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Childhood play defies definition and some researchers even refuse to try to define it. While the Eskimo have 50 or more words for snow, the English language’s singular word of play encompasses many childhood and adult activities. Is playing dressing up, building blocks, finger painting, kicking the ball on playgrounds, swinging a bat at a baseball, or manipulating the keys of a piano? While societies have been studying childhood play for centuries, dating back even to Plato and Aristotle, there have been various theories about why children play. This entry first discusses various theories about play that have been commonly held in the past, as well as more recent theories. It then discusses the various types of play children engage in and the functions they ...

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