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Play style (or forms of play) are an aspect of childhood play behavior

Play can take the form of improvisation or pretending, performance (play), mimicry, games, sports, and thrill-seeking, such as extreme or dangerous sports (sky-diving, high-speed racing, etc.). Researchers Roger Caillois (Man, Play and Games) and Stephen Nachmanovitch [1] expand on these concepts in their works.

Structured play has clearly defined goals and rules; when this is the case, such play is called a "game". Other play is unstructured. Both types of play promote adaptive behaviors and mental states of happiness.

Often sports with specific rules will take place within designated play spaces, such as sports fields where, in Soccer for example, players kick a ball in a certain direction and push opponents out of their way as they do so. While appropriate within the sport's play space, these same behaviors might be inappropriate or even illegal outside the playfield.[2]

Other designed play spaces can be playgrounds with dedicated equipment and structures to promote active and social play.

The National Institute for Play describes seven play types:[3]

  1. Attunement, which establishes a connection, such as between newborn and mother.
  2. Body, in which an infant explores the ways in which his or her body works and interacts with the world, such as making funny sounds or discovering what happens in a fall.
  3. Object, such as playing with toys, banging pots and pans, handling physical things in ways that use curiosity.
  4. Social, play which involves others in activities such as tumbling, making faces, and building connections with another child or group of children.
  5. Imaginative (also called "pretend" or "fantasy"), in which a child invents scenarios from his or her imagination and acts within them as a form of play, such as princess or pirate play.
  6. Narrative (or storytelling), the play of learning and language that develops intellect, such as a parent reading aloud to a child, or a child retelling the story in his or her own words.
  7. Transformative (or integrative), by which one plays with imagination to transcend what is known in the current state, to create a higher state. For example, a person might experiment to find a new way to use a musical instrument, thereby taking that form of music to a higher plane; or, as Einstein was known to do, a person might wonder about things which are not yet known and play with unproven ideas as a bridge to the discovery of new knowledge.

Separate from self-initiated play, play therapy is used as a clinical application of play aimed at treating children who suffer from trauma, emotional issues and other problems.[4]


Influences of androgensEdit

Fetuses are exposed to prenatal androgens as early as 8 weeks into development. Male fetuses are exposed to much higher levels of androgens than female fetuses. It’s been found that play-styles, as well as toy preferences and choice of play-mates vary with the child’s exposure to androgens. Regardless of the biological sex of the child, increased androgen exposure is associated with more masculine-type behaviours, while decreased androgen exposure is associated with more feminine-type behaviours.


Children’s preference for same-sex play mates is a robust finding that has been observed in many human cultures and across a number of animal species. Preference for same-sex playmates is at least partially linked to socialization processes, but children may also gravitate toward peers with similar play styles. Girls generally engage in more nurturing-and-mothering-type behaviours, while boys show greater instances of rough-and-tumble play.[5] For much of human history, people lived in small hunter-gatherer societies. Overtime evolutionary forces may have selected for children’s play activities related to adult survival skills.

However, it is not uncommon for girls and boys to prefer opposite-sex playmates and to engage in gender atypical play styles. Similarly to toy preferences, androgens may also be involved in playmate and play style preferences. Girls who have congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH)typically engage in more rough-and-tumble play. Hines and Kaufman (1994) found that 50% of girls with CAH reported a preference for boys as playmates, while less than 10% of their non-CAH sisters preferred boys as playmates.[5] Another study found that girls with CAH still preferred same-sex playmates, but their atypical play styles resulted in them spending more time alone engaging in their preferred activities. Girls' with CAH are more likely to have masculinized genitalia, and it's been suggested that this could lead parents to treat them more like boys; however, this claim is unsubstantieated by parental reports.[6]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Nachmanovitch, Stephen, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art. Tarcher/Penguin 1990.
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Huizinga
  3. National Institute for Play. Play Science – the Patterns of Play. URL accessed on 2012-01-16.
  4. (2004) Dr. Toy's Smart Play Smart Toys (How To Raise A Child With a High PQ (Play Quotient)), Stevanne Auerbach.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Hines, M., Kaufman, Melissa., Francine, R. (1994). Androgen and the Development of Human Sex-Typical Behavior: Rough and Tumble Play and Sex of Preferred Playmates in Children with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH). Child Development 65 (4): 1042–53.
  6. Hines, M., Brook, C., Conway, G.S. (2004). Androgen and Psychosexual Development: Core Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, and Recalled Childhood Gender Role Behavior in Women and Men with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH). Journal of Sex Research 41 (1): 75–81.

Further readingEdit

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