Today’s Voluntary Training: 16 Types of Play

Today I had the opportunity to gain some knowledge, useful for supporting child play. This was offered to me by Kirkcaldy YMCA and conducted by Sharon from the Smart Play Network. The training involved learning, understanding and identifying 16 different types of play. As a parent I feel I have another tool in my parenting kit because it was also important to understand when we should and should not be part of the process of kids playing. I feel confident that I can continue improving the outdoor play space I currently volunteer in and can assist play by adding the right objects to the space. If you’ve never heard of these sixteen terms and work with or have your own children. You should look over the list below…

16 Types of Play

I’ve copied the 16 types of play from a PDF hosted on and that document contains a reference itself: Hughes, B. (2002) A Playworker’s Taxonomy of Play Types, 2nd edition, London:

  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
    symbolize a person or an object, or a piece of string to symbolize a wedding ring.
  2. Rough and Tumble Play – 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. This type of play allows children to
    participate in physical contact that doesn’t involved or result in someone being hurt.
    This type of play can use up lots of energy.
  3. Socio-dramatic Play – the enactment of real and potential experiences of an
    intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature e.g. playing at house, going
    to the shops, being mothers and fathers, organizing a meal or even having a row
  4. Social Play – play during which the rules and criteria for social engagement and
    interaction can be revealed, explored and amended. E.g. any social or interactive
    situation which contains an expectation on all parties that they will abide by the
    rules or protocols, i.e. games, conversations, making something together.
  5. Creative Play – play which allows a new response, the transformation of
    information, awareness of new connections, with an element of surprise. Allows
    children to design, explore, try out new ideas and use their imagination. They can
    use lots of different tools, props, equipment. It can have a beginning and an end,
    texture and smell. e.g. enjoying creation with a range of materials and tools for its
    own sake. Self expression through any medium, making things, changing things.
  6. Communication Play – play using words, nuances or gestures e.g. mime / charades,
    jokes, play acting, mickey taking, singing, whispering, pointing, debate, street slang,
    poetry, text messages, talking on mobiles / emails/ internet, skipping games, group
    and ball games.
  7. Dramatic Play – play which dramatizes 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, even a funeral.
  8. Loco-motor 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. E.g. light fires
    with matches, make weapons, conquer fear such as heights, snakes, and creepy
    crawlies. Some find strength they never knew they had to climb obstacles, lift large
    objects, etc.. E.g. leaping onto an aerial runway, riding a bike on a parapet, balancing
    on a high beam, roller skating, assault course, high jump.
  10. Exploratory Play – play to access factual information consisting of manipulative
    behaviors such as handling, throwing, banging or mouthing objects. E.g. engaging
    with an object or area and, either by manipulation or movement, assessing its
    properties, possibilities and content, such as stacking bricks.
  11. Fantasy Play –This is the make believe world of children. This type of play is
    where the child’s imagination gets to run wild. Play, which rearranges the world in
    the child’s way, a way that is unlikely to occur. E.g. 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, become be six feet nothing tall or as tiny as they want to be the
    list is endless as is a child’s imagination.
  12. Imaginative Play – play where the conventional rules, which govern the physical
    world, do not apply. E.g. imagining you are …, or pretending to be, a tree or ship, or
    patting a dog, which isn’t there.
  13. Mastery Play – control of the physical and effective ingredients of the
    environments. E.g. 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. E.g. examination and novel use of any object e.g. cloth,
    paintbrush, 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, dialing with a telephone, driving a car.
  16. Recapitulating 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.

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