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 with no planned outcome i.e. not adult led or directed.

Playworkers 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

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 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.

All children and young people need to play. The impulse to play is innate. Play is a biological, psychological and social necessity, and is fundamental to the healthy development and well being of individuals and communities.
Play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons.
The prime focus and essence of playwork is to support and facilitate the play process and this should inform the development of play policy, strategy, training and education.
For playworkers, the play process takes precedence and playworkers act as advocates for play when engaging with adult led agendas.
The role of the playworker is to support all children and young people in the creation of a space in which they can play.
The playworker’s response to children and young people playing is based on a sound up to date knowledge of the play process, and reflective practice.
Playworkers recognise their own impact on the play space and also the impact of children and young people’s play on the playworker.
Playworkers choose an intervention style that enables children and young people to extend their play. All playworker intervention must balance risk with the developmental benefit and well being of children.