Contact FutureLearn for Support Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.
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 Statement of Participation when you complete over half 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 and certainly not confined to childhood. This course will encourage you to think about play from new and different angles. 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?

Download video: standard or HD

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 secondsWe'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 secondsAnd 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 secondsWe 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.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

Who is the course for?

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 and Jackie Marsh

We are both Professors who teach and research in the School of Education at the University of Sheffield.

www.shef.ac.uk/education/staff/academic/ewood

www.shef.ac.uk/education/staff/academic/marshj

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.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised certificate in both digital and printed formats, to celebrate taking part.

$54.00