Multi-cultural Toys seminars

Centre for the Study of Play and Recreation
University of Greenwich
Multi-Cultural Toys seminar series

Wednesday, February 26th, 2-3:30p.m. – Dr Marianna Papadopoulou (University
of Greenwich)
Avery Hill Campus, Bexley Rd, London SE9 2PQ

“Intentionality and cultural evolution: young children’s play themes in a
Greek reception class”

This study examines the evolutionary function of childrenąs pretence. The
everyday, cultural environment that children engage with is of a highly
complex structure. Human adaptation, thus, becomes, by analogy, an equally
complex process that requires the development of life skills. Whilst in role
play children engage in Śmimesisą and recreate the ecology of their world in
order to gradually appropriate its structures, role play enables them to
create their group cultures, through which they communally explore and
assign meaning to their worlds and themselves within it.

The research took place in a Greek state school and employed participant and
non-participant observation of the childrenąs role play sessions. The
findings, grouped under four thematic categories, may reflect the playersą
adaptation and evolutionary processes but also the expression of their
deeply rooted, existential concerns at that particular stage of their


Tuesday March 11th, 5 p.m.

Dr Mary Harlow (University of  Leicester/University of Copenhagen)

“Tiny hands, tiny artefacts: did Roman children play with toys?”

Thinking about children in the past is tricky.  For Roman historians it is
additionally difficult as no direct evidence of children’s experiences of
their own lives survive.  Most of our evidence comes from the writings of
upper class men (fathers) or funerary monuments which conform to
iconographic traditions.  There is, however, a lot of surviving material
culture which arguably formed parts of children’s lives. This comes in the
form of ‘toys’, miniature objects, dolls and other like objects.  This paper
will discuss current ways of looking at such artefacts to think about how we
might give children in the past some agency and consider the notion of
childhood in the Roman period.

Please note: This takes place at the Institute of Historical Research,
London, WCiE 3HU

Monday April 7th, 5 p.m.

Professor Gary Cross. Distinguished Professor of Modern History
(Pennsylvania State University)
King William 003, Maritime Greenwich Campus

“Japan, The US, and the Globalization of Children’s Culture,”

This talk will consider why American and Japanese toy and doll makers have
prevailed in the second half of the 20th century over European makers.