Making Life Worth Living: Theories of Play Enlivened Through the Work of Donald Winnicott

  • Cynthia à BeckettEmail author
Part of the International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development book series (CHILD, volume 18)


This chapter explores innovative, theoretical approaches to understanding play through the multidisciplinary work of Donald Winnicott. While his theory of the transitional object is well known, it is his lesser known concepts detailed here that have much to say in explaining play. These include playing in the third zone, potential space, unintegration, formlessness and the holding environment. Through the employment of these interrelated concepts of play, Winnicott provides a new analysis of human development in which changes accumulate within a continuous process to generate an individual’s personal repertoire of development. Play is central to this process, given its active role in supporting developmental change within the context of what Winnicott refers to as ‘good enough environmental provision’ (Winnicott DW ([1971]2005) Playing and reality, 2nd ed. Routledge Classics, New York, p. 95). The theory of ‘Playing in the In-between’, which draws on and extends Winnicott’s work, is illustrated via the case study ‘Little Kitten’ undertaken as part of related research that involved parents and young children in the home setting.


Early Childhood Education Social Exchange Potential Space Worth Living Outer World 
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Notre Dame AustraliaSydneyAustralia

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