizations, captured key similarities and differences among three distinct conceptualizations of play which emerged from the participants’ narratives. In the second theme, The Value of Play: Developmental Benefit in Six Key Areas, participants described play positively as a natural, developmentally-appropriate activity. Six key areas of development emerged, triangulated across the 14 parents: (1) intrapersonal; (2) socio-emotional; (3) language; (4) cognitive; (5) physical; (6) career and economic. The third theme, Constraints to Children’s Opportunities to Play: Play’s Decline, centered on the cultural constraints (i.e., scheduling and structuring of children’s activities; the curtailing of play according to cultural standards of behaviour) and individual constraints (i.e., safety concerns, parental resources) affecting the provision of play. Finally, the fourth theme, The Agenda for Play: Activities Supporting Learning and Achievement, the participants reported diverse means of guided participation in culturally-relevant activities which oriented children toward goals which were commonly tied to children’s learning and achievement. The research revealed new knowledge specific to an understudied group, Western Canadian families, about perceptions of play and differences in family play practices. It is expected that the findings will inform the work of the research team at the University of Saskatchewan as they adapt a psychometrically-sound instrument of play beliefs designed with cultural considerations for our unique sociodemographic region.



play, beliefs, development, learning, childhood



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Educational Psychology and Special Education


School and Counselling Psychology


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