To play

Playing is defined as the activity performed by one or more players, using their imagination or tools (spaces, objects) to create a situation with a certain number of rules (times, turns, …) and a certain degree of uncertainty about the final result, in order to provide entertainment or fun. It is an educational tool that stimulates practical and psychological skills. Play is instinctive and not just for humans. All young mammals play, which indicates how important it is to development.


It is a manifestation that has a purpose in itself, gratuitous, disinterested and inconsequential. To play unfolds in a world apart, fictitious, away from everyday life, a continuous symbolic message.

To play is to do something for the pleasure of doing it, to do it freely and without expecting anything in return – more than the pleasure of playing itself – just for the challenge it entails, for the joy that you are looking for (Raimundo Dinello).

The first reference on games that exists is of the year 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia. The game of Senet, whose earliest known reference is painted on a wall of Hesy’s tomb, during the Egyptian 3rd Dynasty (2650 BC) along with the Oware and the Royal Game of Ur, are considered the oldest table games in the world.

Etymologically, researchers report that the word game (“juego”) comes from two Latin words: “iocum and ludus-ludere” both refer to joke, fun, and are often used interchangeably with the expression playful activity.

It is impossible to talk about the human being without talking about gambling. This is defined by Johan Huizinga in his book Homo Ludens (The Man Who Plays), defining humanity as the person who plays, the person open to mystery and beauty. “To play is an action or free occupation, which develops within certain temporal and spatial limits, according to rules absolutely mandatory, although freely accepted, action that has an end in itself and is accompanied by a feeling of tension and joy and the consciousness of-to be otherwise-than in ordinary life”.

For José María Cagigal to play is “A free, spontaneous, disinterested and inconsequential action that takes place in a temporal and spatial limitation of habitual life, according to certain rules, established or improvised and whose informational element is tension.”

Friedrich Schiller argues that man is only truly human when he plays. Many animals play during their training, but humans play for a lifetime. So it’s the game that makes us truly human.

Why is play important for children?

Gambling is critical for children to learn essential life skills that cannot be taught in a more structured or formal way. Gambling often imitates adults: their work, their roles, and the way they interact.

Children learn physical, mental, social and emotional skills:

  • It develops the correct coordination of the different parts of the body and the motor capacities
  • Help to discover new sensations
  • Stimulates reasoning ability
  • Encourages imagination and creativity
  • Helps develop language
  • Teaches to relate to others: verbal communication, body language
  • Teaches to be empathetic, educative, kind, strong, generous
  • Teaches to deal with difficult people and know the limits
  • It helps to feel part of something bigger than oneself, to cooperate, to work in team
  • Teaches how to satisfy one’s needs without breaking the needs of others
  • Develops curiosity, creativity and problem solving
  • Develops responsibility and self-control
  • It supposes the opportunity to express opinions and feelings and to express fears, anxieties and worries
  • Encourages participation and cooperation with others
  • Helps express yourself in a free way and release tensions
  • Increases self-esteem and personality development
  • Provides joy, pleasure and satisfaction
  • Stimulates the desire for conquest and self-improvement
  • Promotes the internalization of norms and patterns of social behavior

The transition from solitary play to social simulation is a hallmark of the pre-school period, reflecting relatively sophisticated socio-linguistic and cognitive development… because the intended social play involves:

  • communication and coordination of abstract meaning between people
  • the possibility of ambiguity
  • the subsequent breakdown of social interaction around a mock topic

According to the theory of mind, with social symbolic play, children are concerned about the intentions and beliefs of others.

The Benefits of Adult Gaming

Gambling is not only essential for children; can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing with your romantic partner, friends, co-workers, pets and children is a safe (and fun) way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem solving skills and emotional well-being.

  • Adult play is a time to forget about work and commitments, and to be social in an unstructured and creative way
  • The game can add joy to life
  • Relieve Stress and Depression
  • Improve brain function
  • Stimulate the mind and stimulate creativity
  • Improve adaptability and problem solving
  • Improve relationships and their connection with others: empathy, compassion, trust, intimacy
  • Staying young and energetic and even improving resistance to getting sick
  • Facilitate learning
  • Make work more productive and enjoyable.

Other views on playing

For Martine Mauriras-Bousquet play is an existential attitude, a particular way of approaching life that can be applied to everything, without corresponding to anything in particular. A free attitude in front of life, able to enjoy it, regardless of the reality that we have had to live; a grateful, positive attitude, with a sense of humor…

For Roger Caillois the game is an activity that is characterized by being free, separated from reality, uncertain, unproductive, regulated and fictitious.

Caillois makes a primary classification of games, where there are only two categories:

  • Paidia: activities related to fun, improvisation, full of fantasy, commonly known as children’s play
  • Ludus: activities with difficulty to reach the final result, entail ingenuity, skill, dexterity, patience. They have more complex rules.

It establishes other subcategories related to the predominance of competition, chance, mockery or vertigo:

  • Agon (competition): These are games that appear as a fight. Examples: soccer, chess.
  • Alea (luck): In these the participants are in absolute equality of conditions against chance. Examples: The dice, tossing a coin into the air.
  • Mimicry (simulation): The subject plays to believe, to make himself or others believe that he is different from himself. Examples: theatrical performance and dramatic interpretation.
  • Ilinx (vertigo): They consist of an attempt to break the stability of perception and inflict a kind of panic or stun. Examples: spinning, Six Flags, mechanical games.

The game as a right of childhood

According to Martha Nussbaum, play, being able to laugh, play and enjoy is one of the basic human capacities (see the second part of our article on Need and Desire).

Max Neef and his collaborators in their work on human needs describe leisure as one of those that allow the individual:

  • Being: Curiosity, receptivity, imagination, unconcern, humor, tranquility, sensuality
  • To have: Games, shows, parties, calm
  • Doing: Diving, abstracting, dreaming, longing, fantasizing, evoking, relaxing, having fun, playing
  • Be: Privacy, intimacy, meeting spaces, free time, environments, landscapes

Playing is a right, fundamentally, because childish life cannot be conceived without play. Playing is the main activity of children and responds to the need for children to look, touch, browse, experiment, invent, imagine, learn, express, communicate, create, dream … It is that primary impulse that pushes us from the childhood to discover, to explore, to dominate and to want the world that surrounds to us, enabling a healthy and harmonious growth of the body, the intelligence, the affectivity, the creativity and the sociability. Playing is one of the most important sources of progress and learning. The right to play was recognized for the first time on 20 November 1959, when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

The right to play is defined in article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as “States Parties recognize the right of children to rest and leisure, play and recreational activities appropriate to their age and to participate freely in cultural life and in the arts”.

In article 30 of the new Code fot Children and Adolescents presents the right to play as follows: “Children and adolescents have the right to rest, leisure and play and other recreational activities of their life cycle and participate in cultural life and the arts. “Thus, play is proposed as a substantive part of the integral development of the child and the importance of exercising it is recognized.


If you want to know a little bit more…


Huizinga, J. (1938/2008). Homo ludens. Madrid: Alianza Editorial.

Marín, I., Penon, S. y Martínez, M. (2008). El placer de jugar. Aprende y diviértete con tus hijos. Barcelona: Ediciones CEAC.

Mauriras-Bousquet, M. (1991). Puro apetito de vivir. Correo de la UNESCO, 157, 13-17.

Pérez Alonso-Geta, P. (1994). Valores y estilos de vida de los niños españoles. El juguete en su categoría social. Valencia: FEJU.

Schiller, F. (1793/1990). Kallias. Cartas sobre la educación estética del hombre. Barcelona:  Anthropos.

Wallon, H. (1941/2000). La evolución psicológica del niño. Barcelona: Editorial Crítica.

Cagigal, J. M. (1996) Obras selectas (Vol. I). Cádiz. Comité Olímpico Español.

Maturana, H., Verden-Zöller, G. (1993) Amor y juego: fundamentos olvidados de lo humano. Santiago. J. C. Sáez.


Other websites of interest in the subject: