• David Fontana
Part of the Psychology for Professional Groups book series (PPG)


As will become apparent to the reader, this chapter could as readily have been included under cognitive development as under social development. Play appears to have important implications for all areas of a child’s psychological life (see Smith, 1982, for a review of the extensive literature), and it is a mistake to see it even in older children as a trivial, time-wasting activity. On the other hand, it is a mistake to lose sight of the fact that the purpose of play from a child’s point of view is simple enjoyment (Hutt, 1979). A child does not consciously engage in play in order to find out how things work, or to try out adult roles, or to stimulate imagination, or to do any of the other things that commentators over the years have claimed to identify in various aspects of play. A child plays because it is fun, and the learning that arises out of play is to him or her quite incidental. Even when engaged in so-called structured play (that is, play organized by an adult with the express intention of providing desirable learning experiences) the child still sees it as an essentially non-serious activity offered for personal diversion.


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Additional reading

  1. Brunei, J.S., Jolly, A. and Sylva, K. (1976) One of the most significant books to appear on play in recent years. It contains a wealth of reference and research material, and spans all aspects of play in humans and animals. Play: Its role in development and evolution. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  2. Brickman, N.A. and Taylor, L.S. (1990) Covers much more than play, but one of the best practical surveys of work with young children. Supporting Young learners: Ideas for Pre-School and Day Care Providers. Ypsilanti, Michigan: High Scope Press.Google Scholar
  3. Dunn, L.M., Horton, K.B. and Smith, J.O. (Eds) (1968) An approach to the learning of language and other skills through structured play experiences. The Peabody Language Development Kit. Circle Pines, Minnesota: American Service Inc.Google Scholar
  4. Garvey, C. (1977) A good general text. Play. London: Fontana/Open Books.Google Scholar
  5. Gersie, A. (1987) An excellent introduction to the role of play in the child’s psychological life, and to its value in remedial work. Dramatherapy and play. In S. Jennings (Ed.) Dramatherapy: Theory and Practice for Teachers and Clinicians.Google Scholar
  6. Hohmann, M., Bernard, B. and Weikart, D.P. (1979) A first-class examination of the way in which play can be used to produce learning experiences in young children. Young Children in Action. Ypsilanti, Michigan: High Scope Press.Google Scholar
  7. Manning, K. and Sharp, A. (1977) Informative treatment of the place of structure in children’s play drawing upon the Schools’ Council Pre-School Education Project. Something of a classic. Structuring Play in the Early Years at School. London: Ward Lock/Drake Educational.Google Scholar
  8. Opie, I. and Opie, P. (1959) The student interested in the verbal content of children’s play and games will enjoy this classic The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Prosser, G. (1985) A stimulating look at the function play has for children. (Also recommended for Chapter 3.) Play — a child’s eye view. In A. Branthwaite and D. Rogers (Eds) Children Growing Up. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Roberts, V. (1971) Looks closely at the way in which learning experiences can be provided through play. Playing, Learning and Living. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  11. Wood, D., McMahon, C. and Cranstoun, Y. (1980) This has a particularly good section on how teachers can ‘tutor‘young children’s play. Part of a series arising out of the Oxford Preschool Project, it contains much of practical value for teachers of young children. Working with Under Fives. London: Grant Mclntyre.Google Scholar
  12. Yardley, A. (1974) A good examination of the use of structured play experiences with young children. Structure in Early Learning. London: Evans.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Fontana 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Fontana
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Wales College of CardiffUK
  2. 2.University of MinhoPortugal

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