Science breaks down the types of play

Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, has classified several different types of play and determined that each type of play accomplishes different benefits.

Attunement Play

Attunement play is the early building blocks for all forms of play. Through activities like peek-a-boo and baby talk, parents begin to establish an
emotional connection with their infant. It not only helps develop object permanence, it helps build awareness and fosters happiness. When you smile and coo happily at your baby, he or she learns to mimic your expressions and eventually smiles back and begins to vocalize as well.

Body Play & Movement

Body play and movement is largely a way for children to develop a spatial understanding of themselves and world around them. Leaping in the air teaches us the effects of gravity. Dance teaches us the various ways that our bodies can move.

Object Play

Playing with toys and objects develops problem-solving skills. Animal researchers developed a test to determine intelligence among ravens. They put food on a string and suspended it from a branch. The ravens began to gather the string using their claws and beaks until the food was in their grasps. Object play is similar in that it allows children to explore the functions of objects and develop tools.

Social Play

One of the most complex forms of play, social play helps children establish social norms. As our children engage in group play, they develop the interpersonal skills that will help them have successful friendships and relationships as adults.

Imaginative & Pretend Play

Whether it’s done in a group or on one’s own, imaginative and pretend play is the birthplace of creativity. Whether a child is playing house or hosting a tea party, he or she is developing their own inner story and an understanding of his or her place in the world.

Storytelling-Narrative Play

Children love it when you read them a story, in the same way that adults enjoy binge watching on Netflix. And while both of these activities have an element of fantasy, it also helps both children and adults gain an understanding of both ourselves and of others.

Creative Play

Creating music, brainstorming…these playful situations tap into our creative juices that are developed during pretend play and extract finished ideas that add function and progress to our lives.

To learn more about the different types of play, check out this TED talk video featuring Dr. Brown: “Play is more than just fun.”