Report – Kids with Stones in their Pockets

Posted on: Friday 05 July 2019 9:45pm by Emma Boucher

With a focus on narrative and play, this session explored the importance of creative, open-ended play to children’s development and how media experiences can encourage self-expression and self-discovery.


  • Children need the space to explore ideas through creative play, with the room to try and fail.
  • Open narratives encourage children to explore self-expression through play.
  • Adults don’t need to teach children how to play!


Alison Norrington introduced the session by telling the story behind the title of the session, which comes from her year of research into VR – best practice, narrative and experience design, and psychology and play. A boy collected stones and put them into his pockets. Every day his mum threw them away. Eventually he asked her, “Mummy, why are you throwing my Star Wars toys away?” He wasn’t allowed to take his toys to school, so he had to use his imagination!

Mikkel Lee discussed Lego’s creative play lab, which creates projects that help kids to roleplay and explores the idea of story meeting play to set off kids’ imaginations. The openness of brick play is a great starter and injecting plays pattern into that encourages creative play. Lego use story and play to inform their designs, in particular for Lego Hidden Side, an augmented reality experience with real-life brick play and a hunt for ghosts using AR on phones.

The Flying Seagull Project are a group of entertainers, working in refugee camps with young children. Ash Perrin calls himself a ‘childhood conservationist’. The children they work with have nowhere to play and are often too traumatised to sit in a circle. They reach out to them to give them a safe space to play and simply be children.  “You don’t need to teach kids how to play,” he stated, “we need to learn the essence of play, the kids are the best ones to teach us.”

Dr Dylan Yamada-Rice brings VR experiences into schools and shows them how to make VR headsets. They learn how the device works and it becomes part of the story telling and the play. In the UK art isn’t part of the curriculum, so kids enjoy having the opportunity to create things out of cardboard and parents love the VR aspect. In one workshop the children created a 360 cardboard city and capture it using a VR app. The kids love to see how their creations look within the app. Dylan raised the question of how can we bring creativity and mess back into the digital world.

The panel agreed children need a framework for play, but the space to break away, experiment and be creative. Play is a form of self-expression and self-discovery for kids and should be encouraged as such.

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Emma Boucher

About the author

Emma Boucher

Freelance Writer

Writer - Freelance Emma is a writer for live action and animated children's TV with over 60 broadcast credits. She developed 'My Petsaurus' from Bumpybox's initial concept to series. It was commissioned by CBeebies and Emma wrote all 20 episodes. Her first commission was the pilot script for live action… Read more