Defining Play: The perceptions of children, adolescents, parents and professionals

Karen McInnes

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    Play as a concept is complex and often contested (Gleave and Cole-Hamilton, 2012) despite the fact that it is claimed that we know play when we see it (Smith and Vollstedt, 1985). There have been considerable attempts by theorists to define play such as: by category (Piaget, 1951; Smilansky, 1968); by typology (Hughes, 2006); by criteria (Burghardt, 2011; Rubin, Fein, and Vandenberg, 1983) and by continuum (Pellegrini, 1991). However, it has been stated that it is difficult to have a common conceptualisation or definition of play (Garvey, 1991; Moyles, 1989). Whilst there is a considerable body of literature on defining play, namely by theorists, there is far less literature on definitions of play from the perspectives of different professionals, parents, adolescents and children. There is a growing research base on early years practitioners' understanding of play and how this relates to practice (McInnes, Howard, Miles, and Crowley, 2011) yet there is a lack of research on the understanding of play from the perspective of other professionals, such as play workers and play therapists. Parents' and adolescents' perspectives of play have also been overlooked. There is, however, a growing body of literature on children's perspectives of play and whilst some literature states that children do not distinguish between play and not play (e.g. Manning and Sharp, 1977) current research indicates that children do differentiate between the two (e.g. Howard, 2002). Furthermore, their perceptions of play may be somewhat different to adult perceptions of play (e.g. McInnes, 2010). It is, therefore, important to have a shared understanding of play so that there is a common language with which to talk about play (Gleave and Cole-Hamilton, 2012), that the same phenomenon is investigated by researchers (Thomas, Howard, and Miles, 2006) and that there is clarity in relation to play practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationN/A
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2013
    Event 2nd Global Conference: Making Sense of Play, - Mansfield College, Oxford
    Duration: 22 Jul 201324 Jul 2013


    Conference 2nd Global Conference: Making Sense of Play,


    • play
    • perceptions of play


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