• Suzanne Axelsson

Play Observation 2

Continuing my sharing of my play observations where I chose not to just observe children in preschools and play-spaces but to also observe in other areas too. The following observation was made in a square in Stockholm. It is located just outside of central Stockholm, but is very much urban. It is also a newly built area and it is obvious that many of the details make it easier for people to sit, meet up and play in this space across all ages. As in the previous observation, I do not state gender - and use them and they instead of s/he and him/her this is to encourage a reflective nature of the play. I do have a record of the genders that I have kept separate.

11:45-12:30 Wednesday 3rd March 2021.

A space where children happen to play. As they pass by, or while parents are in shops (supermarket), one family had seemingly come here to play.

Most played by family constellations.

There were a few situations where children mixed.

  • The big stones was one place where the children shared different strategies of how to get up with each other.

  • A climbing frame where children sat and talked with each other.

The space is designed with playful aspects although not as a playground.

Toddlers in this space enjoyed the gentle slopes. Looks of delight on faces as they could pick up speed going down hill.

The slight slopes made it easy for the children on bikes to easily bike up to then feel the thrill of going down with more ease and speed. One child watched the steps for a long time before making the decision to go down them on their bike and then complaining loudly about how it hurt their bottom. One child was learning to ride a bike (three siblings on bikes), the mother was running alongside. The child fell many times and after about ten times moaned loudly and with frustration “I can’t” before getting back on the saddle and trying again.


Similar situations could be observed by the rocks. Some children could easily climb up, others could not. Height/age did not seem to be the defining reason being able to get up. There were clear strategies. The children shared these, and were not always successful. But with perseverance all children except one (who was admonished by their adult) managed to get to the top… it took 20 minutes for one child to finally make it.

Toddlers watched their siblings getting onto the rock and also tried. After a while they got very frustrated. The mother decided to point out something that they could climb on rather than help them up. The toddler was satisfied with this solution.


The three biking siblings also played a complex game using the benches, ground and walls - it looked like a computer stealth game - they rolled across the wooden ground, jumped over the back of the bench to hide and under the bench. The parent was on another set of benches further away. After a while another adult joined the mother, this adult seemed to be one of the youngest siblings preschool pedagogs. The game shifted to "could they get to the pedagog without being noticed".

At this point they got told off by an elderly couple because they were not socially/physically distancing. The children adapted. But later got told off again, the elderly couple moved away, shouting at the mother for her lack of control over her children etc. The mother responded by saying it was harassment (non white family being told off by white old couple).

The children’s play was big, but there were other elderly people on the benches, they were the only ones that reacted. Pandemic fears could have played into this, or the old fashioned, don’t disturb us while we sit here in the sun.

Interesting point about these 3 siblings. They had taken their shoes off. They were asked to put their shoes back on when their play extended beyond the wooden ground surfaced areas. It is HIGHLY unusual to be sock feet in early March in Stockholm.


Most children had a parent close by. But not all. Some were children walking through, some were children playing while their adult was inside the supermarket.

There was an age range of 1-14 years of age playing in the space during this time.


The child that was admonished for climbing the rock had found a piece of junk that they used as a step to mount the rock. This got left next to the rock, that subsequent children then benefitted from.


There was a small amount of stick play. The large stick (must have been transported from the forests that surround this area - inner city national park) was used primarily to hack into the two dirty small piles of snow that were left. These piles would have been enormous from the snow the other week and the area being plowed. Two piles, about 2 square metre and 20cm high resembling grains of ice, and a thick layer of black dirt on top. This play did not engage for long, the stick was thrown away javelin style and rock climbing resumed.


Some children tested out parkour skills, jumping up, across and down the many surfaces offered in the area. There must be some bruised knees as they missed sometimes when jumping up with two feet, but they measured how high they could jump and found the areas that they could practice best on.


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