Researching Children’s Play Using Online Ethnographic Case Studies: Insights From the Play Observatory


Studies of play often involve face-to-face research with children in settings such as homes, schools, and playgrounds. The COVID-19 pandemic affected children’s play in many significant ways; yet, traditional in-person research methods were not possible due to restrictions such as lockdowns, school closures, and social distancing. “A National Observatory of Children’s Play Experiences During COVID-19” was a 15-month research project using online methods to understand children’s experiences of the pandemic through the lens of play. Drawing on the research team’s earlier face-to-face studies of play, the project applied ethnographic, participatory, and multimodal perspectives to an online research design. This case focuses on the project’s online case studies carried out with children aged 1–18, including Zoom interviews and remote creation of drawings and films. It reflects on some of the challenges of online ethnographic research with children and the potentials of these methods both during the pandemic and beyond.

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