Designing For Play, Fall 2017, Instructor: Cas Holman

Play Taxonomy (2017)


Play Taxonomy (2017)


Timeline: 5 Days

Create a visual for how types of play relate to the things that facilitate them.


To begin with, I started by brainstorming a list for things that facilitate play:

  • Toys
  • Games
  • Puzzles
  • Sports
  • Stories
  • Learning Materials
  • Rules
  • Objects
  • Imagination
  • Groups
  • Intelligence
  • Body
  • Objectives
  • Rewards
  • Technology
  • Senses
  • Space
  • Environment
  • Language
  • Communication
  • Material
  • Competition
  • Feedback
Play Taxonomy (2017)

I realized that this list of facilitators could be narrowed down and organized into the following ten facilitators: Rules, Objective, Group, Language, Body, Imagination, Objects, Material, Technology, and Environment. For example, a sport facilitates play through a combination of rules, objectives, one's body, groups, or an environment. Stories can utilize language, groups, an environment, or objects.

Next, I determined my categories for types of play, and decided to use the seven types of play enumerated by the National Institute for Play: Attunement Play, Body Play & Movement, Object Play, Social Play, Imaginative and Pretend Play, Storytelling-Narrative Play, and Creative Play.

In thinking of how to create a visual, I realized that many of the things that facilitate play are not binary. Rather, there is an individual spectrum for how involved each facilitator is with each distinct type of play. I also determined that there are primary and secondary facilitators acting in each type of play - some facilitators are essential to the type of play, while others are not absolutely necessary, but are often strongly associated with the play type. For example, attunement play requires at least two individuals (group) and the use of their bodies. This play type can be enhanced by baby talk, or language.

To explain this information, I decided to create a series of overlays. There are eight separate sheets, containing the seven different play types and a key sheet denoting the ten different play facilitators. Each play type sheet indicates the primary and secondary facilitators to each play type through the use of color - green for primary, yellow for secondary. The play type sheets can be placed on top of the key sheet. For example, in social play, the primary facilitators of this type of play are an environment to play in and a group to play with. Secondary facilitators can include an objective for the play, objects to play with, or technology.

Play Taxonomy (2017)
Play Taxonomy (2017)

In addition, each type of play is not exclusive. Two or more types of play can be occurring simultaneously. Therefore, I designed the sheets to be able to be overlayed accordingly for comparison and analysis.

Play Taxonomy (2017)
Play Taxonomy (2017)