• Suzanne Axelsson

The Playwork Principles

Over in the Original Learning Approach facebook group the stirrings of a grassroots movement to elevate the status of play and ECE has started...

There has already been two introduction meetings (two times so that all times zones could have the possibility to meet) and from that the next step of creating a manifesto and guiding principles is now in action. Everyone can suggest a possible guiding principle at the moment... we need ideas of what, and how to write it... so there is a poll for suggestions and also to click on personal preferences. I have made the suggestion of using the Playwork Principles as the possible guiding principles to our approach to play. They are well thought out by people who have had the sole focus of play - not play to learn, or educational play or any form of play for a specific reason, but play for play's sake. As many of you might not know what the Playwork Principles are then I have included them in this post for you to check out...


What I am suggesting is that the play parts of our practice (at educational settings) is based on this kind of play, and that we provide ample time for children to engage in this kind of play. I am not suggesting that the learning is based on this. Children and adults will interact with each other in multiple ways... sometimes we are carer, sometimes, teacher, sometimes guide, sometimes protector, sometimes enabler and sometimes playworker...

we need all of these roles, especially in full day care, and especially when children ar not accessing play outside of educational settings. My fear is that educational settings are becoming the defenders of play, which is not at all optimal due to the pedagogical agenda. There is also a need to protect play outside of the educational walls and gates and ensure that streets, parks, outdoor spaces are safe enough for adventurous, autonomous play - where children are not only free to join in, but also free to quit. The playwork community is busy trying to do just this (adventure playgrounds being one of these spaces... in Stockholm some of our playgrounds are staffed in order to provide resources and inspiration to enable play). So I very much see that play outside of educational settings (play-based or not, play-responsive or not) is just as important as play within those settings. Playworkers both in schools and out of schools often receive the same kind of lack of respect and value as early childhood educators/practitioners. Maybe it is time to join forces and learn from each other to create a pedagogy of play based on the playwork principles and that can inform how we teach (play-responsive). This is the foundation of the Original Learning Approach - that there is real play, that is valued and autonomous that feeds the learning, teaching and understanding, and that this is a part of a reciprocal relationship between play and learning - as children learn more they can apply this to their play so that it becomes more complex, more adventurous (without being hazardous) and that hands-on and theoretical skills are valued equally and both put into practice.


The Playwork Principles

1 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 wellbeing of individuals and communities.

2 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.

3 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.

4 For playworkers, the play process takes precedence and playworkers act as advocates for play when engaging with adult led agendas.

5 The role of the playworker is to support all children and young people in the creation of a space in which they can play.

6 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.

7 Playworkers recognise their own impact on the play space and also the impact of children and young people’s play on the playworker.

8 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, Cardiff, 2005




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