Project Play: Characteristics of Play

As we set out on this journey together, it only makes sense to qualify the subject matter: play. When we refer to ‘play’ what do we mean?

Well, as it turns out, defining play, not in the dictionary sense, but in a larger way, is quite difficult. We all know play when we see it, but the problem is that trying to define ‘play’ is limiting. So, we’ll describe some of the characteristics of play. Furthermore, while there is little agreement within the academic community of a single definition, the characteristics described are those that are to some extent agreed upon by the leading experts in this field.

One important note at the outset is that play is not just for kids. Adults should, and do play. These characteristics apply to all manifestations of play. Moreover, it is not just humanoids that play. Animals, birds and fish play too. The word on extraterrestrials is still to be determined, but it would not be a leap to imagine that all living species play in some way or another.

Play for itself

The value of ‘play’ is play itself. That isn’t to mean that we don’t learn from play or get anything out of it. What we gain from play are essentially “side effects”. We play just to play: to be free from time, to be free from expectations, and to nurture our souls.


The world transforms around us in a way it never does when we aren’t playing. We feel comfortable, engaged, and empowered. Play allows for the unique feeling of a loss of self-consciousness. We can be who we are when we play and this freedom is transformative.


Play connects us to others, to the world around us, and to ourselves.


This is kind of a no-brainer. If you aren’t enjoying yourself than you probably aren’t engaged in play. While “fun” and “play” are not interchangeable terms, there is an expectation that play comes with a certain sense of enjoyment.

Just look around, play is everywhere. When was the last time you allowed yourself the pleasure of play?

Until next time,

Project Play