Playwork is an emerging professional field with an increasingly recognised and qualified workforce. It is based on the original philosophy of adventure playgrounds.
Playwork creates opportunities and places where children and young people can play freely and with confidence. Places where they can encounter a wide range of opportunities and possibilities – where the adults involved understand the nature and importance of all aspects of children’s play and work to support it.
What sets Playwork apart from other professions is the methods employed.
It is the only profession which seeks to work predominantly to the child’s agenda.
A common misconception is that playworkers play with children. In reality playworkers enable children to extend their own play and they enhance the play space so that it is a rich play environment. 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.
A Playworker is an advocate of play which means being the voice for play, promoting play, promoting playwork to the wider community and getting the important fact across of how play is so important in our children’s lives.
Playworkers support children and young people to create their own spaces and opportunities for play. We ensure that the play space is inclusive, supporting all children and young people to make the most of the opportunities available in their own way. It is a space for them all to be themselves.
Playworkers neither direct nor organise the play, they are trained to judge when or whether to intervene. 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.
Best Play (2000) suggests two key tasks of playworkers:
• Enrichment of play
• Management of risk
The playworkers core function is to create an environment which will stimulate children’s play and maximise their opportunities for a wide range of play experiences.
A skilled and experienced playworker is capable of enriching the child’s play experience both in terms of the design and resources of the physical environment and in terms of the attitudes and culture fostered within the setting.
A playworker will bring new dimensions to the play environment, act as a resource for the children and provide some of the stimulus for new experiences.
Playworkers make themselves available to respond to the needs or the invitation of the child/young person.
Children and young people need a rich play diet, as a Playworker we need to try and ensure that children and young people in our setting have the support, materials and resources to enable them to have the best opportunity to engage in the play types if they choose to.
By getting to know our children and young people and building relationships we can start to understand their individual play preferences and needs and adapt our ways of working to enhance their play experiences and work to extend them.
It is about giving children and young people the time, space and independence to play their own way and on their terms.
Playworkers believe in the competency and autonomy of a child/young person.
What makes a good Playworker is the ability to shift our perspective, we have to be comfortable with change and ambiguity.
We are not play experts, nor play providers, we are ‘childists’ – pro children’s rights on their own terms.