Leisure, Games and Play: learning and intercultural mediation

There seem to be several common elements between leisure, game and play. These three themes/processes produce learning, creativity and reflexivity in living leisure, in living the game and in playing. And in these processes there is communication, with oneself, through reflection with the self in comparison with the other, be it the other oneself, be the other with whom one plays. And communication is mediation, whether it is intra-mediation, in this self-understanding and self-definition in which reflection is central to the definition of self-identity, or intermediation with the other(s) with whom one plays, whether they are peers or older or even younger generations.

For Erickson (1976), the game turns out to be self-therapeutic in that through it children can obtain and recover security and tranquillity as well as, through various mediations by significant peers and adults, turns out to be an identity-building tool. The same applies, we believe, to adults, where leisure is vital for a healthy life and generating personal and social projects with meaning for them.

On the other hand, in a time of so much consumerism and productivism that industrial society wanted to naturalize as modernity, now interrupted by the enclosure imposed by the fight against Covid19 that has been plaguing the planet since December 2019, thinking about leisure, games and play is vital for the development of more playful and more human times and spaces.

Schools and companies value attitudes and values leading to the development of markets. The encouragement of leisure and the development of educational processes on free time seems vital for the (re)construction of more human and truly more developed social models. Free time can be, precisely, the opportunity for personal development where leisure can be the way to obtain it through the free and autonomous participation of each person in the different actions, if carried out with motivation and pleasure.

With free time, the child can choose what to do, what to play. And the development of their autonomy stems much from the opportunities of choice that they have throughout their lives. This is how playing becomes an activity that produces learning with pleasure (Neto, 2003). And in the interaction with peers and adults, children live and manage tensions and conflicts, expanding their rationality, mutual understanding, empathy, observation and active listening, fundamental pillars of intercultural mediation. With free tie and leisure, adults and all humans can contemplate beauty, art and life. And they can rebuild themselves, as well as design socio-cultural reconstructions. As J. Huizinga taught us, the game introduces the rules, conventional, but also the possibility of reconstructing, mediating and managing them with others. The game encompasses the playful, but does not end there. Although overlapping, the game and playfulness are completed and adjusted in successive overlaps of meanings, usually mediated by the elders or the leaders of the group.

On the other hand, the game has also been studied as competition, as combat, as conflict and even war: the games of strength, dexterity, chance, fate, etc. are some examples.

The game brings the simulation, the “make-believe,” the symbolic of social relations and contributes to the development of children who are not only chatty, but also curious, lively (they don't need encouragement), playful; they have humour, they are restless, they want to discover, they are enchanted, fascinated, cooperative, supportive and so it is necessary to discover and know all these capacities as part of the child's epistemology (Iturra, passim) and not as the miniaturization of adults and of the social formalism.

The production of the toy by the child is already a play or a game that serves as an "introduction to the world" of the child (Amado, 2002). Or, according to Iturra and Reis (1990: 24): "[...] the game is a text where one learns to build the code of social relations indispensable for the production of everyday life".

Basically, Leisure, Games and Play, produce immense learning and are mediated not only by third parties, but also by the social circumstances of the life history of those involved, as we want to discuss, to deepen, systematize and live at the 8th Conference on Intercultural Mediation and Social Intervention on 27 and 28 November 2020.

Come to reflect and play with us!


Amado, J. (2002). Universo dos Brinquedos Populares, Coimbra: Quarteto Editora.

Erickson, E. (1976). Brinquedos e Razões, in Infância e Sociedade, Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, pp. 192-226.

Huizinga, J. (2015). Homo Ludens, Lisboa: Edições 70.

Iturra, R. e Reis, F. (1990). O Jogo Infantil numa Aldeia Portuguesa, Guarda: Associação de Jogos Tradicionais da Guarda.

Neto, C. (2003). Jogo & Desenvolvimento da Criança, Lisboa: Faculdade de Motricidade Humana.

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