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Online course

Exploring Play: the Importance of Play in Everyday Life

Understanding the nature and value of play through the course of our lives, across cultures and communities.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Exploring Play: the Importance of Play in Everyday Life

Why join the course?

Play is often seen as the natural and spontaneous activity of childhood. When we say that something is child’s play, we usually mean that it’s easy to accomplish and perhaps does not need much thought or effort. But play is immensely complex, open to many interpretations and certainly not confined to childhood. This course 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?

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Skip to 0 minutes and 17 secondsIn this course, we'll introduce you to many different play worlds and play lives that people experience across a lifespan. We will travel to the Museum of Childhood in London to see how play has evolved over time. In Sheffield's Weston Park Museum, we'll see how children and families engage playfully with past, present and future worlds and understand how every day knowledge informs playfulness and imagination. Without leaving our seats, we'll immerse ourselves in virtual worlds, where the boundaries between fantasy and reality are increasingly blurred. Our visits to outdoor spaces in cities, parks and a forest school will show people of all ages engaging playfully with their local surroundings.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds We'll consider the ways in which spaces can be designed to facilitate or inhibit play and what happens when players try to bend the rules. Play is also the subject of serious study. We'll have academics from a wide range of different disciplines at The University of Sheffield take you through some of the definitions of play, and discuss current debates about the changing nature of play. For example, does play help us to learn, to prepare for adulthood and the world of work? Do we learn to abide by rules in play, or do we learn to bend or subvert the rules? Are all forms of play beneficial?

Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds And what about the media panic that children are being exposed to the apparent dangers of digital play? The new knowledge and understanding you will gain from this course might be the inspiration for a career related to play. For example, as a play therapist or play worker. Perhaps you might want to go into the creative industries, as a games designer or developer, as an artist or a designer in the theatre. And of course, being a playful parent or carer is the foundation for bonding, from the very first games of peek-a-boo, to whole families that play in parks and festivals, and in virtual worlds.

Skip to 2 minutes and 25 seconds We also want to persuade you that playing with ideas and possibilities is fundamental to invention and innovation in the sciences, engineering, architecture, mathematics, medicine, business and technology. So you can see that there are some important questions to ask about play, which will help you to think differently about something that we so often take for granted. So the next time you think that something is child's play, you will know that actually it is deeply serious and significant. And you will begin to understand why the future is playful.

What topics will you cover?

  • The history and diversity of play.
  • Definitions and rhetorics of play.
  • Play across lifespan, cultures and contexts.
  • Play in outdoor and indoor environments.
  • Emotion, gender and play.
  • Trauma and play.
  • Disability and play.
  • Teenagers, adults and play.
  • Intergenerational play.
  • Modern technology and play.
  • The relationship between virtual play and the outside world.
  • Play, curiosity, creativity and innovation.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Describe Brian Sutton-Smith’s seven rhetorics of play.
  • Explore the history of toys and games.
  • Identify continuity and change in play across centuries.
  • Compare play activities across cultures.
  • Debate the impact of modern technology on play.
  • Investigate where children and teenagers play in your neighborhood.
  • Discuss the provision and exclusion of play spaces in society.
  • Explore the role of emotion and gender in children’s play.
  • Evaluate the role of play during times of illness, trauma or accident.
  • Investigate types of play in virtual worlds.
  • Summarise the experiences of activists, practitioners and parents in relation to disability and play.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of serious play through playful missions.
  • Reflect on the relationship between play, creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Who is the course for?

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.

Who will you learn with?

Elizabeth Wood (Educator)

I am Professor of Education at the University of Sheffield, and specialise in researching play. Developing the MOOC with colleagues across different disciplines has been fascinating.

Jackie Marsh (Educator)

I am Professor of Education at the University of Sheffield. I am interested in the relation between childhood cultures, play and new technologies.

Who developed the course?

The University of Sheffield is one of the world’s top 100 universities with a reputation for teaching and research excellence.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Get extra benefits, upgrade this course. For $94 you'll get:

Unlimited access

Upgrading will mean you get unlimited access to the course.

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  • Take the course at your own pace
  • Refer to the material at any point in future

If you’re taking a course for free you have access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join. If you upgrade the course you have access for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn.

Access to tests

When you upgrade you’ll have access to any tests during the course.

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  • Validate your learning
  • Ensure you have mastered the material
  • Qualify for a certificate

To receive a Certificate of Achievement you need to take any tests and score over 70%. You don’t get access to tests if you choose to take a course for free.

Certificate of Achievement

Upgrading means you’ll receive a Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course.

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  • Prove your success when applying for jobs or courses
  • Celebrate your hard work
  • Display on your LinkedIn or CV

To receive a Certificate of Achievement you need to mark 90% of the steps on the course as complete, and score over 70% on any course tests.