This chapter provides a brief history of leisure and recreation, starting with the ancient Greeks and continuing into the 21st century

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Chapter 1

Introduction and Overview


This chapter provides a brief history of leisure and recreation, starting with the ancient Greeks and continuing into the 21st century. In addition, the chapter focuses on five philosophical approaches to the provision of leisure services: idealism, realism, pragmatism, existentialism, and humanism. The chapter follows these with definitions of leisure, play, and recreation. Finally, the chapter outlines numerous theories that have been used to describe people’s participation in leisure and play.


  • Assess how the role of leisure has changed over time.

  • Compare and contrast five philosophical approaches to leisure services.

  • Identify your own philosophical approach to leisure services.

  • Define six theories of play.

  • Describe seven theories related to why people engage in leisure.

  • Differentiate among the definitions of leisure as time, activity, or state of mind.

  • Describe four theories related to recreation.


  1. History of leisure and recreation

    1. Historical context of leisure

      1. Ancient Greeks

      2. Romans

      3. Middle Ages

      4. Renaissance

      5. Colonial America

      6. Industrial Revolution

      7. Great Depression

    2. Leisure within the context of the modern era

  2. Philosophical underpinnings of leisure and recreation

    1. Idealism

    2. Realism

    3. Pragmatism

    4. Existentialism

    5. Humanism

  3. Defining leisure, play, and recreation

    1. Definition of leisure

      1. Time

      2. Activity

      3. State of mind

        1. Perceived freedom

        2. Intrinsic motivation

        3. Perceived competence

        4. Positive affect

    2. Definition of play

    3. Definition of recreation

  4. Theoretical foundations of leisure and play

    1. Theories of leisure

      1. Spillover theory

      2. Compensatory theory

      3. Flow theory

      4. Serious leisure theory

      5. Classic leisure theory

      6. Nash’s pyramid theory

      7. Sociological leisure theory

    2. Theories of play

      1. Surplus energy

      2. Recreation

      3. Conflict enculturation

      4. Developmental tool

      5. Optimal arousal

      6. Instinct practice

Sample Documents

No sample documents have been provided for this chapter. While all other chapters have sample documents included, the documents are examples that would be used by a practitioner in the field. This chapter does not lend itself to those types of documents.

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