However, developmentalists define play as activity that is enjoyable and absorbing, is intrinsically motivated (done for sheer enjoyment doing to rather than to achieve some practical goal), and has an unrealistic or ‘pretendlike’ quality.
Through play, infants and toddlers experiment with and learn about the physical attributes of their surroundings. Even in the early grades new learning materials are often introduced by letting children freely play with them for a while.
By contrasts, work is goal –directed activity that is aimed toward producing something of use or contributing to subsistence. It is an effort directed at some goal other than enjoyment taken in the experience of putting forth the effort.
Work and play seem to differ further in that a threshold level of effort must be put forth before an activity is properly called work, whereas play either involves a much lower threshold of effort or none at all.
But perhaps because play is commonly viewed as childish and frivolous, people tend to describe adults as engaging in ‘leisure activity’.
Play and work: the difference