Is It Real Play, Play-Like, Or Not Play?

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After testing and refining this handy handout for over six months, it’s finally time to push it out of the nest. It’s a quick way to determine if an activity is Real Play, Play-Like, or Not Play based on Peter Gray’s Conditions of Play.

Simply determine which of the four quadrants the activity you’re observing fits into and you’ll have a good idea of the activity’s playfulness. I’ve shared versions of this document with a handful of Playvolution HQ users and they’ve found it pretty accurate based on their understanding of Play.

This document is a handy tool for helping early learning professionals:

  • understand children’s activities
  • manage their environments
  • think about play

In this episode of the Child Care Bar And Grill podcast, Lisa Murphy and I discuss this handout.

Defining Play

In these eight episodes, Lisa and I discuss Peter Gray’s definition of play:

Free PDF

Here’s a PDF version of the document you can use as you like.



I expect this document will be refined over time as more people use it and offer insights.If you give it a try, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.

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Jen Asimow

Hi Jeff, I am going to use this graphic organizer this weekend when my Practicum students discuss the play they observed at their field sites. I hope it will bring some more clarity. If it works well, I can scan a few and send them along for further discussion. One a side note, I visited two centers this week and was so disappointed in both. Once has a wonderful reputation and I have had previous good experiences there. However, in this room, even if a casual onlooker might think it looked busy and engaging, upon closer inspection, I found that… Read more »