Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is most renowned for his theory on flow or optimal experience representing a mental state while performing an activity when a person is fully immersed. While not specifically written for play context, most of the dimensions of flow experience are also found in an engaging and enjoyable structured play activity. These dimensions are:
• Clear goals and immediate feedback
• Equilibrium between the level of challenge and personal skill
• Merging of action and awareness
• Focussed concentration
• Sense of potential control
• Loss of self-consciousness
• Time distortion
Autotelic or self-rewarding experience:
However over a period of time, among these dimensions, the central precondition which is responsible for flow experiences has been recognized as a perceived balance between challenges and skills. Later researchers have expanded the flow theory and represented it using the experience fluctuation model as shown below.
From the perspective of design practice, this model can be very useful in evaluating an existing play and learn activity and adjusting the level of challenge with respect to the skill or ability of children to achieve a specific mental state including flow. Other aspects of flow theory including establishing clear goals and providing immediate feedback have been recognized as significant components of engaging games and learning applications.