Children's play and the processing of information: An integrative study

L. A. Barnett, M. G. Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Levels of novelty and complexity in two toy puzzles were manipulated to test an arousal‐seeking theory of play. Preschool children played with either a simple or complex toy puzzle; fifteen‐minute sessions of play and task‐oriented behaviors were videotaped and assigned to one of nine behavioral categories. Differences in duration to puzzle solution were found to be a function of complexity level, and of prior exposure with the same or different complexity level of puzzle. With resolution of the task demand, subjects began manipulating various aspects of the testing environment as an alternative to boredom. When little new stimulation could be elicited from the testing apparatus, playful behaviors were initiated. Individual variability was high on the playful behavioral categories but low on categories involving resolution of the puzzle task. This provides support for the view that the typology of play activities is unique to each player and that activity‐based definitions of play are of little explanatory value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-37
Number of pages25
JournalLeisure Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1979


  • Child development
  • Complexity
  • Information‐processing
  • Novelty
  • Play
  • Problem‐solving
  • Theories of play

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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