chapter  38
5 Pages

From gutter to sand pile

Discourses of space and place in interventions in working-class children’s play
ByJane Read

This chapter details a symposium at the International Froebel Society Third Biennial Conference: Learning to Play–Playing to Learn. It examines elements of the discourse surrounding the play of working-class children current in the late nineteenth and early years of the twentieth century. The chapter identifies the aspects of that discourse which link with contemporary twenty-first century theory surrounding play and playwork. A central feature of the discourse surrounding the street presence of young working-class children, dubbed street Arabs or gutter snipes, was often more concerned with their presence as threat than with their safety, with their presence prefiguring their later street lives as thieves and beggars. The chapter explores the 'sand pile' as a metaphor for the refashioning of gutter play to serve as a referent to Granville Stanley Hall's account of the use of a pile of sand by a group of young middle class American children when left to play by themselves.