All children have a right and a need to play - most will play anywhere at any time unless they are very tired, ill, hungry, hot, cold, anxious or afraid - particularly where there are other children around. Some children need the support of others to be able to make the most of their play.
Most children will play without the need for adult intervention, even in the most barren of environments, but an environment rich in possibilities supports their play best of all. Some children need the support of others to make the most of the environment around them and the company of other children.
A rich play environment is:
- a varied and interesting physical environment that maximises the potential for socialising, creativity, resourcefulness and challenge.
- a place where children feel free to play in their own way, on their own terms.
Where children don't have access to local friends, time and places to play that support their play needs, play provision can compensate by offering a place where children can invent and extend their own play:
- the local play area
- play centres
- staffed adventure playgrounds
- out of school care
- play schemes
Quality play provision offers all children and young people the opportunity to freely interact with or experience the following:
- other children and young people - with a choice to play alone or with others, to negotiate, co-operate, fall out, and resolve conflict
- the natural world - weather, trees, plants, insects, animals, mud
- loose parts - natural and man made materials that can be manipulated, moved and adapted, built and demolished
- the four elements - earth, air, fire and water
- challenge and uncertainty - both on a physical and emotional level
- changing identity - role play and dressing up
- movement - running, jumping, climbing, balancing, rolling
- rough and tumble - play fighting
- the senses - sounds, tastes, textures, smells and sights
- feelings - pain, joy, confidence, fear, anger, contentment, boredom, fascination, happiness, grief, rejection, acceptance, sadness, pride, frustration
Other sources of information on play spaces include: