Do you know the different types of play?

Do you know which types of play your child likes?

The act of playing doesn’t need to be complicated. As a rule “playing” means doing something for fun rather than for practical reasons. 

There is no right or wrong way to play as what classifies as fun will differ from child to child. With this in mind it is important as a parent or carer that you regularly observe your child and make note of their current interests. This will guide you when choosing activities that are enjoyable for your child when you do spend time playing.

Types of play - Get out in nature

You do not need physical possessions to have fun together. If you observe that your child is intensely interested in a particular cartoon on TV it is important to note that you do not need to buy every related toy to have something to play with them with.  Using your imaginations to become a character each from said cartoon and acting out scenarios is often much more fun (and also far more beneficial) than playing with a plastic figure. Other free options to consider at play time include going out in nature and exploring natures treasures – think sticks, shells and stones.  Climbing trees, making dens and playing games like chase will all put smiles on everyones face who takes part both big and small.

In 1996 Bob Hughes published a book – A Playworker’s Taxonomy of Play Types which details 16 different types of play. These are listed on the right.  Which ones do you think appeal most to you and the child you are caring for?

No child is the same and so what appeals to one may not appeal to another. Remember the definition of play is –

“Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.”

With that in mind it is important to get to know the child and aim to pick an activity that will be enjoyable. My two boys Noah (6) and Tobias (2) are very different characters. Noah prefers to participate in calm creative and symbolic activities, whereas Tobi is much more likely to enjoy more deep physical activities with an imaginative focus. 
Now I am aware of the different types I find it much easier to plan our interactions together. I want to stress though that it doesn’t always need to be a complicated process working out what to do together. The most important thing is that the time spent together is fun and relaxed. If you spend too much time planning you can take the fun out of anything and also you’ve just wasted a ton of time on the planning aspect when you could have been spending that time together. One idea that you could do in preparation is to create an activity jar. This is where you add  different ideas of things to do on separate small pieces of paper and whenever you find yourself at a loss of what to do, you and your child can choose one at random. Frugal Family has a fantastic selection of ideas on their blog which you can read here.



types pf play- days out

16 Types of Play

 Symbolic – play which allows control, gradual exploration and increased understanding without the risk of being out of one’s depth.

Rough and Tumble – close encounter play which is less to do with fighting and more to do with touching, tickling, gauging relative strength. Discovering physical flexibility and the exhilaration of display.

Socio-dramatic – the enactment of real and potential experiences of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature.

Social – play during which the rules and criteria for social engagement and interaction can be revealed, explored and amended.

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

Communication  – play using words, nuances or gestures for example, mime, jokes, play acting, mickey taking, singing, debate, poetry.

Dramatic – play which dramatizes events in which the child is not a direct participator.

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

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

Fantasy – play which rearranges the world in the child’s way, a way which is unlikely to occur.

Imaginative  – play where the conventional rules, which govern the physical world, do not apply.

Locomotor  – movement in any or every direction for its own sake.

Mastery  – control of the physical and affective ingredients of the environments.

Object – play which uses infinite and interesting sequences of hand-eye manipulations and movements.

Role – play exploring ways of being, although not normally of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature.

Recapitulative– 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.

A list of Bob Hughes publications is available here

How messy play benefits your child.

Personally we love messy play but a lot of people avoid doing it at home because of the obvious – it’s messy! Yes it’s true, engaging in this form of play with young children in your home can be overwhelming, especially for the more OCD minded of us but with an extensive list of benefits for your child, we urge you to give it a try.

From a single messy play experience your child is actively developing their hand eye coordination, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, spacial awareness, muscle strength, body control and balance.

Messy play enables your child to develop their creativity and enhance their language and learning. It creates opportunities that inspires their natural curiosity and encourages exploration of textures providing them with a unique sensory experience.

Who knew that by plonking your child in a tray of cold spaghetti you could do so much good!