Rsearch publication - Best play: what play provision should do for children
From - Freedom to play
TYPES OF PLAY
There are many different ways of playing and the things that children do when they play are likely to be equally wide ranging and varied. Different types of play have been categorised in a variety of ways. The following sixteen play types, explanations and examples are adapted from Bob Hughes, ‘A Taxonomy of Play Types’ (2002) and ‘Best Play: What Play Provision should do for children’ (2000). In this taxonomy, the Play Types are listed separately and alphabetically, but many of them overlap. Children can move from one Play Type to another rapidly and their play may cover more than one at a time.
Play using words, nuances or gestures, for example name calling and mime, backslang and street slang, whispering and song, jokes, ‘mickey taking’, secret languages, codes, rhymes, debate or poetry. The emphasis is on the ‘message’.
Play which allows the transformation of information, awareness of new connections, an element of surprise at how things turned out and a new response. It is self-expression through any medium, combining, reshuffling and relating already existing but previously separate ideas, facts or frames of reference. It is making stuff and mess, digging for no reason, excavating, washing, inspecting and categorizing, for example, found rusty nails declared as artefacts from the Iron Age. It involves the enjoyment of creation with a range of materials and tools, texture and form, for its own sake, with freedom to mix and make whatever you wish without the necessity for an end result.
Play in which allows the child participates in risky or even potentially life threatening experiences, to develop survival skills and conquer fear. This is playing up high and balancing, using toys and equipment in ways that they should not or ought not to be used, rolling and swinging very fast and doing scary and dangerous things such as, leaping onto an aerial runway, riding a bike on a parapet, walking along a high narrow beam or playing chicken with traffic. The risk will be from the child’s perspective; not the adults and so the activity could be deep play for one child and not for another.
Play which dramatises events in which the child is not a direct participant, such as recreating scenes from the lives of others, perhaps from television or the theatre. It deals with events and experiences that do not have a direct impact upon the child and which may or may not be played out in front of onlookers. It is, making up plays, miming a song or doing a dance routine, playing at being twins, playing at being at school, doing a TV show, pretending to be a famous person or two old people in a queue. It is an event on the street, a religious or festive event or a funeral, being a famous footballer in a recent match or a celebrity involved in recent media coverage.
Engaging with an object or area and, either by manipulation or movement, such as handling, throwing, banging or mouthing, assessing its properties, possibilities and content in search of factual information The fascination is with ‘what I can do with this and/or what I can make it do’ such as stacking bricks, dismantling a clock or radio, whipping a rope and swinging a stick or stacking toys one on top of another just to see what happens. It is looking for and trying out new things with tentative, cautious, excited curiosity.
Play which rearranges the world the way the child would like it, but which is unlikely to occur. It is pretending to be an airline pilot, being on a pirate ship, going to the fantastic ball, flying a UFO, being a dragon, dressing up as a super hero and flying or doing magic and casting spells.
Playing at being and doing real things in unreal situations. Conventional rules which govern the physical world do not apply but which is still based in reality. For example, imagining oneself to be a tree, a ship or an animal, patting a dog, riding a horse or eating food which isn’t there. This also includes playing ‘air guitar’, catching a giant fish and pretending the park bench is a bus.
Movement in any and every direction fir its own sake to chase, tag, hide and seek, climb, swing or gallop balance, go up and move along.
Play which changes the physical and affective elements of the natural environment, enabling a sense of control over it, competence and the urge to master or be the cause of something,
for example, construction and demolition, digging, changing the course of streams, making shelters, building fire, watching the same cartoon over and over again, repeating the same route around the playground for days, stopping the flow of water from the tap and soaking up the water from a puddle with a woolly glove.
Play which uses infinite and interesting sequences of hand-eye manipulations and movements and the examination of and novel use of objects, such as a cloth, paintbrush, cup or knife, using them in ways other than the purpose they were perhaps designed for. The fascination is with the object itself and what it can do, for example, using a rolled up piece of paper as a ball, using boxes as shoes or tin cans as stilts.
Play which displays aspects of human evolutionary history, stored and passed on through our genes. It allows access to the behaviour of ancestors, e.g. getting up high for panoramic views, living with the elements, roaming and ranging, building fires and shelters or finding and cultivating food, for comfort and security in a modern world to which we are not quite yet adapted. It is often stimulated by aspects of the outdoor environment such as forests, pools, rivers or the weather and involves, for example, playing with puddles and streams, fire and sticks, digging for treasure, making mud pies, collecting stones, making up a code, engaging in rituals and song, dressing up, role play, playing wars and making weapons, growing and cooking things, building shelters, creating ancient and obscure communities, languages and religions.
Play, which acts out and explores characters and ways of being that are not usually of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature. It is an effective way of exploring and trying out identity, status, personality and activity that has probably not been experienced, for example, being a driver, playing teacher, playing at being asleep, blind, old or even dead, just to see what it feels like.
Rough and tumble play
Close encounter play which is less to do with fighting and more to do with touching, tickling, measuring relative strength, physical flexibility and the exhilaration of display. It must involve body contact. Children are seen squinting and gritting their teeth, being a kung fu fighter, wrestling and chasing. They are unhurt and displaying signs that they are enjoying themselves.
Play, during which the rules and criteria for social engagement and interaction can be revealed, explored and amended. For example, games, conversations, making something together or playing in a group with made up rules and agreed boundaries. There is an expectation that everyone will abide by the negotiated rules.
The enactment of real or potential experiences of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature such as recreating scenes from home, school, church, club or going out. It may involve nurturing, care, discipline, education or eating, bedtime or playing at having an argument and shouting, overacting anger and conflict, using adult language, frustration and aggression, cuddling and making up.
Play which allows control, gradual exploration and increased understanding, without the risk of being out of one’s depth, by using symbols, i.e. objects, designs or signs to represent people, abstract ideas or qualities. It could be playing with a piece of wood and using it as a sword, using string as a fishing line, making signs and marks as a code or making signs or noises as a language.
Bob Hughes Evolutionary Playwork book
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