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Exploring the cultural construction of children's play in Thailand: an action research study with the Foundation for Child Development Open Access


Other title
action research
child development
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Truong, Son
Supervisor and department
Mahon, Michael (Office of the President, University of Lethbridge)
Examining committee member and department
McHugh, Tara-Leigh (Physical Education and Recreation)
Spencer-Cavaliere, Nancy (Acting Supervisor, Physical Education and Recreation)
Mahon, Michael (Office of the President, University of Lethbridge)
Frisby, Wendy (School of Human Kinetics, University of British Columbia)
Kirova, Anna (Elementary Education)
Physical Education and Recreation

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Children’s play has emerged as a global discourse (Fleer, 2009). Studies from diverse theoretical traditions have examined the role of play in child development; however, the dominant discourse of play has largely privileged Western European-heritage cultural practices, and as a result childhood and play have become decontextualized (Kirova, 2010; Steinberg & Kincheloe, 2004). While there is increasing acceptance that play is universal (Frost, Wortham, & Reifel, 2008), it must also be recognized that there is still relatively little that is known about children’s play in non-Western and developing contexts (Göncü, Jain, & Tuermer, 2007). Therefore, this action research study contributes to the growing body of literature in the field of play and cultural studies by exploring Thai views of children’s play. The study was conducted with a Thai nongovernmental organization called the Foundation for Child Development (FCD), and was carried out at one of their play centres in an urban low-income congested community. The purpose was to generate new and deeper thinking about play in order to collaboratively (re)construct practices aimed at enhancing children’s play opportunities at FCD. Data collection took place from November 2009 – 2010 and included volunteer work and participant observation at the children’s play centre. Interviews and focus groups were conducted with FCD staff members and community members. Additionally, a participatory photography research project was conducted with a group of children at the centre. The study was guided by a cultural-ecological conceptual framework. The findings suggest that play is a culturally structured activity that must be situated contextually. A sociocultural-historical perspective reveals that trends of urbanization and modernization are rapidly changing the landscape of childhood; therefore, it is important to consider the interaction between the global and local elements that are shaping children’s play within the contemporary Thai context. The study also calls attention to the importance of having access to play spaces, as they may become meaningful places for children to play and develop. Actions resulting from this study included increasing children’s participation in the planning of their play space and a children’s photo exhibition to raise awareness of the child’s right to play.
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