Through a qualitative method of inquiry, the purpose of the present study was to explore children’s perceptions of work and play in their classrooms using a combination of photography, a categorization task, and semi-structured interviews. Participants included 16 children between the ages of 4 and 6 who were enrolled in kindergarten programs located within childcare centres. Findings show that children made clear distinctions in the characteristics they attributed to work and to play. Children viewed work as tasks that are physical and/or challenging, and often require the production of a final product; whereas play was viewed as enjoyable activities that are freely chosen, involve pretend play, and the manipulation of materials children perceive as toys. Findings from the study can assist educators in developing a deeper understanding of children’s perceptions of work and play that may be useful when implementing play-based early childhood programs.
Keywords: children’s perceptions; perceptions of work and play; play-based programs