Watching social interaction in the bouncy castle/moon bounce

A New York Times parenting blog explores how children interact with each other in a bouncy castle/moon bounce. Within a short period of time, the interaction moves from pure mayhem to the forming of powerful tribes:

Initially, the children bounced in random joy. They screamed and flailed about. It was pure mayhem, only rarely interrupted by a call for a parent to “watch this” and “look at this.” There was little collaboration among the children at this stage…

For as the first wave of youthful energy burned off, the children settled down and started to recognize the other. They tentatively reached out, jumping together as they held hands. It was simple collaboration accompanied by squeals of delight…

Then came the teams. Neanderdad was surprised to see kids in his children’s age group start build alliances. Three or four tikes would bounce together and exclude the other kids from their area. Those kids would, in turn, form their own factions and stake out territory as well…

After the small teams came the bouncy tribes. As all the territory inside the Bouncy Castle became claimed, conflicts between teams developed.  As a result, smaller groups merged to make themselves stronger. This co-opting processing progressed until only two large tribes remained…

When things seemed be getting a bit too heated, Neanderdad and other fathers were forced to step in and break up the door monopoly and disband the teams. Interestingly, once the conflict was defused, the children on both sides suddenly seemed to lose interest in the Bouncy Castle.

What is most interesting to me is that these are young kids working through patterns of interaction. Very quickly, they band together and stake out territory. Is this a real life version of Lord of the Flies? Would this sort of behavior hold true across cultures? Where exactly do children develop this process?

Next time I see one of these moon bounces in action, I may just have to look more closely.

(An odd side note: the title of the blog post is “the sociology of the Bouncy Castle” while the second paragraph suggests the author is turning “an anthropological eye on child’s play.” Sociology or anthropology? Perhaps both – but this doesn’t help the perception among some that the disciplines are the same.)

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