This support is for us, the “play partners” to help us to consider what it is we are doing when we say we are “playing” or when we say “we have play goals for our learners or loved ones.”
PLAY is a human right according to the United Nations – Committee on the Rights of the Child. In order to ensure we are facilitating PLAY and play opportunities, we had better know what PLAY is! PLAY is freely chosen, internally motivated, self-directed, joyful, and restorative. THAT is the core. It can be many other things, too (e.g., solitary, social, exploratory, constructive, representational, parallel, cooperative, etc) However, the core of PLAY is freely chosen, internally motivated, self-directed, joyful, and restorative. Those elements MUST be present to be true PLAY. The others are ALL optional.
Just because we are engaging someone in activities with toys or in a “playful manner” does not mean that we are facilitating PLAY. If the core components – freely chosen, internally motivated, self-directed, joyful, and restorative – are not present, it is not PLAY. It may be playful learning or it might actually be work. These are critical distinctions and we must be careful observers truly discern the nature of the activity. While one might argue there may be a place for all of these things in a child’s day, they are quite different.