Recruitments, engagements and partitions: managing participation in play

This paper examines the social practices children use to manage participation in play activities. It is part of wider research looking at children’s physical activity in play, and is interested in the role of social interaction in shaping active play. The focus in this article is on how children get others to take part in play they have initiated, and how the inclusion and exclusion of particular children is managed. The data examined is video-recordings of children’s play with toys and boxes. Children were 7-8 years old and played in groups of four in a school setting. Drawing on a conversation analytic approach, the analysis identifies three interactional strategies used to manage the participation of other children in play: recruitments, engagements and partitions. We discuss the design and use of these strategies within the play activity. The paper contributes to studies of children’s play interaction, and considers how greater understanding of social practices can contribute to understandings of children’s physical activity in play. Implications of the research for interventions aimed at encouraging active play are discussed.