Play Types

These were developed by Bob Hughes for the purposes of adults who study and facilitate play.  It is examined in far more detail in his 1996 book A Playworker’s Taxonomy of Play Types, London: PLAYLINK, UK.



Communication Play – play using words, nuances or gestures for example, mime, jokes, play acting, mickey taking, singing, debate, poetry.

Creative Play – play which allows a new response, the transformation of information, awareness of new connections, with an element of surprise.

Deep Play – play which allows the child to encounter risky or even potentially life threatening experiences, to develop survival skills and conquer fear.

Dramatic Play – play which dramatizes events in which the child is not a direct participator.

Exploratory Play – play to access factual information consisting of manipulative behaviours such as handling, throwing, banging or mouthing objects.

Fantasy Play – play which rearranges the world in the child’s way, a way which is unlikely to occur.

Imaginative Play – play where the conventional rules, which govern the physical world, do not apply.

Locomotor Play – movement in any or every direction for its own sake.

Mastery Play – control of the physical and affective ingredients of the environments.

Object Play – play which uses infinite and interesting sequences of hand-eye manipulations and movements.

Recapitulative Play – play that allows the child to explore ancestry, history, rituals, stories, rhymes, fire and darkness. Enables children to access play of earlier human evolutionary stages.

Role Play – play exploring ways of being, although not normally of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature.

Rough and Tumble Play – close encounter play which is less to do with fighting and more to do with touching, tickling, gauging relative strength. Discovering physical flexibility and the exhilaration of display.

Social Play – play during which the rules and criteria for social engagement and interaction can be revealed, explored and amended.

Socio-dramatic Play – the enactment of real and potential experiences of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature.

Symbolic Play – play which allows control, gradual exploration and increased understanding without the risk of being out of one’s depth.