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What is Playwork?

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.

The Playwork Principles were developed by the Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group, convened by Play Wales and adopted by SkillsActive in 2005.


Activities are loosely based around themes because we promote play as 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. This ethos promotes inclusive practice for all children as play adapts to the needs and abilities of the individual.

Play Types 

The Club understands that children’s play is rich, varied, organic and constantly evolving and that it can explore different types at the same time, flow from one to another and back again.  The Club’s staff team have a clear focus on the importance of play, and use the common language of play types described below from Bob Hughes’ Taxonomy of Play types (Hughes, B. (2002) A Playworker’s Taxonomy of Play Types, 2nd edition, London: PlayLink).

The Play Types 

There are acknowledged to be a number of different play types (around 16) which provide playworkers, managers and trainers with a common language for describing play. These are now used widely, including the underpinning knowledge requirements in the Playwork Level 3.

  • National Occupational Standards 2004.
  • Symbolic Play – play which allows control, gradual exploration and increased understanding without the risk of being out of one’s depth.
  • Rough and Tumble Play – close encounter play which is less to do with fighting and more to do with touching, tickling,gauging relative strength.
  • Discovering physical flexibility and the exhilaration of display.
  • Socio-dramatic Play – the enactment of real and potential experiences of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature.
  • Social Play – play during which the rules and criteria for social engagement and interaction can be revealed, explored and amended.
  • Creative Play – play which allows a new response, the transformation of information, awareness of new connections, with an element of surprise.
  • Communication Play – play using words, nuances or gestures for example, mime, jokes, play acting, mickey taking,singing, debate, poetry.
  • Dramatic Play – play which dramatizes events in which the child is not a direct participator.
  • Deep Play – play which allows the child to encounter risky or even potentially life threatening experiences, to develop survival skills and conquer fear.
  • Exploratory Play – play to access factual information consisting of manipulative behaviours such as handling, throwing,banging or mouthing objects.
  • Fantasy Play – play which rearranges the world in the child’s way, a way which is unlikely to occur.
  • Imaginative Play – play where the conventional rules, which govern the physical world, do not apply.
  • Locomotor Play – movement in any or every direction for its own sake.
  • Mastery Play – control of the physical and affective ingredients of the environments.
  • Object Play – play which uses infinite and interesting sequences of hand-eye manipulations and movements.
  • Role Play – play exploring ways of being, although not normally of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature.
  • 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.

Last Updated June 2016