What is Play?

All children and young people need to play. Children's play is behaviour which is freely chosen, self-motivated and personally directed, and the impulse to play is in all of us. Through play the child explores the world and its creative potential, discovering all the while a flexible range of responses to the challenges she or he encounters. By playing, the child learns and develops as an individual, and as a member of the community.

Play is essential for children's physical, emotional and psychological growth, as well as their intellectual, creative and educational development. When children play they build up a sense of identity, self-respect, confidence and their own self-worth. Through playing with others, children build a resource of behavioural techniques to help them navigate complex social worlds.

The contemporary environment in which many children grow up is not designed with them in mind, and provides limited opportunities for safe and creative play. Street traffic, fears of strangers and lack of open spaces all restrict children's play outdoors, but by providing and protecting play-rich environments for children we can counteract these limitations. Playwork is predicated on the recognition that, through low-intervention strategies and provision of places where children can feel safe, adults can help children play.

---->Sand and Water (School)

Playwork Principles

These Principles establish the professional and ethical framework for playwork and as such must be regarded as a whole. They describe what is unique about play and playwork, and provide the playwork perspective for working with children and young people. They are based on the recognition that children and young people's capacity for positive development will be enhanced if given access to the broadest range of environments and play opportunities.

  • 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.

Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group (2005) Playwork Principles. Cardiff: Play Wales.

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