10 Play Types

1 Place/Country responsive play 

Place/Country-responsive play involves exploring the interconnectedness of people, cultures and the natural environment, specifically through spending time in and learning about local places – within and especially beyond centre grounds (Tooth & Renshaw, 2020).

Examples of place/Country-responsive play include leaving the centre grounds; walking and mapping the local community; nature journaling; bushwalks and other excursions on Country; learning from and with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders; creek exploration; beach visits; engaging with local community organisations; caring for Country through conservation; collecting rubbish; and planting habitat.

 2 More than human play 

More than human play is relating with other beings and objects other than human or more than human. In other words, how they engage with, effect and are affected by sky, sun, animals, plants, weather, water, soil and many other more than human elements. More than human play affords opportunities for children to develop awareness of their entanglement with nature – particularly the reality that “children are nature, and as such, are interconnected with and part of the natural world” (Barratt Hacking et al., 2020, p. 760).

Examples of more than human play include close relatings and deep observation of plants, trees, clouds, natural objects and more than human species. Such deep relatings can be encouraged through botanical drawings, creek exploration, noticing and mapping animal tracks, investigating/observing local animals (e.g. arachnids, insects, lizards, birds), becoming- animals, exploring lifecycles, and bringing natural materials inside for free play.

 3 Slow play  

Slow play enables children the freedom, space and time to engage in sustained, unhurried, uninterrupted play.

Examples of slow play might include ‘sit spots’ where children sit quietly and observe their surroundings,observing seasonal changes, child-directed free play on Country, engaging with art materials and activities. Slow play involvesproviding opportunities for children to keep revisiting their play over time.

Sensorial play

Sensorial play involves opportunities to stimulate children’s senses – touch, taste, sight, sound, smell, and proprioception (awareness of the position and movement of the body). Through engaging their senses, children experience “opportunities of being and becoming and relating” with the natural world (Green, 2020, p. 880). Learning through pedagogies of sensorial play encourages noticing, paying attention, being slower, attuning, foraging, smelling, feeling, touching and deepening connection.

Examples of sensorial play include gardening, tasting plants, fruit and vegetables, sensorial bushwalk/ bug hunt, mud play, sand play, water play, attuning the senses through guided meditation, cooking, and clay work.

Risky play

Risky play involves “thrilling and exciting forms of physical play that involve uncertainty and a risk of physical injury” (Sandseter, 2010, p. 22).

Examples of risky play include climbing trees and other high objects, hanging upside down, balancing from a height, rope swings, navigating creeks, building campfires, using tools such as axes, saws, hammers or whittling knives, wrestling, fencing with sticks, and children exploring without adult supervision.

Imaginative play 

Imaginative play may also be referred to as make-believe play, fantasy play, symbolic play, pretend play and dramatic play (Park, 2019). Imaginative play is generally open-ended and child-led, and may be undertaken solo, with a friend, or a group of children. Imaginative or pretend play generally involves children “pretending a role, pretending with an object and pretending a situation” (Park, 2019, p. 1).

Examples of imaginative play include dress ups, role playing (e.g., becoming-animals, becoming-explorers, becoming mums and dads, or mums and babies), pretending sticks or rocks or leaves or cardboard boxes are all kinds of objects, and educators removing all toys from the centre grounds are ways to encourage imaginative play.

Creative play

Creative play involves children working with elements of their environment to create and construct – including for example natural and inorganic materials, and more traditional art supplies like paint, glue, pencils, crayons, paper and clay.

Examples of creative play include loose parts play, whittling, sawing wood, building tunnels and bridges, drawing, dancing, singing, percussion, nature journaling, nature collage, weaving, drumming in the bush, singing, dancing, felting, sculpting, clay work and painting.

8 Discovery play

Discovery play enables children to explore and think deeply about the world and learn about how the world works. Discovery play often involves exploration, experimentation, and investigation – to engage with the environment and develop skills in inquiry (Hamlin & Wisneski, 2012).

Examples of discovery play include looking at objects under a digital microscope, experimenting with natural resources (e.g. leaves from the red ash soap tree), exploring shadows and light, floating and sinking, observing the world and interacting with it (e.g., watching insect and animal behaviour).

 9 Death play 

Death play is play which explores death, dying, or grief. Research shows opportunities for children to grapple with death are “a potentially vital component of their developing sense of relatedness to non-human others and nature” (Russell, 2017, p. 75). While death play may often be child-initiated in response to loss of family members, pets passing or a child happening across a dead body in nature, in news stories, popular culture or picture books, death play may also be initiated or supported by educators as a means for supporting a child or children who are interested or grappling with concepts of death and grief.

Examples of death play can include observing dead animals decomposing over time, role-playing death/dying, and learning about lifecycles.

10 Mixed Play

We wanted to share this video to demonstrate how multiple play types may be engaged with simultaneously. Please take a moment to ponder how the very popular activity of playing in the sand pit indeed involves non-human play, slow play, sensorial play, imaginative play, creative play and discovery play.



Place/Country Responsive Play:

Langton, M. (2019). Welcome to country [youth edition]. Hardie Grant Travel.

Pineda, M. (2018). Mama Spider. Journal of Childhood Studies, 43(1), 73-80. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.18357/jcs.v43i1.18267

More than human Play

Barratt Hacking, E., Flanders Cushing, D., & Barratt, R. (2020). Exploring the significant life experiences of childhoodnature. In A. Cutter-Mackenzie, K. Malone, & E. Barratt Hacking (Eds.), Research Handbook on Childhoodnature. Springer.

Jackson, A. Y., & Mazzei, L. A. (2016). Thinking with an agentic assemblage in posthuman inquiry. In C. A. Taylor & C. Hughes (Eds.), Posthuman Research Practices In Education (pp. 93-107). Palgrave Macmillan.

Taylor, A. (2013). Reconfiguring the Natures of Childhood. Routledge.

Ulmer, J. B. (2017). Posthumanism as research methodology: inquiry in the Anthropocene. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 30(9), 832-848. doi:10.1080/09518398.2017.1336806

Whitty, P., Hewes, J., Rose, S., Lirette, P., & Lee, M. (2018). (Re)encountering walls, tattoos, and chickadees: Disrupting discursive tenacity. Journal of Childhood Studies, 43(2), 1-16. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.18357/jcs.v43i2.18574

Slow Play

Payne, P. G., & Wattchow, B. (2009). Phenomenological deconstruction, slow pedagogy and the corporeal turn in wild environmental/outdoor education. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 14, 15-32.