Providing for play involves giving children the time, space and independence to play in their own way and on their own terms. Children can play anywhere – at the bus stop, in the supermarket, in the car, at the park, in school, at home, at the beach and so on. Children will play with or without equipment and materials, with others or on their own.

Staff can support children’s play in all settings where children typically attend. By providing a wide range of opportunities and possibilities for play in rich and supportive environments adults can support play that meets the play needs of those attending. Playworkers support play that is led by children. They provide children with a space for them to be themselves and to play in the ways in which they want and need to. Playworkers plan for play, observe and reflect on what they see. This reflective practice is then used to plan for more play, enabling children to extend their own play experience.

Those who work with children and young people should provide a rich play environment, create play opportunities and build relationships. By understanding the nature and importance of all aspects of children’s play, we can protect the space where children play and extend this play to meet children’s play needs.

Playworkers see children and young people as competent individuals. They understand the need for children to encounter and create uncertainty and challenge as part of their play.

PlayBoard’s ‘Way to Play’ publication includes a section dedicated to Play Practitioners and appendices which include information on range of important areas including:

Playwork Principles

These Principles establish the professional and ethical framework for playwork. They describe what is unique about play and playwork, and provide the playwork perspective for working with children and young people. Click here for your copy.

The Playwork Principles were developed by the Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group, Cardiff 2005.

Seven Play Objectives

‘Best Play’ sets out seven play objectives that it recommends any provision should meet if aiming to offer children good play opportunities. It focuses on the benefits that children gain from their play and the role that your service has in creating spaces and services that allow those benefits (defined as ‘outcomes’ of play provision) to be achieved. It looks at play provision from the point of view of children’s needs and wishes in relation to their play.

The 7 Play Objectives were developed by the NPFA (Best Play, 2000)

The Play Types

These play types were developed by Bob Hughes and are used by adults to help describe the different ways children play. They can be used to help plan for play, recognise play preferences and possible gaps in provision being offered. This is not an exhaustive list of play types.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Symbolic Play

Symbolic Play

Play which allows control, gradual exploration and increased understanding without the risk of being out of one’s depth.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Rough And Tumble Play

Rough & Tumble Play

Close encounter play which is less to do with fighting and more to do with touching, tickling, gauging relative strength. Discovering physical flexibility and the exhilaration of display.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Socio-dramatic Play

Socio-dramatic Play

The enactment of real and potential experiences of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Social Play

Social Play

Play during which the rules and criteria for social engagement and interaction can be revealed, explored and amended.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Creative Play

Creative Play

Play which allows a new response, the transformation of information, awareness of new connections, with an element of surprise.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Communication Play

Communication Play

Play using words, nuances or gestures for example, mime, jokes, play acting, mickey taking, singing, debate, poetry.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Dramatic Play

Dramatic Play

Play which dramatizes events in which the child is not a direct participator.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Deep Play

Deep Play

Play which allows the child to encounter risky experiences and conquer fear like heights, snakes and creepy crawlies.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Exploratory Play

Exploratory Play

Play to access factual information consisting of manipulative behaviours such as handling, throwing, banging or mouthing objects.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Fantasy Play

Fantasy Play

Play which rearranges the world in the child’s way, a way which is unlikely to occur.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Imaginative Play

Imaginative Play

Play where the conventional rules, which govern the physical world, do not apply.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Locomotor Play

Locomotor Play

Movement in any or every direction for its own sake.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Mastery Play

Mastery Play

Control of the physical and affective ingredients of the environments.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Object Play

Object Play

Play which uses infinite and interesting sequences of hand-eye manipulations and movements.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Role Play

Role Play

Play exploring ways of being, although not normally of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature.

Play Work - PlayBoard NI - 16 Play Types - Recapitulative Play

Recapitulative Play

Play that allows the child to explore ancestry, history, rituals, stories, rhymes, fire and darkness. Enables children to access play of earlier human evolutionary stages.

Devised by Bob Hughes, published in full in ‘A playworker’s Taxonomy of Play Types’ (PLAYLINK, second edition 2002).
Available from PlayEducation, 13 Castelhythe, Ely, Cambs CB7 4BU.
Play types images courtesy of Play Scotland.