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Play - Develop - Learn

The different types of play

By Charlotte FayPublished 3 years ago 3 min read

Play is vital to help babies and young children learn. But what you may not know is that play comes in many forms. Here is your guide to play.

1. Symbolic Play – play which allows control, gradual exploration and increased understanding without the risk of being out of depth e.g. using a piece of wood to symbolise a person or an object, a blanket to symbolise a cape.

2. Rough and Tumble Play – close encounter play is less to do with actual fighting and more to do with touching, tickling and gauging strength. Discovering physical flexibility and exhilaration. It allows children to participate in controlled physical contact that doesn’t result in someone being hurt. This type of play can use up lots of energy and can count towards the governments suggest 60 minutes of daily physical activities for children.

3. Socio-dramatic Play – enacting real experiences of a personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature. For example: playing house, going to the shops, playing mums and dads, Play cooking..

4. Social Play – play during which the rules and criteria for social engagement and interaction can be adhered to and explored. For example: games, conversations and making something together.

5. Creative Play – play which allows freedom, transformation, awareness of new connections, with an element of surprise. Allowing children to design, explore, try out ideas and use their imagination using different tools, props and equipment. It is a self expression through making and changing things.

6. Communication Play – play using words, nuances or gestures e.g. mime / charades, jokes, play acting, singing, whispering, pointing, debate, poetry, games, group and ball games.

7. Dramatic Play – play which dramatises events in which the child is not a direct participator. For example presentation of a TV show, an event on the street, a religious or festive event and theatre scene.

8. Locomotor Play – movement in any or every direction for its own sake. E.g. chase, tag, hide and seek, tree climbing.

9. Deep Play – play which allows the child to encounter risky or even potentially life threatening experiences, to develop survival skills and conquer fear. For example: Lighting fires with matches, conquering fears such as heights. Some find strength they never knew they had like balancing on a high beam, roller skating, assault course or high jump.

10. Exploratory Play – play to explore factual information by handling, throwing, banging or mouthing objects. E.g. engaging with an object or area and assessing its properties, possibilities and content.

11. Fantasy Play –This is the make believe world where the child’s imagination gets to run wild. For example: playing at being a pilot flying around the world, pretend to be various characters/people, be where ever they want to be, drive a car, becoming really tall or really tiny.

12. Imaginative Play – play where the conventional rules, which govern the physical world, do not apply. E.g. imagining you are a wizard with magical powers or pretending to be, a tree, or patting a dog, which isn't there.

13. Mastery Play – control of the physical and affective ingredients of the environments. Like: digging holes, changing the course of streams, constructing shelters, building fires.

14. Object Play – play which uses infinite and interesting sequences of hand-eye manipulations and movements. For example using objects like a cloth, paintbrush or cup.

15. Role Play – play exploring ways of being, although not normally of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature. For example brushing with a broom, dialling a telephone, driving a car.

16. 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.

I hope you enjoyed discovering the world of play.


Charlotte is a freelance writer from Kent, UK. You can find her on Instagram @charlofay


About the Creator

Charlotte Fay

Rambling outdoors & writing about it. Love a good adventure. Passionate about holistic wellness & the natural environment. Studying a Wildlife Ecology & Conservation Degree. I also love to write about a variety of subjects that interest me.

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