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


As will become apparent to the reader, we could as readily have included this chapter under cognitive development as under social development. Play appears to have important implications for all areas of a child’s psychological life, 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 the child’s point of view is simple enjoyment. He does not consciously engage in play in order to find out how things work, or to try out adult roles, or to stimulate his imagination, or to do any of the other things that commentators over the years have claimed to identify in various aspect of this play. He plays because it is fun, and the learning that arises out of play is to him quite incidental. Even when he engages in so-called structured play (that is, play organized by the adult with the express intention of providing desirable learning experiences) it still appears to him as an essentially non-serious activity offered for his diversion.


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  1. Allport, G.W. (1961) Pattern and Growth in Personality. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  2. Huizinga, J. (1949) Homo Ludens: A study of the play element in culture. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar

Annotated reading

  1. Bruner, J.S., Jolly, A. and Sylva, K. (1976) Play: Its role in development and evolution. Harmondsworth: Penguin. The most significant book to appear on play in recent years. It contains a wealth of reference and research material, and spans all aspects of play in man and animals.Google Scholar
  2. Yardley, A. (1978) Play. In D. Fontana (ed.), The Education of the Young Child’, London: Open Books. A very good short introduction to play in the nursery and infant schools.Google Scholar
  3. Millar, S. (1968) The Psychology of Play. Harmondsworth: Penguin. A deservedly popular general introduction to the whole field, and succeeds in being both readable and thorough.Google Scholar
  4. Garvey, C. (1977) Play. London: Fontana/Open Books. Another good general text.Google Scholar
  5. Marzolla J. and Lloyd, J. (1974) Learning Through Play. London: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  6. Roberts, V. (1971) Playing, Learning and Living. Oxford: Blackwell. These two books look closely at the way in which learning experiences can be provided through play.Google Scholar
  7. Matterson, E.M. (1965) Play with a Purpose for the Under Sevens. Harmondsworth: Penguin. A very practical book for the nursery and early infant years.Google Scholar
  8. Yardley, A. (1974) Structure in Early Learning. London: Evans. A good examination of the use of structure in play with young children.Google Scholar
  9. Huizinga, J. (1949) Homo Ludens: A study of the play element in culture. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. This remains a valuable and seminal book for all those interested in the place of play in society generally.Google Scholar
  10. Caillois, R. (1961) Man, Play and Games. New York: Free Press. Useful in much the same way as Huizinga.Google Scholar
  11. Herron, R. and Sulton-Smith, B. (eds) (1971) Child’s Play. New York: Wiley. A good account of the ways in which play is studied by researchers.Google Scholar
  12. Opie, I. and Opie, P. (1959) The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. London: Oxford University Press. The student interested in the verbal content of children’s play and games will enjoy this book.Google Scholar

Additional reading

  1. Taylor, J.L. and Walford, R. (1972) Simulation in the Classroom. Harmondsworth: Penguin. A good introduction to use of the simulation exercise.Google Scholar
  2. Dunn, L.M., Horton, K.B. and Smith, J.O. (eds) (1968) The Peabody Language Development Kit. Circle Pines, Minn.: American Service Inc. Contains the Peabody Language Development Kit.Google Scholar
  3. Wood, D., McMahon, C. and Cranstoun, Y. (1980) Working with Under Fives. London: Grant McIntyre. This has a particularly good section on how teachers can ‘tutor’ young children’s play. Part of a series arising out of the Oxford Pre-school Project, it contains much of practical value for teachers of young children.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The British Psychological Society 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Fontana

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