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Criteria used by adults and children to categorize subtypes of play

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Play subtypes of Activity and Pretend have been proposed yet no empirical study has determined the criteria that identify and differentiate these two play subtypes. Children ( n =98) and adults ( n =38) were shown 10 video examples of human and other primate. Activity and Pretend play and asked to identify which of six criteria (positive affect, non‐literality, communication/intimacy, practice, physical context and social context) best characterized play. Results showed a significant difference between criteria used by participants to categorize Activity and Pretend play. Specifically, among all participants Pretend play was categorized according to behavioural (non‐literality), motivational (communication/intimacy) and contextual (both social and physical) criteria. On the other hand, no one criterion was associated significantly more with Activity than Pretend play. No differences were found between adult and child participants in play criteria used to categorize each play subtype. A multidimensional definition of Pretend play is proposed and research into the definitional qualities of Activity play is recommended.

Keywords: Behaviour; Context; Criteria; Motivation; Play; Play subtypes

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Monash University, Australia

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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