• Suzanne Axelsson

Play Observation

I am always noticing... especially play.

And as I come to the close of my playwork training I have decided to share some of the observations that I have written down.

I don't usually write them down, but this was part of my homework.

Some of my observations have been one child, or one group of children, or a space/loose part and how it was used... I like to take the time to notice the many layers that make up the play ecosystem.


This was my first ever play observation I made for the course. it's not your typical playwork observation - what it is, is a typical Suzanne observation. This is what I noticed without being too intrusive. I also write these texts without defining the gender of the child... the aim is to have the focus on the play rather than anything else when reading it... and so that bias does not shape thoughts.


Play in the everyday routine. Waiting for lunch. Tuesday 2nd March. C. 14:15.


Sat in a fast-food restaurant (not a common thing for me at all, but for a mother of an underweight child, fried chicken is sometimes the only way to get weight back on). Parents and a very young child arrive and take a table socially distanced away. The child must be about 15-18 months old.


The child sits in their own chair. The parents disinfect their own hands and the child holds out their hands to the mother first, who was first to start rubbing, and she strokes her hands on the child who then rubs their hands together like the mother, then turns to the father who is busy disinfecting his hands and asks with their hands for more disinfectant… the father barely strokes the child's hand, and the child seems pleased to copy the movement of disinfection


At first it looks like the child is just sitting there. But on closer observation it becomes clear that the child is totally engaged and is constantly moving, especially the fingers.

There is complete interest in the chair, once the child has become comfortable with the sounds and smells of this new place. The child touches the chair in different places with their hands, feet and face, and moves around in the seat in a complete revolution, slowly, exploring and testing all the way.

The child rests their head on their father for a moment. It’s like the child is refuelling.

The father’s hand has been outstretched the whole time, not touching, but just close enough so that if the child loses their balance they do not need to crash onto the floor! In fact I was fascinated by the symbiosis of father and child. They often moved as one, the father being an extension of the child so that they could explore and discover and play. The child stood on the chair to look around. After a while the child let go of the back of the chair to stand independently. Invisible strings between father and child kept both calm.

The child caught my eye.

I saw the child was shy, and looked away. I looked back and saw the child had stepped onto the fathers knee and was sitting down playing with the father’s internal coat pocket while resting their face on the father’s face. There was a moment when both were completely still and both had their eyes closed, neither could know that the other had closed their eyes.

I looked away… it was their moment. I looked back. The child was now stretching out their legs to the chair next to them. And from the safety of the father’s knee started to play with pushing against the chair, flexing their legs, pushing, knee-bending, over and over… at least ten times.

The child then moved down from their father’s knee to the floor. The father was still connected by a hand on the upper arm. The child stood still for a while, obviously playing by observing (vicarious play) taking in everything around. Then the child took a few steps… the father’s arm moved with, but gently let go of the connection, the invisible strings gone too after another two steps, the father had both hands to himself. The child took a few steps more… then scuttled back to their father and reconnected by standing by their father's leg.

The child looked up and stretched out their arms. The father lifted them up. The child refuelled on security.


The food then arrived and the child was placed in a high chair and began to eat. At this point I stopped watching.

This took 10-15 minutes.




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