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Types of Play

Children need to play as they need air, food and cuddles. Play bring endless benefits to children, endless skills covering all the areas: social, emotional, moral, communication and mobility.


Here are some of the most common types of play.

Communication Play

Language play; non-verbal play in the use of body language, facial and body gestures, posture; the spoken and written word; communication by pictures. The use of words and non-verbal interactions in experimentations, rhythms, beats, tones, jokes, songs, poems, insults, screams, laughs, made up sounds. Communication is about words, pictures, gestures, sounds and actions and can be seen in interactions with other humans, with animals or with inanimate objects.

Creative Play

Creative processes (not necessarily just about the end product) involving various media such as paint, chalk, charcoal, pens, pencils, collage, glue, glitter, clay, play dough, plasticine, sand, mud, earth, card, scrap, fabric; and actions such as dancing, making music, mime, construction, storytelling.

Deep Play

‘Occurs when children ‘up the anti’ (not necessarily consciously) into areas of real physical, psychological or psychic risk, it could be an evolved mechanism for exploring the nature of mortality and death.

Dramatic Play

Play which involves the relation of narratives such as in the enactment of stories, plays, improvised scenes and scenes re-enacted from television, films, theatre etc.

Exploratory Play

Play in the wider environment with bits and pieces in the model of loose parts. Examining how things work, what things do, how things fit together, what can be done with certain items?

Fantasy Play

Play where the imaginative elements are made-up worlds, objects, characters and powers, e.g. magical kingdoms of elves and pixies.

Imaginative Play

Play where the imaginative elements are grounded in real life objects and scenarios but unusual manifestations, e.g. underwater cars.

Locomotor Play

The use of gross motor skills in: balance, speed, direction, jumping, skipping, dancing, spinning and climbing.

Mastery Play

The manipulation of aspects of nature, e.g. digging holes, damming streams, and fire play.

Object Play

Problem solving play, investigating the tactile properties and the novel use of a variety of objects (including live objects) and relationships.

Recapitulative Play

The playing through of previous evolutionary stages: animal (engagement with nature’s elements); savage (species interaction); nomad (play ranging); pastoral (mastery of the environment); tribal (social hierarchies, gangs, rituals).

Includes play such as: fire play, den building, weapons play. The sum total of ‘Human evolutionary history stored and passed on through our genes.

Role Play

The acting out of an experimentation with identity. Use of dressing up clothes, masks, hats, and costumes, artefacts which identify various jobs, cultures and responsibilities.

Rough and Tumble Play

The testing of strength and comparative physical abilities; the experimentation with touch and understanding of relative pressures; the tactility of humans.

Social Play

Interactions with other people; play with rules or protocols.

Socio-Dramatic Play

Dramatic play with links to real life in which participants enact tasks and scenes which sometimes have deeper or more personal content.

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