OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to describe the characteristics of play activities and playfulness in a group of Mayan children in southern Belize.

METHOD. This qualitative study involved participant observation in the daily occupations of 20 children from five Mayan families over a 2-week period. Analysis of the field notes, using open and closed coding, revealed themes specific to customs of child rearing, play activities, and playfulness.

FINDINGS. The primacy of adult work is a major cultural principle that influences Mayan children's daily occupations. Parents did not encourage play but permitted play if it did not interfere with work. Children found ways to integrate play activities and playfulness into their daily occupations.

CONCLUSION. The statement, “play is a child's major occupation,” may not be a universally held belief. Parental values and customs of child rearing should be considered in order to provide culturally sensitive and relevant services.

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