The Play Cycle: Theory, Research and Application, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Play Cycle

Theory, Research and Application, 1st Edition

By Pete King, Gordon Sturrock


138 pages | 15 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138323322
pub: 2019-06-25
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Twenty years after Gordon Sturrock and the late Professor Perry Else’s 'Colorado Paper' introduced the Play Cycle, this theory of play now supports professional playwork practice, training and education. The Play Cycle: Theory, Research and Application is the first book of its kind to explain the theoretical concept of the Play Cycle, supported by recent research, and how it can be used as an observational method for anyone who works with children in a play context.

The book investigates the understandings of the Play Cycle within the playwork field over the last 20 years, and its future application. It addresses each aspect of the Play Cycle (metalude, play cue, play return, play frame, loop and flow and annihilation) and combines the theoretical aspect of the Play Cycle with empirical research evidence. The book also provides an observational tool for people to observe and record play cycles.

This book will appeal to playworkers, teachers, play therapists and professionals working in other contexts with children, such as hospitals and prisons. It will support practitioners and students in learning about play and provide lecturers and trainers with a new innovative teaching and training aide.

Table of Contents


Dr Justine Howard, Swansea University



Pre-Colorado Paper

Influences behind the ‘Colorado Paper’

The Four Components and Six Elements of the Play Cycle

Post Colorado Paper

Research Based Practice for Playwork: Incorporating Evidence Based Practice (EBP) and Value Based Practice (VBP)

Hierarchy of Research

Evidence from Expert Opinion

Evidence from Reviewing the Literature

Evidence from Qualitative and Quantitative Studies

What Does This Book Offer?


Chapter One: A Review of the Play Cycle


A (Very) Brief Overview of the ‘Colorado Paper’

Playwork and Playworkers

The Six Elements of the Play Cycle


Play Cues and Play Returns

Play Frame

Loop and Flow


How the Play Cycle is Represented in Published Texts

The Adult Role in the Play Cycle


Chapter Two: Playworkers Understanding of the Play Cycle


Research Design

The Online Survey – Main Findings

Playwork Demographics

Playworkers Understanding of the Play Cycle

Overview of the Results


Chapter Three: Beyond the Intrinsic


The pathology less travelled

The states of play

The New Economics

The commons and the ludic commons

Towards a ludic politics

The art of 'message analysis'.

To depart.

Chapter Four: Reprint of ‘Transactional Analysis and the Ludic Third (TALT): A Model of Functionally Fluent Reflective Play Practice’, Pete King and Susannah Temple



The Play Process and Playwork Practice

Reflective Practice and Playworkers’ Behavioral Choice

The Play Process, the Play Space, Potential Space, and the Ludic Third

Levels of Adult Intervention and Responding

Conclusion and Further Considerations

Chapter Five: The Play Cycle Observation Method (PCOM)


Different Types of Observations

The Play Cycle Observation Method (PCOM)

Pilot Study for the Play Cycle Observation Method

The Play Cycle Observation Method Application

How to use the Play Cycle Observation Method (PCOM) Record Sheet

Entering the Data

Play Cycle Analysis

Initial Play Cues

Established Play Cycles

Play Cues Initiated in Established Play Cycles

The Adult Role with Established Play Cycles



Chapter Six: Conclusion


A Personal Reflective Account of the Play Cycle



Over to You



Author Index

Subject Index

About the Authors

Pete King has a PhD in Childhood Studies and is currently a Senior Lecturer at Swansea University, UK.

Gordon Sturrock, along with late Professor Perry Else, co-founded the Ludemos Associates, UK.

About the Series

Advances in Playwork Research

Advances in Playwork Research features original international scholarship from the emerging discipline of playwork, bringing together cutting-edge research by those working in the playwork field and studies on playwork from other disciplines. The series explores a wide range of topics related to the theory and practice of playwork, from empirical research on playwork practices, to conceptual studies on playwork theory and research. Advances in Playwork Research encompasses a variety of methodological approaches, including qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods and historical studies.

The series will include research monographs, edited collections and Routledge Focus titles and the Series Editor, Shelly Newstead, would be happy to hear from potential authors. Shelly can be contacted at

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings: