The Project

Where there are children, there is play. It is a universal impulse, as old as humanity. Physical play, verbal play, friendship play, solitary play – it is the exercise of body and imagination, marked by humour, challenge, invention and exploration. As essential to childhood as food and drink.

Dr. June Factor

The Pandemic Play Project came about because of this moment in history that we all share, and the recognition of the importance of play in the lives of children. 

We are asking children to tell us about what they’ve been playing at home and at school during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are also asking adults to share their observations of children at play during this time.

The information you send us will become a valuable record of how children have adapted to this unique time in their lives, and the way their play became part of their own experience of the pandemic.  It will also assist researchers to understand the role of children’s play during self-isolation and after their return to school.

We are mindful of the need to maintain your privacy and that of your children, so the only personal information we require from children is their first name, age and postcode. 

Further information can be found through the menu buttons at the top of the page.


Many kids in Australia will remember 2020 as ‘the year they closed the schools’. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept around the world, the end-of-term holidays came early in some states. But these holidays were different, with car trips and plane flights banned, playgrounds out-of-bounds and the ‘stay-at-home’ restrictions keeping families in their homes most of the time. Children and parents were forced to spend all day, every day, together, and the only way to see your friends was on-screen, using Skype or FaceTime or some other program. 

Some kids managed to play with friends remotely – maybe a Skype game of Chess using two boards, one at each end, or meeting your friend’s avatar in a Minecraft world or in a multi-player on-line game. Big and small screens offered lots of choice, from YouTube movies and home-made videos to a never-ending supply of memes.

Some old favourites were re-discovered, and jigsaw puzzles and board games became as hard to find as flour and toilet paper. ‘Mucking around’ with brothers and sisters led to some newly-invented games for inside and outside, if there was space. Paper-and-pencil games like Noughts and Crosses and Hangman filled in time, and lots of pictures were drawn on paper and on the paths outside with chalk.

But what about the games kids usually play with their friends? The games that are passed down from child to child in the schoolyard and are so much a part of children’s own culture? What about Downball or Tiggy, Tip and Chasey? What about Elastics, Skippy, Hopscotch or clapping games like ‘My Auntie Anna plays the pianna’. And how about card games like ‘Pokémon’, Yu-Gi-Oh’ and ‘Magic: The Gathering’. These games are the ones that kids themselves choose to play with their friends, and chances are that many won’t be regarded as ‘safe’ to play during the current COVID-19 rules. 

Everyone knows that games have rules, and children are used to making up their own rules for the games they play. With the onset of the pandemic, kids have had to play under a new set of rules that are outside their control. But kids are very clever at finding ways to play, and that’s why we’ve made this website.

We’re interested in finding out and documenting the many ways kids have been playing, by themselves and with their friends, while they’ve been in lockdown. We’re also very keen to find out what’s happening in the schoolyard now that school has gone back. 


We are independent researchers and academics who have been collecting, studying and writing about folklore and children’s play over many decades. Our work has been published in Australia and internationally, and our collective projects include Australia’s only national study of play in schools, the Childhood, Tradition and Change project, funded by the Australian Research Council. 

Our recognition of the fundamental importance of play in children’s lives has led to this unique research project. We aim to document and study the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s play, during lockdown and after they return to school, and publish our results. 


Judy McKinty: Judy is an independent children’s play researcher, based in Melbourne, with a special interest in children’s folklore and traditional games. Her work has mainly focussed on play in primary schools and the relationship between play and place. She has a Master of Cultural Heritage (Deakin), is an Honorary Associate of Museums Victoria, a Life Member of Play Australia and was a co-editor of the online journal Play and Folklore. Her favourite games are Marbles, Jacks and string games.

Ruth Hazleton: Ruth is an independent oral historian, researcher, folklorist and musician who has specialised in children’s folklore studies. She holds a Graduate Diploma in Australian Folklife Studies (Curtin), and has been associated at different times throughout her work with the National Library of Australia and Museums Victoria. Together with Judy, Ruth conducted field research for the pilot study which led to the Childhood, Tradition and Changeproject. Ruth also published the article ‘Documenting Play: From the Front Line’ in Play and Folklore (2017).


Rob Willis OAM and Ollie Willis: Rob and Ollie Willis have been collecting social history and folklore since the mid 1970s. Their audio, video and photographic collections are housed in the Oral History and Folklore Section of The National Library of Australia. Rob and Ollie have recorded in Multicultural and First Nation communities Australia-wide, documenting and preserving stories, music, folklore and dance for future generations. Children’s folklore, games and stories have been an important part of their collection. Ollie, a trained teacher with over 30 years’ experience has a passion for education and learning.

Dr June Factor: June Factor is an esteemed specialist in children’s literature and folklore, with a special interest in literacy, and the history and importance of children’s play. She is also a widely published researcher and academic whose expertise spans many subject areas. As a writer she has developed a special interest in the lives of children and became famous nationwide for her compilations of schoolyard humour, beginning with Far Out, Brussel Sprout!. She is also the author of Captain Cook Chased a Chook, which won the prestigious American Opie award in 1989. In 1979 June, together with Gwenda Davey, established the ‘Australian Children’s Folklore Collection’, a nationally significant archive of children’s playlore, which was donated to Museum Victoria in 1999. June and Gwenda also published The Australian Children’s Folklore Newsletter (later Play and Folklore) from 1981 to 2016. June is an Honorary Associate of Museums Victoria.

Dr Gwenda Davey AM: Gwenda is an eminent folklore researcher (for which she was awarded an Order of Australia), children’s activist, and a former teacher, lecturer and counsellor in the field of children’s development and psychology.Her publications include The Oxford Companion to Australian Folklore and A Guide to Australian Folklore (both with Graham Seal), and Girl Talk: one hundred years of Australian girls’ childhood. She was the first Director of the Victorian Folklife Association, and her collection of oral history and folklore, the Davey Collection, is housed in the Oral History and Folklore Section of The National Library of Australia. Gwenda is an Honorary Associate of Museums Victoria.

Emeritus Professor Graham Seal AM: Graham is Emeritus Professor of Folklore at Curtin University. His research activities and publications are extensive and involve working with industry, government, community and academic partners throughout Western Australia, Australia and internationally.  He is the founder and convenor of the Australian Folklore Network and established the WA Folklore Archive in 1985. His publications include the seminal work on the academic study of folklore in Australia, The Hidden Culture: Folklore in Australian Society, The Oxford Companion to Australian Folklore and A Guide to Australian Folklore (both with Gwenda Davey), and Antipodean Traditions: Australian Folklore in the 21st Century (with Jenny Gall). Graham is an editorial board member of Folklore  (UK), Heroism Studies  and  Folklife: Journal of Ethnological Studies


By submitting material to this project you are agreeing to allow your images, videos, written accounts and audio files to be displayed publicly (website and social media platforms) for the purposes of this project, to be openly accessible by researchers and cultural institutions. 

If you would like to submit material but would like us to keep it private, please contact us to discuss terms of usage and access permissions.

For contact purposes, we will store your email address, name, child’s name and age (where applicable) and postcode only. Your contact details will not be shared publicly or to a third party.

Any content published online will only include the child’s first name and age.

This project has been hosted by The Hidden Culture

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