What a Playworker is.

What is a Playworker?

It says it in our title, ‘play’. This is our primary focus as a playworker. We are trained to provide a varied range of opportunities for children to play, in order for them to get the most out of their experience while in our care.

A playworker should be:

* Fun

* Fair

* Kind

* Enthusiastic

* Patient

* Upbeat

* Caring

* Sensitive

* Behave appropriately

* Be flexible and give children’s ideas a try.

* Be in touch with their  inner child.

Why do we do things the way we do?

For example you may sometimes see the playworker standing but not joining in with the children’s play.  The reason for this is, a playworker is there to support and facilitate play and will only interact with the children’s play if they have been invited to do so.  All other times the playworker will stand and observe.  Here is how playworkers know when a child wants them to play.

The Play Cycle

Devised by Sturrock and Else in 1998, the play cycle breaks down how play actually occurs into six parts.

* Metalude – The thought that leads to play.

* Play Cue – The way a child initiates play e.g. making eye contact, facial expression, simply asking another to play, coming up to you and asking you to play a game with them.

* Play Return – Responding to the play cue, ie joining in with their game.

* Play Frame – Where the play occurs (where the play cues and returns have been met).

* Play Flow – The time frame, how long the play may last, ie a few minutes, a few hours or may continue to the next day.
* Annihilation – When the child decides to end the play. ie when the child moves away or decides to go and play with something or someone else.
* Adulteration – Describes when an adult is taking over the play experience rather than letting the child take the lead. ie Adults getting involved when they are not needed.
Play Types – 
There are 16 different play types, here is a list of some that you may see your child engaging in when you come to collect them.
* Communication Play – involves any form of communication, ie talking, singing, and any type of interaction.
* Creative Play – allows the child to express their thoughts and feelings through creation, ie drawing, painting, building and even baking.
* Deep Play – risky play allows the child to push their own boundaries and develop their ability to assess their own risk, ie climbing a tree, using balance beams, but includes so much more as every child is different.
* Fantasy Play/Imaginative Play – acting out different scenarios, dressing up, pretend play. ie being a fairy, a doctor, flying a spaceship, having a dragon as a friend. The list is endless.
* Locomotor Play – this involes any kind of movement. ie walking, running, jumping, skipping, hoping, bouncing on a space hopper, playing football.  This is another list that is endless.
* Mastery Play – taking control of an area in the room/environment and altering it to fit their needs. ie taking all chairs and building dens, using the chairs as barriers, using the desks to hide under.
* Rough & Tumble Play – contact play, using physical skill and strength. ie play fighting, wrestling, contact sports and chasing games.
* Symbolic Play – this is when they take an object and use it for something completely different. ie a box becomes a rocket, a boat, a car. The k’nex becomes a dog, a cat. Again the list endless.
All of the above relates to the Playwork Principles (which is our best practice benchmark).  We also follow the National Care Standards and the UNCRC.  Here are the playwork principles.
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.
(Play helps us to learn and socialise, it also helps us to physically grow and is good for our health, body and mind)
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.
(Children get to use thier own imagination, their own interests and ideas to get the most out of play)
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.
(A playworker should be there to give resources if needed to allow the play to flow and should not interupt unless necessary)
4.    For playworkers, the play process takes precedence and playworkers act as advocates for play when engaging with adult led agendas.
(A playworker will explain the importance of play to any adult, so that play can continue through the childs own agenda)
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.
(A playworker will improve the play area to be the best it can be. Providing the best possible spaces for the child to play in, and will adapt if necessary for the child)
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.
(A playworker will keep up to date with new materials, playwork theories and any changes to the legal requirements that we follow, which in return helps the childs play process)
7.    Playworkers recognise their own impact on the play space and also the impact of children and young people’s play on the playworker.
(A playworker understands that their presence in the play space can affect the play, that is taking place, either positively or negatively depending on how the adult acts.  A playworker should also recognise that children can influence them equally as well)
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.
(Playworkers understand the importance of play therefore should not interfere with a child’s play, unless it’s in the child’s best interest.  A playworker will intervene when they feel the safety of the child is questioned)