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What are the Playwork Principles and Play Types?

The Playwork Principles

These principles 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.

picture of boy sawing a piece of wood
  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 well-being 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. 

The 16 Play Types

Creative Play

Creative Play

Play which allows a new response, the transformation of information, awareness of new connections, with an element of surprise.

This play type is one of the most visual by allowing a child to access loose parts, arts and craft materials.

Communication Play

Communication Play

Play using words, nuances or gestures for example, mime, jokes, play acting, mickey taking, singing, debate, poetry. 

Communication play used the whole body – from facial expressions, hand gestures, body demonstrating and vocally. 

Deep Play

Deep Play

Play which allows the child to encounter risky or even potentially life threatening experiences, to develop survival skills and conquer fear.

This type of play is defined by play behaviour that can also be classed as risky or adventurous.  This has important benefits to a child’s development.

Dramatic Play

Dramatic Play

Play that dramatizes events in which the child is not a direct participator.

Children may also wish to use make up and costumes in this type of play.

Exploratory Play

Exploratory Play

Play to access factual information consisting of manipulative behaviours such as handling, throwing, banging or mouthing objects.

Fantasy Play

Fantasy Play

Play which rearranges the world in the child’s way, a way which is unlikely to occur, for example being a superhero or sitting on a cloud.

Locomotor Play

Locomotor Play

Movement in any or every direction for its own sake, for example playing chase, jumping, skipping and climbing trees.

Imaginitive Play

Imaginative Play

Play where the conventional rules, which govern the physical world, do not apply, for example pretending to be an animal, or having a make-believe friend to being an object i.e. a tree.

Mastery Play

Mastery Play

Control of the physical and affective ingredients of the environments, for example making a dam in a stream, building a bonfire and digging holes in the earth or sand.

Object Play

Object Play

Play which uses infinite and interesting sequences of hand-eye manipulations and movements i.e. examining an item and looking into how and why something works.

Recapulative play

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. 

Role Play

Role Play

Play exploring ways of being, although not normally of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature.  This could be a child pretending to be driving a car, ironing, piloting a plane.

Rough and Tumble

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.  This will not involve any deliberate hurting but children should be laughing and having fun.

Social Play

Social Play

Play during which the rules and criteria for social engagement and interaction can be revealed, explored and amended.  This could be playing a game together, building an item together or creating something together.

Symbolic Play

Symbolic Play

Play which allows control, gradual exploration and increased understanding without the risk of being out of one’s depth.  Example a stick becomes a sword or light saber a flower becomes a wand.

Socio Dramatic

Socio-dramatic Play

The enactment of real and potential experiences of an intense personal, social, domestic or interpersonal nature.  This could be playing at mums and dads, or playing house.

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