What is playwork?

Playwork is an approach to working with children that aims to support and facilitate the play process – and the emerging profession that practices this approach. Different play or playwork organisations define or describe playwork in slightly different ways

‘At its most basic level, playwork is about removing barriers to play, and enriching the play environment…The role of the playworker is to create flexible environments which are substantially adaptable or controllable by the children …’ (Professor Fraser Brown)

‘Playwork (is) the uniquely British profession that understands children’s daily lives out of school – their play, their culture and the spaces that best afford it – like no other’.  (Professor Roger Hart, City University of New York)

‘Playworkers support play that is led by children with no planned outcome i.e. not adult led or directed. Playworkers provide children with a space for them to be themselves and to play in the ways in which they want and need to. Playworkers plan for play, observe and reflect on what they see’. (Playboard Northern Ireland)

‘Qualified, skilled playworkers are trained to put children’s play needs at the centre of their work in a variety of settings, enhancing the range and quality of play experiences for all children. They are the best people to run staffed play provision for school-aged children. The role of the playworker is as important as that of any skilled professional working with children and should be respected and rewarded accordingly’. (Play England)

‘Playwork is an emerging professional field with an increasingly recognised and qualified workforce. Playwork offers services which open up opportunities for children to play, and have the freedom to choose what they want to to do’. (Play Scotland)

‘…playworkers enable children to extend their own play and they protect and enhance the play space so that it is a rich play environment. Playworkers ensure that the play space is inclusive – supporting all children to make the most of the opportunities available in their own way. Playworkers see children and young people as competent individuals. They understand the need for children to encounter and create uncertainty and challenge as part of their play. Playworkers neither direct nor organise play, they are trained to judge when or whether to intervene’. (Play Wales)

‘Playwork is a highly skilled profession that enriches and enhances provision for children’s play. It takes place where adults support children’s play but it is not driven by prescribed education or care outcomes’. (Skillsactive)

The Playwork Principles

There is widespread recognition of the Playwork Principles, established in 2005. These should inform playwork practice and underpin playwork education and training. The Playwork Principles are part of the National Occupational Standards for playwork.