Understanding play: the perceptions of children, adolescents, parents and teachers.

Karen McInnes, Nicola Birdsey

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section

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Play as a concept is complex and often contested despite the fact that it is claimed that we know play when we see it. There have been considerable attempts by theorists to define play such as by: category, typology, criteria, and continuum. However, it has been stated that it is difficult to have a common conceptualisation or definition of play. Whilst there is a considerable body of literature on defining play by theorists, there is far less literature on understanding play from the perspectives of different professionals, parents, adolescents, and children. There is a growing research base of early years practitioners’ understanding of play and how this relates to practice; however, there is a lack of research on the understanding of play from the perspective of other professionals. There is also limited research on parents’ and adolescents’ perspectives of play. There is, however, an emerging literature on children’s perspectives of play but it is not yet known how their perspectives differ from the perceptions of adults. It is important to have a shared understanding of play for three reasons: so that there is a common language with which to talk about play, so that the same phenomenon is investigated by researchers, and so that there is clarity in relation to play practice. This chapter draws on a series of case studies which have employed a range of methodologies including: questionnaires, interviews and experiments to identify perceptions of play in relation to the aforementioned groups. As well as identifying similarities and differences in perceptions of play across the different groups, the implications for practice and future research are identified.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPlay of individuals and societies
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781848883277
ISBN (Print)9781848883277
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2014


  • Play, perceptions, children, parents, teachers, similarities, differences


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