Child and Youth Care Forum

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 177–196 | Cite as

“Work” versus “play” and early childhood care

  • Joan F. Goodman


The ancient dispute over the appropriate role of work versus play in the lives of the young rests on assumptions of children's original nature. Those committed to an innate goodness position have been strong advocates of freedom and play; while those distrusting children's natural instincts have pressed for social control and disciplined work. This paper scans the historical antagonism and contemporary views on the function of play. It suggests that a rapprochement can be struck if we consider play and work on an overlapping continuum rather than as polar opposites. At the center of the continuum—play/work—children take pleasure in activities that they have initiated, but those activities are purposeful and culturally sanctioned. When the home takes responsibility for cultural transmission, play/work is an ideal target for early educational inputs. The ideal must be modified, however, as responsibility for social acculturation shifts toward day care programs.


Early Childhood Childhood Care School Psychology Goodness Position Social Control 
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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joan F. Goodman
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia

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