What are the Playwork Principles?

Playwork has been a developing profession in the U.K. over the last fifty years. It began after WW II.  Children were playing in building sites that had been bombed. They were playing very happily and creatively with the “junk” they would find.  Rather than shutting them out, play supervision was introduced and eventually some of these sites became Adventure Playgrounds where children could play and invent with found materials.  Many new Adventure Playgrounds have been built since the post-war era and these now import the “junk”.  Supervision in these settings is focused on protecting the children’s freedom and developing agency to do what they want to do with what they find. As much as possible, the children are left to work things out for themselves or if necessary, social problems are solved creatively in consultation with the children.


The Playwork Principles have been summarized through a broad consultation process within the profession in the U.K.  Here they are:

The Playwork Principles 

These principles establish the professional and ethical framework for playwork, and 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:

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.

(Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group, Cardiff, Wales 2005.)

Here in Toronto, we have much to do and much to learn, in order to bring high quality play provision to our children across a broad range of institutional and neighbourhood settings. The Playwork Principles establish some kind of initial framework for the development of playwork here in Toronto.  We still have to figure out the details for ourselves.

If you like the Playwork Principles, you can link to PLAYbynature on Facebook to show your support.

You can volunteer for a POP UP Adventure Playground to participate in a free basic introduction to playwork principles.