Play and the person-at-play

The external limit of eco-social environment contains five levels:

  • Event
  • Personality
  • Reification
  • Time
  • Space



Play depends on several external and internal factors. Around play itself there is an EXTERNAL ATMOSPHERE and a UNIVERSAL ENVIRONMENT. These external factors are situated on the “shell” (the circle in the model) which marks the border between the eco-social environment in which the process itself takes place.

The external factors, which consist of five levels, are:

  • TIME or the historical period in which play takes place
  • SPACE or the environmentin which play takes place
  • EVENT or situation underlying play
  • REIFICIATION or the selection of objects in the form of toys used.

There is no definitive or unequivocal definition for play and there is in actual fact some doubt as to how play really can be defined and explained. Authors almost queue up to give their explanation of children’s play on the basis of the general and direct nature of their surroundings, the multifarious experiences of everyday life and often trivial influences.

However, play can be “explained” as:

  • an activity undertaken for its own sake.

What often happens during play is that the participants find or invent a purpose or an aim for their game but the aim will always be less important than the play process itself.

For many persons who play, the play process and the aim of the game can often melt into one. But the common denominator for all the legitimate explanations for play is that play springs from the desire “to do something”.

The most general and comprehensive explanation of play is that:

  • Children are the basis on which the futureof the world rests.
  • Regardless of how far back we go in historyand regardless of which culture we study - children have always played.
  • Play is just as important as our basic needsfor food, health, a home and education because play is necessary for the development of the child’s potential.
  • Play is something which is instinctive, voluntary and spontaneous. Play is natural and investigative.
  • Play is communication and a form of self-expression and, since one can combine thoughts and actions in play, a feeling of satisfaction and of having achieved something arises through play.
  • Play touches on all life’s facets.
  • Play develops children physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.
  • Play is a way in which we learn to live: it is not merely a way to pass the time.

Organised play

  • is an activity most often controlled or organised by someone other than the participants themselves. Organised play has predefined covert or obvious intentions, targets or aims for the activity.

Common to all the authoritative explanations for organised play is that the activity contains “elements of play” which succeed or fail to give the persons-at-play the desire to do exactly that which the organiser of the activity intended. Organised play is also defined as having to give a result.


  • A game can be compared to play in many ways. There are, however, some marked differences.

A game is a voluntary testing of an activity in which there is a “battle” between the forces (participant’s energies), limited by rules, and in which control systems are utilised (referee and/or rules) and in which the process aims at an unequal result (proclaiming a winner).



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