Advice for all practitioners working with children from birth to 5 and beyond, including playworkers in out of school clubs.
Play is an essential part of every child’s life and is vital for the enjoyment of childhood as well as social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. When children are asked about what they think is important in their lives, playing and friends is usually at the top of the list.
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Statutory Framework states:
‘Each area of learning and development must be implemented through planned, purposeful play and through a mix of adult-led and child-initiated activity. Play is essential for children’s development, building their confidence as they learn to explore, to think about problems, and relate to others. Children learn by leading their own play, and by taking part in play which is guided by adults.’
The benefits of play
Play allows children to use their creativity, develop their imagination, vocabulary, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important for healthy brain and physical development. Perhaps above all, play is a simple joy that is a cherished part of childhood.
Types of play
Children’s play is rich, varied, organic and constantly evolving. It can explore different types at the same time, flow from one to another and back again. Play types are useful in helping us be more specific when we’re talking about play and play provision but will only ever capture a narrow aspect of the wealth of children’s play.
Every child is entitled to quality play experiences and it is our role and a child’s right to ensure that no child is excluded.
An inclusive approach ensures provision caters for all children, young people and families. Creating places that are inclusive also encourages an understanding of diversity. Ensuring that young people and adults can all socialise, play and be part of a community enables them to gain a greater awareness of and sensitivity to the needs of others.
Dismantling barriers to play for children and young people, gives them the opportunity to express their rights under Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
To understand what barriers there are to play we must understand disability. All children can enjoy play experiences together and children with special needs can feel as included as any other child.
Play principles and the role of the playworker
Playwork Principles establish a professional and ethical framework for playwork.
Where the Principles refer to children and young people, they mean all children and young people.
Books for professionals
The Charter for Children's Play
The Charter for Children’s Play sets out a vision for play and aims to be a catalyst for individuals and organisations to examine, review and improve their provision for children and young people’s play and informal recreation.
Risk in play
The benefits of risk taking include: extending skills, developing physical and emotional capacities, challenging in new ways and gaining direct experience of the consequences of actions.
Heuristic play was a term coined by a child psychologist Elinor Goldschmeid in the early 1980's and describes the activity of babies and children as they play with and explore the properties of 'objects' from the real world. Heuristic play is rooted in young children’s natural curiosity.
Loose parts are items and materials that children and young people can move, adapt, control, change and manipulate within their play. For further information visit:
- Oxfordshire Play Association
- Play England
- London Play
- Play Wales
- My Activity Passport – gov.uk
- Hungry Little Minds Government Campaign
- Easypeasy App
- Early years toolkit – Useful resources for Early Years Practitioners
- Practitioners toolkit – The Practitioner Toolkit contains information and tools for issues arising in work with children, young people and families.
- Community around the setting – Oxfordshire professionals who can help you.
- Find before and after school and holiday clubs
- Wrap around childcare in schools
- The Out of School Alliance (OOSA)
- Play friendly schools
- Children’s Access to play in schools - Facebook page
- Common Threads
- Zero- 3, Early connections last a lifetime