What Play Means to Us

Play is why we are all here!!

Children’s play is freely chosen, personally directed behaviour, motivated from within: through play, the child explores the world and her or his relationship with it, elaborating 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. Whereas children may play without encouragement, or help, adults can, through the provision of an appropriate human and physical environment, significantly enhance the opportunities for the child to play creatively and thus develop through play.

There are two national Play-work assumptions: 

Children’s play is freely chosen, personally directed behaviour, motivated from within: through play, the child explores the world and her or his relationship with it, elaborating 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. 

Whereas children may play without encouragement, or help, adults can, through the provision of an appropriate human and physical environment, significantly enhance the opportunities for the child to play creatively and thus develop through play.

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Playworks Principles

The Playwork Principles were drawn up by the Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group in 2004. They establish the professional and ethical framework for playwork. 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.

  • 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. Children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play and by following their own instincts.

  • 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.

  • Playworkers recognise their own impact on the play space and also the impact of children and young people.

  • 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

  • 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.

The Play Cycle

The Play Cycle represents a comprehensive theoretical model comprising a series of distinct stages. It stands as an invaluable instrument, enabling Playworkers and parents to gain a profound understanding of the intricate nature of children’s play.

Moreover, this model serves to shed light on the profound impact that adult intervention can wield, elucidating the potential for both positive and negative disruptions within the realm of play.

Hover over the different stages to find out more.

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Metaludes

A conscious or unconscious thought or idea within the child’s inner world which may result in play. This is often sparked by external factors – eg. the child entering a particularly stimulating space.

The Play Frame

The visible (physical) or imagined (non-physical) boundary that keeps the Play Cycle intact for the play to continue

Play Flow

Where play cues and play returns are continually being processed between the child’s ‘inner and outer world’ resulting in the child appearing ‘lost’ in their play

 

Play Cue

A verbal or non-verbal action expressed to the child’s outer word as a signal or an invitation to play.

Play Return

A verbal or non-verbal action from a person or an object in the child’s ‘outer world’ by responding to the play cue. 

Play Annihilation

The play has finished where an element of the play cycle, or the play frame has no interest to the child anymore.

Adulteration

Unlike Play annihilation where a child stops the play themselves, adulteration is the imposition of an adult which ends the play cycle. We all do it in multiple ways – wanting to rescue, educate, improve,make better, control or play ourselves.

Dysplay

Dysplay can be explained as the speedy misfiring of cues after a pattern of unrequited play returns. After the child’s play cue has been rejected, they may seek to end this play cycle and move onto another.   

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Play Types

  • 1. Symbolic Play

    Play which allows control, gradual exploration and increased understanding without the risk of being out of depth e.g. using a piece of wood to symbolise a person or an object, or a piece of string to symbolise a wedding ring

  • 2. Rough and Tumble Play

    Close encounter play which is less to do with fighting and more to do with touching, tickling, gauging relative strength. This type of play allows children to participate in physical contact that doesn’t involved or result in someone being hurt. This type of play can use up lots of energy.

  • 3. Socio-dramatic Play

    The enactment of real and potential experiences of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature e.g. playing at house, going to the shops, being mothers and fathers, organising a meal or even having a row

  • 4. Social Play

    Play during which the rules and criteria for social engagement and interaction can be revealed, explored and amended. E.g. any social or interactive situation which contains an expectation on all parties that they will abide by the rules or protocols.

  • 5. Creative Play

    Play which allows a new response, the transformation of information, awareness of new connections, with an element of surprise. Allows children to design, explore, try out new ideas and use their imagination. They can use lots of different tools, props, equipment. It can have a beginning and an end, texture and smell.

  • 6. Communication Play

    Play using words, nuances or gestures e.g. mime / charades, jokes, play acting, mickey taking, singing, whispering, pointing, debate, street slang, poetry, text messages, talking on mobiles / emails/ internet, skipping games, group and ball games.

  • 7. Dramatic Play

    Play which dramatizes events in which the child is not a direct participator. For example presentation of a TV show, an event on the street, a religious or festive event, even a funeral.

  • 8. Locomotor Play

    Movement in any or every direction for its own sake. E.g. chase, tag, hide and seek, tree climbing.

  • 9. Deep Play

    Play which allows the child to encounter risky or even potentially life threatening experiences, to develop survival skills and conquer fear.

  • 10. Exploratory Play

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

  • 11. Fantasy Play

    This is the make believe world of children. This type of play is where the child’s imagination gets to run wild. Play, which rearranges the world in the child's way, a way that is unlikely to occur.

  • 12. Imaginative Play

    Play where the conventional rules, which govern the physical world, do not apply. E.g. imagining you are …, or pretending to be, a tree or ship, or patting a dog, which isn’t there.

  • 13. Mastery Play

    Control of the physical and affective ingredients of the environments. E.g. digging holes, changing the course of streams, constructing shelters, building fires.

  • 14. Object Play

    Play which uses infinite and interesting sequences of hand-eye manipulations and movements. E.g. examination and novel use of any object e.g. cloth, paintbrush, cup.

  • 15. Role Play

    Play exploring ways of being, although not normally of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature. For example brushing with a broom, dialing with a telephone, driving a car.

  • 16. 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.

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