What is play? 

Can my child play?

Does my child know how to play with others?

What is playful versus what is defiant?


These are all questions Brisbane north parents ask when beginning to understand what play is. So let’s start with learning more about what play is.


Play to a child and play to an adult can be viewed so differently. Only children can truly be in the play wholeheartedly. 


Play by definition is:

“…An episode of activity that is child chosen and viewed as play by the child” (Sturgess, 2009)


There are two components that are important to understanding play:

  • Perspective of the child doing the playing
  • The context in which the play is occurring 


To a child everything can be playful. Even the mundane activities of daily life. 


For example, asking your 4 year old to brush their teeth might result in them only stepping on certain tiles the whole way up the hallway because the other tiles are boobi-trapped. This may seem terribly inconvenient for the adult as they bring their own perspectives to the situation and context, however to the child, it is making a menial task exciting. 


Parents find it hard to totally immerse themselves in the play as they often think about the play and apply their own personal experiences and knowledge of their child. 


For children, they are part of the play. Part of magical worlds and problems they have to solve. 


Through play children learn how to:

  • Sequence actions – later on in life this helps them to tell a story about what happened to them at kindy or school that day
  • Substitute objects into their play e.g. a box for a boat – this helps them to problem solve 
  • Engage in lots of steps in play around the same theme – this helps them focus and engage with a topic 
  • Play with others – this helps them to engage in conversation and cooperate with others
  • Negotiate roles in play – this lead to being able to negotiate in groups, negotiate with parents, and understand others perspectives (theory of mind)


If you find that your child has trouble with any of the above or even just have questions – please give the clinic a call and chat with one of our child occupational therapists and child speech pathologists to find out more!


Hanna Corfield

Occupational Therapist