2021 TASP Annual Conference

This year’s TASP conference focuses on providing for play during times of crisis and stress including homelessness, abject poverty, natural disasters, border crossing/trafficking, imprisonment, refugee/mass migration, pandemic, terrorism, and war. Drawing on Sutton-Smith’s (2017) conceptual framework on play as emotional survival, conference themes are broadly organized around play as a coping mechanism in the face of external adversities and as a way to foster resilience and hope. Thus, play is the experience of creative purpose and inner necessity for emotional survival.

As such, an organizing principle is how play serves a protective function against risks to children but also how it might be compromised in difficult circumstances. Play as a social necessity provides the context within which children’s experiences are embedded. Chatterjee (2017) reviewed the access to play for children in situations of crisis. She found that apart from the age and gender of the child, the nature of play is shaped by:

the nature of the space where they had access to play; the cultural and social context of the community; the time available for play and the level of parental permission for playing in certain places and at certain (2017:p 6)

Yet play’s potential may go beyond the coping mechanisms. In times of crises environmental and societal struggles are exposed play can provide an opening for change and new possibilities. Vygotsky recognized the creative potential of  human behavior:  “If human activity were limited to reproduction of the old, then the human being would be a creature oriented only to the past and would only be able to adapt to the future to the extent that it reproduced the past” (Vygotsky, 2004, p. 15). And as Huizinga reminds us:   “It has not been difficult to show that a certain play-factor was extremely active all through the cultural process and that it produces many of the fundamental forms of social life” (p. 173). Huizinga goes on to conclude that civilization “does not come from play like a babe detaching itself from the womb: it arises in and as play, and never leaves it [emphasis added]” (Huizinga, 1949, p. 173)

To this end, the conference calls upon advocates, practitioners, and multidisciplinary scholars that are exploring the interrelationship between play, resilience, and vulnerability to contribute empirical papers, posters, symposia, and workshops that capture the dimensions of this process.

The Association for the Study of Play recognizes and celebrates the diversity of research and perspectives of the study of play.  We believe that new knowledge and understanding is enhanced by diverse perspectives, and our goal is to create an inclusive online conference environment that invites participation from scholars of all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, religions, nationalities, and sexual orientation. We strive to create a learning space where participants will be treated with respect and dignity and where all individuals are provided equitable opportunity to participate and contribute.

Topics can include play and its relation to current contexts such as:

  • Mental health and well-being
  • Cultural transformation
  • Emotional survival
  • Play in the time of COVID
  • Anti-racism and play
  • Civil rights movements
  • Mental health and well-being
  • Human and Children’s rights
  • War and political unrest
  • Climate change
  • Risk and freedom
  • ‘Nothing about us, without us’:  Children’s participation in play research
  • Participatory research methodologies with children and young people
  • Play and the built environment
  • Nature and play


Chatterjee, S. (2017) Access to Play for Children in Situations of Crisis: Synthesis of Research in Six Countries. London: International Play Association

Huizinga, J. (1949). Homo ludens: A study of the play-element in our culture. Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Sutton-Smith, B. (2007). Play as emotional survival. Association for the Study of Play, Rochester, NY.

Vygotsky, L. S. (2004). Imagination and creativity in childhood. Journal of Russian & East European Psychology, 42(1), 7-97.