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What is Playwork? Answer: It is not Playworks.

July 2, 2012

I felt that it would be beneficial to include this post for some of my American colleagues and friends, as I know that in the United States there is an increasingly popular program called Playworks which is run in many elementary schools, including the school where I teach.  It is very important to know that the organization Playworks in the US has nothing to do with playwork in the United Kingdom, and I thought it would be useful in this post to lay out the Playwork Principles, foundational theoretical and philosophical statements that serve as a backbone to playwork in the United Kingdom.  Without further ado, the Playwork Principles:

  • 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.

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One Comment
  1. Francis Barton permalink

    Hi, yes it’s very important not to get the tradition and craft of playwork muddled up with some new-fangled commercial program from the US!
    The Playwork Principles only tell half the story though (if that)… as you visit staffed playgrounds on your travels you will get a much better taste of what playworkers are (and aren’t) up to… it would be really interesting to read your reflections on what you observe about playwork as a way of being with children at play in their play spaces.
    As an introduction to what playwork is, I recommend Penny’s site and in particular the “Playwork Primer” document:


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