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The University of Sheffield

Exploring Play: The Importance of Play in Everyday Life

The University of Sheffield via FutureLearn


This course from the School of Education at the University of Sheffield will encourage you to think differently about play.

We’ll discuss definitions of play and current debates about how the nature of play changes. Does play help us to learn? Can it prepare young people to be successful in the adult world? Are all forms of play good for us?

Play is a fundamental part of innovation and creativity across a whole range of subjects, careers, disciplines and industries, from fashion and engineering to teaching and business.

This course will be of interest to you if you wish to work or study in the fields of psychology, playwork, childhood studies, play therapy, hospital play, teaching, childcare, or if you just want to better understand your relationship with the children in your life and your own play.


  • Definitions of play
    • Welcome to the course
    • Definitions of play
    • Play across the lifespan
    • Play across cultures
    • Quiz and a look forward to next week
    • Additional activity
  • Histories of play
    • Introduction to Week 2
    • History of play
    • Continuities and discontinuities in play
    • Modern technology and play
    • Quiz and a look forward to next week
  • Children, environments and emotions
    • Introduction to Week 3
    • Where do children play?
    • Outdoor environments
    • Emotional experiences of play
    • Trauma and play
    • Quiz and a look forward to next week
  • Teenagers, adults and play
    • Introduction to Week 4
    • Understanding teenagers' play
    • Skating the city
    • Serious play and curiosity
    • Play across generations
    • Quiz and a look forward to next week
  • The relationship between virtual play and the outside world
    • Which world do we live in? Exploring play in the virtual world
    • Experiencing play in virtual worlds
    • The virtual social world
    • Education and disability issues in Second Life
    • Reflecting on virtual play
    • Playing with information
    • Quiz and a look forward to next week
  • Disability and play
    • Introduction to Week 6
    • Play and disability in practice
    • Research stories
    • Disability and being human
    • A look forward to next week
  • Reflections on play
    • Introduction to Week 7
    • Play in everyday life
    • Reviewing your thoughts on play and the course
    • Farewell, thanks and end of course assessment

Taught by

Elizabeth Wood


4.9 rating, based on 136 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at FutureLearn based on 211 ratings

Start your review of Exploring Play: The Importance of Play in Everyday Life

  • Anonymous
    I think this course is to be highly commended and recommended to anyone thinking about building a career around play. Its a great cross-sectional taster. The structure of the course is intuitive and easy to follow and the reflections and contributio…
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The Exploring Play course has been an eye-opening, thought-provoking and extremely informative course. As a teacher in a primary school but with experience and training in secondary education, I have found this extremely useful for my professional d…
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Really great course, easy to follow and topics broken down into bite-sized chunks. I have worked for many years in SEN, mostly with children with ASD, and currently in our Early Years provision. The course has made me re-think how children play and…
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I started on the course, not thinking that there were so many strands to play this course has made me realise that play is everywhere when you use your imagination! It was good to find out about the history of toys and the different material used in…
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The course covers a broad range of topics and shows how play is integral to our personal development. It also shows how it is affected by factors such as urban design, access to facilities, the application of new technology, disability and the concept of universal design. The course presenters are experts in their fields and are able to convey complex ideas with clarity. This is a course which makes you think and challenges some of your pre-conceptions about play and its role in our lives and societies.
  • Anonymous
    This course was truly amazing, even as someone with years of experience supporting disabled children and young people in a play setting it really broadened my understanding of play. It helped me to better appreciate how multidisciplinary play is, an…
  • Easter Sippel

    Easter Sippel completed this course.

    I enjoyed, I wish I could do it a bit quicker and involved more to make comments. I found disturbing to promote technology as a good and helpful thing but I accept the explanation and changed my mind about it. I felt a bit sad about the final test, you can do it only if you upgrade. It's fine, I understand, end of the day is a business and a good try to make money. I am not blame you. Thank you for the opportunity, all the useful information and the extra reading suggestions. It was a pleasure to be part of this course.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    A really nicely put together course, which provides a lot of thoughtful content on what 'play' is. It took me in directions that I wasn't expecting and opened my eyes to new ways of looking at types of play and the different merits of it. Some of the units appealed to me less than others, but they all had interesting elements to them and this was a fun seven weeks of learning!
  • Anonymous
    Just to say that when I first started to do the Play online training I did not know how this training would impact me or if I even wanted to participate in it but I am glad that I did the training.

    I was not sure what to expect but along the way the course has opened up my eyes to the different ways that both adults and children interact in their own version of play.

    I have also learnt that play is not just play, it is a whole world to itself and play means different things to different people. I learnt a lot and will be looking at Play differently from now on and I hope that those participating in the Play course would benefit from it as I have. JL
  • Anonymous
    I really enjoyed this course, we looked deeper into play scenarios recapping on our experiences. I was really surprised by some of the details and information provided especially discovering adults still have play time. i recommend this course to anyone .
  • Maha Odeh
    Very beneficial, essential, insightful and informative for every caregiver, parent or educator who works or care for children, people with special needs or any body who uses or needs to play for any reason.
  • Anonymous
    I have absolutely loved this course!! Every week I have learnt so much and it has given me a lot of excitement during a time when I'm struggling with a lack of stimulation. I have chatted to a lot of friends about this course and it has been a really important part of my weekly routine these past couple of months. It has provoked a lot of new ideas that I hope to put into practise in my youth work next year and given me a new passion for the job. I am even more interested in potentially pursuing a career in play therapy and certainly feel more grounded in living a playful life.
  • Gail Musante
    This course was beautifully and engagingly presented. It looked at play from a wide variety of perspectives, and I feel that it expanded m own definition of what qualifies as play. As a special education teacher, the course gave me a better understanding of how play might look from my students' view, and especially, it gave me a better understanding of the role of digital media in their generation's experience of play. I gained many ideas for exploring possibilities for the intersection of education, play, and the digital world..
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Very informative and easy to follow. Well presented and taught by people who have a passion for the subject. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot. Thank you.
  • Anonymous
    Course content was very interesting and informative.

    Course layout is very easy to navigate.

    Pace of the course is just right.

    The course flows in a logical sequence.

    Video's have the added advantage of a transcript to follow if needed.

    Quiz's are helpful reminders of learning.

    I can't fault this course.

    If you thought you knew about play; think again. This course smashes many assumptions about what and who can play.

  • Anonymous
    This course gave me more than I expected. This is an introduction of play and covers all the aspects; virtual play, dissabilities, play during natural cathastrofes, urban planning and play, play in nature. The researches have made an incredible job and you can see the passion for their job in this course. I was interested in play therapy before taking the course and now I am much more passionate about it. Thanks so much!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Really great course, easy to follow and topics broken down into bite-sized chunks. I have worked for many years in SEN, mostly with children with ASD, and currently in our Early Years provision. The course has made me re-think how children play and…
  • Anonymous
    I have recently completed this course and I found it to be both interesting and enjoyable.

    I learned about aspects of play which I had not previously considered. I have broadened my knowledge and understanding of play. My general concept of play as being an activity for children has developed and I now see opportunities for play throughout life.
  • Anonymous
    I loved every second of this course. It was deeply thought provoking and drew together themes that are very dear to my heart - child development, education, geography, landscape, tech, creativity, innovation and empowerment of people with disabilities and neurological differences.
  • Anonymous
    It's a very well organized and structured course covering play from different aspects. Speakers are professionals related to play who point out insightful ideas and opinions. It's an open eyed course in many perspectives and gets you into thinking from the beginning till the end.

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