9-1 | Free Choice or Adaptable Choice


Free Choice or Adaptable Choice
Self-Determination Theory and Play

Pete King and Justine Howard


The authors explore the use of three basic tenets from Self-Determination Theory—competence, relatedness, and autonomy—for a definition of play that resists the current popular call for play to be freely chosen. They explore whether free play truly exists and whether complete choice constitutes an absolute requirement for children to consider themselves at play. In the course of doing so, they consider two subtheories—Cognitive Evaluation Theory and Organismic Integration Theory. Ultimately they propose substituting adaptable choice for free choice as a defining characteristic of play because it makes for more ready support of children’s play in various professional contexts. Key words: adaptable choice; Cognitive Evaluation Theory; free play; Organismic Integration Theory; Self-Determination Theory