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Research Case studies

The play behaviours of Roma children in Transylvania


The Roma children of Transylvania are probably the most materially deprived in Europe. They often live in one-room shacks made from wood and mud, with no running water, no sanitation, and sometimes no heating. Many rely on charity for their food and medicines. But, are they play deprived?

This paper summarises an observational study of the play behaviours of children in a small Roma village. It highlights the striking contrast between the abject poverty that characterises their lives and the general happiness of the children. These children live their limited lives to the full. They ‘play everywhere and with everything’, but not in the generally accepted sense of that phrase, as envisaged by Colin Ward.

The usual niceties of privacy, personal possessions and property boundaries are irrelevant here. Their play is rich in imagination and creativity; it is living proof of Nicholson’s theory of loose parts.

Key paper:

  • Brown, F, (2012) The Play Behaviours of Roma Children in Transylvania. International Journal of Play, Vol.1. Abingdon: Taylor Francis

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