Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Social sciences

Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) to the Technological University Dublin, November, 2011.


While the relationship between play and development is well documented, there is less known about the influence of the physical environment in that process. The purpose of this qualitative study is to describe play interactions of infants under two with the home physical environment. The aim is to explore and identify ways in which infants develop and learn through engaging with objects and spaces of everyday life in the home. A qualitative ethnographic approach was employed to gather data on five infants, two new-borns and three one-year olds, and their families over twelve months. Data was generated through video, interview and observations of the infants engaging in play with typical objects, in their natural home environments. Families were visited monthly to capture change in infant-environment transactions over time. Analysis focused on infant-environment transactions during play events in typical daily routines, guided by a grounded theory analytical approach. The study identifies that infant play is multidimensional, and combines and includes play not just with objects and people, but with space. Findings relate to the following aspects: play in relation to the physical environment of the home as observed through engaging with body space, near space, middle space and home space; the nature of change in play over time as it relates to affordances of the physical environment, and parental reasoning in families that shapes play interactions. Emerging findings relate to considering play as transactional processes that have an influence on development, and argues for an amended perspective on the home as a ‘just-right’ environment. This study describes how five Irish families support play in home environments and informs an understanding of influences on play development from a physicalsociocultural perspective. Suggestions are made in relation to how this study can inform the development of home-based play environments as a result.