Digital Peer Play: Meta-imaginary Play Embedded in Early Childhood Play-Based Settings

  • Marilyn FleerEmail author
Part of the International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development book series (CHILD, volume 30)


Digital childhood captures the everydayness of children growing up in many European and European heritage communities (Danby et al., Digital childhood. Springer, Amsterdam, 2018), where young children’s engagement with digital devices (Arnott, Digital technologies and learning in the early years. Sage, London. ISBN 978-1-41296-242-1, 2017) has become normalised. Despite the arguments for both positive and negative dimensions of increasing screen time (Walker et al., Use of digital technologies and cognitive self-regulation in young children. Findings from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. In: Danby S, Fleer M, Davidson C, Hatzigianni M (eds) Digital childhood, Springer, Amsterdam, 2018), little attention has been directed to how peers play together in early childhood settings where digital devices, such as touch screen tablets and animation apps, are being introduced. This chapter follows a group of 24 children (1.6–5.3; mean age 3.5 years) and their teachers (n = 10; 23.5 h of video observations) engaged in imaginary play (Hakkarainen et al., Eur Early Childhood Edu Res J 21(2):213–225., 2013). The study found that digital meta-imaginary peer play situations appeared within the holistic context of peer-initiated play and adult-initiated play inquiry. The key drivers of this holistic conception of digital peer play featured digital placeholders and virtual pivots, and this dynamic evolved over time as the adults became players to support play development and as children became narrators of the digital play.


Cultural-historical Playworlds Conceptual playworld STEM 



The study reported in this chapter was supported through an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (ARC DP130101438). The research assistance of Shukla Sikder (field research leader), Sue March, Feiyan Chen, Anamika Devi, and Selena (Yijun) Hao, and data organisation by Freya Fleer-Stout, are acknowledged. Last but not least, is the contribution of the teachers who actively designed and implemented the innovative teaching program that this chapter discusses.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Early Childhood Education and DevelopmentMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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