These Playwork Principles establish the professional and ethical framework for playwork. Playwork is the work of creating and maintaining spaces for children to play. The theory and practice of playwork recognises that children’s play should ideally be “freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated” (as opposed to having an adult agenda such as education). It is the job of a playworker to ensure that the broadest possible range of play types can be engaged in or accessed by children, and to observe, reflect and analyse the play that is happening and select a mode of intervention or make a change to the play space if needed. Playwork should not be confused with childcare. A qualification in playwork relates to working with school aged children and should not be confused with qualifications more suited to work in early years or youth work.
The Principles 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 wellbeing 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.
An OPA poster of the Playwork Principles is available here.