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date: 25 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The role of play in human development is controversial. In some quarters it is viewed as indispensable to children’s healthy development and education, while in others it is marginalized as a topic unworthy of study and of questionable functional significance. I suggest that differences in the ways in which play is defined and the ways in which its function is conceptualized have led to this misunderstanding. I outline the ontogeny of social, object, locomotor, and pretend play and their possible functions. I also make educational policy and research recommendations for the role of play in children’s lives.

Keywords: play, locomotor play, object play, exploration, social play, pretend play, novelty, function, natural selection, ontogeny, phylogeny

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