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What is Playwork?

Playwork is a particular way of working with children. It is based on the Playwork Principles which establish the professional and ethical framework for playwork and as such must be regarded as a whole.  The Principles 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.

Playworkers don’t tell children and young people how to play or what to play. Instead they provide the space, time, stuff which can be played with e.g. dressing up clothes, make-up, sticks, stones, mud, water, boxes, balls and bikes and support them to play themselves. This enables children and young people to explore their world and their place within it and to develop at their own pace.

Playworkers realise that it is imperative for children and young people to have the opportunity to play freely and the value this brings in the acquisition of many and varied skills which are essential as part of holistic child development.

Along with having regard for the Playwork Principles, most out of school provision is regulated by Ofsted so providers are obliged to meet the requirements of the Ofsted registers and the safeguarding and welfare standards as well as providing a play environment.