Working for Wye - past, present and future

Definitions and types of play

Children engage in many different types of play and it is a crucial component in their development. However, when children play they don't decide first what type of play they will engage with - they just play. This can involve two or more different types of play at the same time.

Defining play

How do we define what 'playing' actually means? Play England's Charter for Children's Play describes play as: 'what children and young people do when they follow their own ideas and interests, in their own way, and for their own reasons.'

Play has also frequently been described as 'what children and young people do when they are not being told what to do by adults'.

Having time and space to play gives children the opportunity to meet and socialise with their friends, keeps them physically active, and gives the freedom to choose what they want to do.

Why play is important

Research shows that play has many benefits for children, families and the wider community, as well as improving health and quality of life. Recent research suggests that children's access to good play provision can:

  • increase their self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-respect
  • improve and maintain their physical and mental health
  • give them the opportunity to mix with other children
  • allow them to increase their confidence through developing new skills
  • promote their imagination, independence and creativity
  • offer opportunities for children of all abilities and backgrounds to play together
  • provide opportunities for developing social skills and learning
  • build resilience through risk taking and challenge, problem solving, and dealing with new and novel situations
  • provide opportunities to learn about their environment and the wider community.

Evidence of the wider benefits of play provision for families and communities, suggests that:

  • parents can feel more secure knowing that their children are happy, safe and enjoying themselves
  • families benefit from healthier, happier children
  • buildings and facilities used by play services are frequently seen as a focal point for communities
  • it offers opportunities for social interaction for the wider community and supports the development of a greater sense of community spirit, promoting social cohesion
  • public outside spaces have an important role in the everyday lives of children and young people, especially as a place for meeting friends
  • parks and other green spaces are popular with adults taking young children out to play and for older children and young people to spend time together.

Extract above from Play England Why Play is Important

Types of play

Children engage in many different types of play and it is a crucial component in their development. However, when children play they don't decide first what type of play they will engage with - they just play. This can involve two or more different types of play at the same time.

1. Communication Play

Play using words, nuances or gestures for example, mime, jokes, play acting, singing, debate, poetry.

Communication play used the whole body – from facial expressions, hand gestures, body demonstrating and vocally.

2. Creative Play

Play which allows a new response, the transformation of information, awareness of new connections, with an element of surprise.

This play type is one of the most visual by allowing a child to access loose parts, arts and craft materials.

3. Deep Play

Play which allows the child to encounter risky or even potentially life threatening experiences, to develop survival skills and conquer fear.

This type of play is defined by play behaviour that can also be classed as risky or adventurous. This has important benefits to a child's development.

4. Dramatic Play

Play which dramatises events in which the child is not a direct participator.

Children may also wish to use make up and costumes in this type of play.

5. Exploratory Play

Play to access factual information consisting of manipulative behaviours such as handling, throwing, banging or mouthing objects.

6. Fantasy Play

Play which rearranges the world in the child's way, a way which is unlikely to occur, for example being a superhero or sitting on a cloud.

7. Imaginative Play

Play where the conventional rules, which govern the physical world, do not apply, for example pretending to be an animal, or having a make-believe friend to being an object, for example a tree.

8. Mastery Play

Control of the physical and affective ingredients of the environments, for example making a dam in a stream, building a bonfire and digging holes in the earth or sand.

9. Object Play

Play which uses infinite and interesting sequences of hand-eye manipulations and movements, for example examining an item and looking into how and why something works.

10. Recapitulative Play

Play that allows the child to explore ancestry, history, rituals, stories, rhymes, fire and darkness. Enables children to access play of earlier human evolutionary stages.

11. Locomotor Play

Skipping, Jumping, playing Chase.

12. Symbolic Play

A stick is a wand or the grass is molten lava.

13. Socio-dramatic Play

Enacting real life through play, like playing house or mums and dads.

14. Social Play

Playing a game together and deciding on rules for that play.

15. Role Play

Acting a role like driving a train or having a tea party.

16. Rough and Tumble Play

Discovering physical flexibility and the exhilaration of display. This will not involve any deliberate hurting but children should be laughing and having fun.

Reference: Hughes, B. (2002), A Playworker's Taxonomy of Play Types, 2nd edition, London, PlayLink.

Last updated: Sun, 02 Jan 2022 19:15