Play Is One of Four Fundamental Activities According to American Journal of Play

The Strong News Release
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY 14607 585-263-2700

June 24, 2015

For Immediate Release

Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365,

Kim Della Porta, 585-410-6325,

Play Is One of Four Fundamental Human Activities
According to Interview in the
American Journal of Play

ROCHESTER, NY—Play must be studied because it’s one of four core pathways of the human experience, according to an interview with Thomas Henricks, professor at Elon University and one of the country’s foremost play theorists, published in the most-recent issue of The Strong’s American Journal of Play. Henricks argues that play, work, ritual, and communitas (or civic celebration) act as the main avenues of human expression. He says that play “…is not some special activity set apart but one of the most basic things that people (and animals) do.”

Henricks argues that play offers something that the other activities do not—relative unpredictability. He says that while play often involves rules, it also “…courts the unexpected and the various.” Henricks argues that play and work are not necessarily opposite, but he does note that play and ritual differ greatly. Ritual requires conforming to an established framework, whereas play encourages order-making and then order-breaking. In particular, he notes that more disorderly play allows for personal expression, creativity, and innovation.

Henricks goes on to say that play is important to human and animal functioning because it allows them to adapt to their environments, transform as necessary, and to assert themselves. He says, “The function of this sort of activity is what I call ‘goal attainment’—the need to develop abilities related to conceiving ends of action, forming and implementing strategies, evaluating the world’s reaction to these, then trying something different.” Therefore, he asserts, play is something that creatures must do.

Henricks also argues that play—like any significant topic—requires multiple perspectives, and because of that, it draws scholars from so many fields of study.  While Henricks believes that scholars have advanced the study of play dramatically in the last century, he also sees the field evolving in the future to recognize and address specific forms of play, such as spectator sports, hobbies, dining, vacationing, shopping, and sexual expression. “The world of real play is moving ahead briskly,” he says. “The challenge for play studies is to keep abreast of that movement . . . not only for the sake of understanding but to assist persons and groups in choosing the best possibilities for their lives.”

Additional articles in Vol. 7, No. 3 of the American Journal of Play include:

“Ludic Ontology: Play’s Relationship to Language, Cultural Form, and Transformative Politics,” by Rachel Shields, doctoral student at McMaster University. Shields argues that play cannot be fully conveyed using conventional language, and she asserts that it should be viewed more as a basic force, which drives people to imagine alternatives to “current cultural varieties.”

“Imagination, Playfulness, and Creativity in Children’s Play with Different Toys,” by Signe Juhl Moller, doctoral fellow and lecturer at the University of Copenhagen. Moller explores the influence of creative-construction and social-fantasy toys on preschool children. She argues that children can develop more playful attitudes by transgressing play scenarios—or introduce something new and creative to the existing rules of play. Through this, the rules appear dynamically created and therefore encourage playfulness.

“More Play, Please: The Perspective of Kindergarten Teachers on Play in the Classroom,” by Meghan Lynch, doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto. Lynch argues that play in the kindergarten classroom has decreased in recent years due to pressures on teachers to focus on academic goals. She argues that more research needs to be completed to develop effective strategies for teachers to include play in their classrooms beyond simply stating play’s importance.

The complete issue of the American Journal of Play can be accessed freely online at Printed editions are also available for subscription and singly copy purchase.

About the American Journal of Play
The Strong’s American Journal of Play is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication that serves as a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. Published three times each year, the Journal includes articles, interviews, and book reviews written for a broad readership that includes educators, psychologists, play therapists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, museum professionals, toy and game designers, policy makers, and others who consider play for a variety of reasons and from various perspectives.