What Is Tina Bruce’s Theory on Play?

As opposed to “learning through play,” Tina Bruce believes that children use play to practice what they have already learned. Play gives them a chance to understand their relationships, thoughts and feelings, and to use newly acquired physical skills.

Bruce believes that play is an active process rather than something that reaches a goal or produces a product, and that providing toys is not necessary because children can come up with their own props using simple materials such as sticks and pebbles. According to Bruce, adults should support and facilitate play but not be in charge of it; children should be allowed to be in charge of a free-flowing form of play, making up rather than following rules, and coordinating the various play-agendas of all involved.

According to Bruce, imaginative play lifts children’s cognitive abilities to a higher, more abstract level of thinking, allowing them to imagine how others feel and to try out various aspects of their own personalities, such as being good, bad or selfish. Being immersed in play helps children use past experiences to problem solve and experiment. In addition, the deep concentration that children experience when given the opportunity to be fully immersed in play can be a predictor of later academic success.