Children, particularly those from marginalised communities, are often denied access to play. Play helps children explore their physical environment and learn about the world right from childhood. It helps them express emotions and improve communication. Attachment theory points to human development beginning with two irreducible forms of play: attuned and exploratory. Play theorists, however, generally group play into three irreducible categories: solitary locomotor-rotational play, object play, and social play. Briefly, solitary play is primarily kinesthetic and takes place alone; object play can be social or solitary and involves the manipulation of inanimate objects; and social play involves two or more players.
Types of Play
Attuned play might seem the quintessential example of social play. But social play requires a self and an “other.” Since attuned play occurs before the infant forms an identity or a sense of an “other”, attuned play may be more accurately described as protosocial play.
Object play maps easily onto exploratory play, which can be social, solitary, or object play.
Free play (includes, pretend play)
The term free play is frequently used to describe play that is child directed, voluntary, and flexible and often involves pretend play. Studies that examine pretend play in children, or play that involves taking on different roles in pretend situations, define this type of play as exclusively child directed and therefore a type of free play. Some researchers have highlighted the vague nature of the concept of free play, as even spontaneous, child-led play is dependent on children’s previous experiences, and children’s interests tend to be introduced by adults rather than come from innate tendencies.
Adult-guided play, in contrast, is described as lying “midway between direct instruction and free play” . In guided play, the activity can be either child initiated or adult initiated, but it is emphasised as a child-directed practice in which, just like in free play, the locus of control is placed with the child. Children direct their own learning within the established play contexts, while teachers enhance the learning experience by playing the role of commenters, coplayers, questioners, or demonstrators of new ways to interact with the materials involved.
Play-based learning has been described as a teaching approach involving playful, child-directed elements along with some degree of adult guidance and scaffolded learning objectives. The purpose of play-based learning is inherent in its name: to learn while at play.
Inquiry play (play-based learning)
In inquiry play, the locus of control remains largely with the child. This type of play is child initiated, and, in response to child interests, teachers extend the play through the integration of related academic standards.
Collaborative play (play-based learning)
In collaborative play, there is a shared locus of control. Teachers direct the outcomes of this play by determining the academic skills that students will develop. The teacher and students collaboratively design the context of the play, including both the theme and the resources necessary to the play. The children then direct the play within the created environment.
Source: Origins of Play and Playfulness, Gwen Gordon | A continuum of play-based learning: The role of the teacher in Play-based Pedagogy and the fear of hijacking play, Angela Pyle & Erica Danniels, 2017