Play Strategy



Play Strategy Vision

We want Scotland to be best place to grow up.  A nation which values play as a life-enhancing daily experience for all our children and young people; in their homes, nurseries, schools and communities.

Scotland’s Play Strategy seeks to improve the play experiences of all children and young people, including those with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds. It aims to ensure all children and young people can access play opportunities in a range of settings which offer variety, adventure and challenge.

All children must be able to play freely and safely while learning to manage risks and make choices about where, how and when they play according to their age, stage, ability and preference.

The Play Strategy: Our Vision

Children’s play is crucial to Scotland’s well being; socially, economically and environmentally. Our people are our greatest resource and the early years of life set the pattern for children’s future development.

‘The experiences children have in early life – and the environments in which they have them – shape their developing brain architecture and strongly affect whether they grow up to be healthy, productive members of society’ (Harvard University, 2007).

Play is an essential part of a happy, healthy childhood and ‘when children play their brains do two things: they grow and the become organised and usable’ (Hughes, 2013). By investing in all our children and young people now we can strengthen their ability to achieve their full potential. 

For the Play Strategy: Our Vision document click here.

The Play Strategy: Action Plan

The Action Plan supports Scotland’s first National Play Strategy by setting out what actions need to be taken, in the domains of home;nursery and school; community; and positive support for play to realise our vision for play.

Play is fundamental to a healthy, happy childhood and is essential to the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of Scotland as a whole.

The Action Plan has been developed by the sector and there is a role for practioners, parents and carers, politicians, planners and policy makers in enabling and supporting children’s play.

For the Play Strategy: Action Plan document click here.


Minister for Children and Young People presents on Scotland’s Play Strategy in Australia


In May 2019 Maree Todd, Minister for Children and Young People contributed to a Play Symposium in Brisbane, Australia where she provided a video clip discussing Scotland’s National Play Strategy.

Nature Play QLD, have since released a documentary on Neighbourhood play.   You can access it here. 


Introducing Children’s Rights from Scottish Government

Link to this 10 minute training tool from Scottish Government which will give you and your staff an insight into UNCRC Children’s Rights.




Play Strategy Publications

Play Types Toolkitbringing more play into the school day

Play Scotland’s Play Types Toolkit is for schools and education professionals, and others working with children in various settings.

Playing is an integral part of children’s day in many educational and childcare settings.  Children play before the bell goes in the morning; at playtime and lunchtime; and after school ends.  Increasingly, playing is part of class time across Scotland too.  Educators are getting better at recognising the interconnections between playing, learning, growing, developing, being healthy and being happy.  Full details can be found here


Free to PlayA guide to creating accessible and inclusive public play spaces

This guide has been developed to assist any group that has come together to develop or improve a public play space. These groups may be friends of parks, community councils, community planning partnerships or groups of local parents, carers, professionals and youngsters who have identified a gap or recognised the need for improved space to play.  Full details can be found here 


Getting it Right for Play

Play Scotland developed the Getting it Right for Play Toolkit and supporting documents to help local authorities respond to Scottish Government policy and guidance on play, and deliver increased play and physical activity for children in Scotland (Early Years Framework 2008/2010). The purpose of the documents are to inform local authorities of the strong evidence base showing the benefits of play to children and communities, and the wide range of policy and guidance already in place from the Scottish Government, which is not widely known nor acted upon across all departments in local authorities.  Full details can be found here


Scotland’s Play Charter

Scotland’s Play Charter.  It describes our collective commitment to play for all children and young people.

The Play Charter builds on the Scottish Government’s Play Strategy for Scotland and the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) approach to supporting children, young people and their families.

The Play Charter is for all those with an interest in and responsibility for play. This includes service providers, professionals, elected members and community representatives as well as children and young people and their families.

Full details and how to pledge you support can be found here


Parents’ Play Pack

The Parents’ Play Pack aimed at parents and carers of children aged 8 to 12 years with ideas for them to  #playeveryday.  Full details can be found here 




Loose Parts Play – A Toolkit

The aim of the toolkit is that more children will have access to loose parts play and that adults in the play, early years and education sectors will feel more comfortable and confident about introducing loose parts play within their settings.

New and updated version – Loose Parts Play Toolkit 2019.pdf

Previous version – Loose Parts Play Toolkit – previous.pdf


Play Out of Hours – A Toolkit

Children and young people need and are entitled to quality places and time for play as part of their everyday life within their own community. This includes play out of hours in school grounds.

Existing school facilities, in most cases, offer significant opportunities to satisfy not only the learning needs of all learners, but many of the social and recreational needs for the community. School buildings, their contents and grounds, often represent the largest single asset of communities. It is important that schools are realistic about what they can and cannot provide in terms of developing and extending opportunities for playing out of teaching hours.

Schools across the country have managed to do so, and the Play Out of Hours toolkit is designed to help us learn from their experience.

Play Out of Hours – school grounds.pdf



Action 6.3 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Play At Home report, March 2015

Action 6.3 from The Play Strategy Action Plan.To investigate and review good practice in reaching all parents and carers with clear messages and guidance on cost effective resources and suggestions for play suitable for children of all ages, stages and abilities.To share knowledge of good practice amongst organisations and agencies which support families.

Play Strategy Action 6.3 pdf

Action 7.1 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Learning About Play report, 2015

On behalf of the Play Strategy Implementation Group, we examined the content of the main qualifications in Scotland, for those working in early learning and childcare, schools, out of school and holiday care services for children. We wanted to discover how much play is included from level 5 to post degree level, and to see if more coverage was needed.

We found that play in both the free and planned play sense is covered in every qualification to various levels. However, it depends on the choices the learner makes in terms of qualifications, and the options within them, to really learn about play. We found through interviews and the literature review that play could be better provided in schools, inside and outside the classroom.

We made recommendations to improve qualifications, to create better play opportunities in schools, to fund play research, including doctorates, and to address play and risk issues.

Play Strategy Action 7.1 pdf

Action 8.1 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Policy Mapping infographic,  2015

Play policy collation – providing an outline of the policy landscape as of April 2015.

Link to infographic –

Action 8.2 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Play Map Resource for Community Planning Partnerships, 2015

The Play Map has been developed to support Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) build play into their strategic plans. It will help CPPs deliver on their objectives to support the wellbeing of children, young people and their families across communities.

Play Map for Community Planning Partnerships pdf

Action 9.6 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Playing with Quality and Equality, Inclusive Play Review, November 2015

A Review of inclusive play in Scotland to identify context, current practices, barriers and aspirations and to build the knowledge base which will inform implementation of the Play Strategy for all children.

Play Strategy Action 9.6 pdf

Play Strategy for Scotland: Evidence, Outcomes and Logic Models, November 2015

The purpose of this paper is to review the evidence of the benefits and outcomes of play for children, and to look at how these benefits and outcomes fit into the SHANARRI wellbeing framework and the Government’s National Performance Framework more generally.

Play Strategy Evidence Outcomes and Logic Models pdf

Action 7.5 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Play Outside Hours! report, 2016

The Use of School Grounds for playing out of teaching hours toolkit has been designed to help head teachers, parent councils and local organisations to work together to consider making school grounds available to local children out of teaching hours.

Play Strategy Play Out Of Hours Toolkit Action 7.5


Scotland’s Play Ranger Toolkit – A guide to setting up and running an effective Play Ranger Service in Scotland

You can download document here


Scottish Planning Policy

Local development plans should identify sites for new indoor or outdoor sports, recreation or play facilities where a need has been identified in a local facility strategy, playing field strategy or similar document. They should provide for good quality, accessible facilities in sufficient quantity to satisfy current and likely future community demand.
Link to document

Children and Young People (Scotland Act)

Link to Scottish Parliament website

What does the Children and Young People Bill say about Getting it right for every child?

Link from Scottish Government website

What does the Children and Young People Bill say about the rights of children and young people?

Link from Scottish Government website

What does the Children and Young People Bill say about early learning and childcare?

Link from Scottish Government website

What does the Children and Young People Bill include for looked after children?

Link from Scottish Government website

Changing existing laws that affect children and young people

Link from Scottish Government website


Scotland’s People Annual Report: Results from 2012 Scottish Household Survey

The Scottish Household Survey (SHS) is designed to provide reliable and up-to-date information on the composition, characteristics, attitudes and behaviour of Scottish households and individuals, both nationally and at a sub-national level. It covers a wide range of topics to allow links to be made between different policy areas.

The annual report is designed to act as an introduction to the survey and to present and interpret some of the key policy-relevant results. The results are presented in the 12 main chapters covering: household composition; housing; neighbourhoods and communities; economic activity; finance; education; transport; internet; health and caring; local services; volunteering; culture and sport. At the start of each chapter introductory paragraphs draw on key policy documents to set the results that follow into the policy context for the topic it covers.

Some of the main findings relating to play were:

  • Almost nine in ten households  (88%) with young children have access to some form of play areas within their neighbourhood.Over half have access to a park (57%), whilst around half have access to either a playground (52%)or field or other open space (49%)
  • Generally, those households with young children within rural areas are more likely to say children would be very safe or fairly safe when walking or cycling to play areas on their own, ranging from around three-fifths for most play areas in urban areas to around four-fifths in rural areas.
  • Most householders with young children would feel comfortable with children being aged around 9 or 10 years old to play without supervision at such play areas. This increases to closer to 11 years old when playing within a natural environment or wooded area for those living in urban areas
  • Just less than three- quarters (73%) of young people aged 8 to 21 take part in some of activities regularly, with the majority of young people (53%) taking part in sports or sporting activity whether played competitively or not.

Full report


Getting it Right for Children and Families – The 5th UK Government Report on the Rights of the Child – Scottish Government Submission

To view report click here


Play Strategy for Scotland – June 2013

Children’s play is crucial to Scotland’s well being; socially, economically and environmentally. Our people are our greatest resource and the early years of life set the pattern for children’s future development.

‘The experiences children have in early life – and the environments in which they have them – shape their developing brain architecture and strongly affect whether they grow up to be healthy, productive members of society’ (Harvard University, 2007).

Play is an essential part of a happy, healthy childhood and ‘when children play their brains do two things: they grow and the become organised and usable’ (Hughes, 2013). By investing in all our children and young people now we can strengthen their ability to achieve their full potential.

To view document click here


Do the Right Things – Progress Report 2012

Do the Right Thing – a progress report on the Scottish Government’s response to the 2008 concluding observations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.  To view document click here


New Childrens Bill Announced – May 2012

Legislation to deliver the best package of early learning and childcare in the UK will be introduced in the Scottish Parliament next year as part of the new Children and Young People Bill.

Following consultation with local authorities, health boards, children’s organisations and other experts, the Bill will bring together, and enhance, earlier plans for separate legislation on children’s services and rights to better support Scotland’s children and families. Support includes the rise of free early learning and childcare from 475 hours to a minimum of 600 hours per year. An increase of 45 per cent in early learning and childcare provision since 2007. Full article


Getting it Right for Children and Families

New leaflet issued March 2012, from the Scottish Government which is an overview of the wide range of policy areas they are working on. To view click here


Early Years Task Force

The Early Years Taskforce sets the strategic direction for the early years change programme and co-ordinates policy across Government and the wider public sector to ensure that early years spending is prioritised by the whole public sector.

Jointly chaired by Scottish Government, Health and Local Government, members are elected politicians, practitioners, and experts from the statutory and voluntary sectors.



EYTF – Vision and Priorities

Paper on the Task Forces Priorities and Vision was published in March 2012.  To view this please click here

EYTF Minutes

8 November 2011

14 December 2011

25 January 2012


Raising the bar in PE teaching – 29 March 2012

Every school pupil in Scotland will benefit from at least two hours per week of physical education in primary school and two periods in S1 to S4 by 2014.

Sport Minister Shona Robison,  Learning Minister Alasdair Allan and COSLA’s Education spokesperson Cllr Isabel Hutton were speaking today at Tynecastle High School on the Scottish Government and COSLA’s shared vision of PE teaching in Scotland.  Full article


We’re investing in play

The Scottish Government’s ongoing commitment to promoting the benefits of free play opportunities and quality play spaces for children is being strengthened by a £3m funding package over three years, from 2012/13. This funding will build on the 2009-11 Go Play Fund and in particular its two most positive results – the play ranger model and enhanced landscapes for play.  For further information click here


Good Places Better Health, Findings and Recommendations

The Scottish Government has published the Good Places, Better Health report on behalf of the Evaluation Group.  The recommendations (and supporting evidence) are presented for four key health challenges facing children in Scotland: obesity; asthma; unintentional injury; mental health and wellbeing.

An independent expert evaluation group has considered the question “What is needed to deliver places that nurture good health for children?” The work is supported by an intelligence partnership who gathered a “mixed economy of evidence from modelling, wide stakeholder engagement and evidence review.

To read full report click here


Take Life On Campaign

Just 60 minutes of activity a day can make a big difference.  That’s all it takes to make kids healthier and happier. And what’s more your kids don’t even have to do all the activity in one go. Instead they can do it bit by bit throughout the day. And it adds up in no time. For full information click here


Summary of responses received to the consultation around the common core of skills, knowledge and values for those working with children, young people and families.  


Purpose of report

The Scottish Government issued a consultation seeking views on the skills, knowledge and values which should be expected of all those who work with children, young people and families. This report summarises the responses to the consultation.

To read full report click here


Launch of £4.5M Communities and Family Fund – 23 October 2011

Local projects which help families and communities give children the best start in life will benefit from new investment announced today by Education Secretary Michael Russell.

Today’s announcement sees the creation of a new Communities and Families Fund which will receive £1.5 million a year for the next three years to assist local childcare and family support work.

Examples of the work that could be supported include parenting and family support, community playgroups and crèches and community-led refurbishment of playgrounds.

For full details click here 


Early Years Investment, September 2011

Over 20 charities are set to receive a share of a £6.8 million funding boost for vulnerable young children and families.

The Early Years Action Fund delivered by Inspiring Scotland in partnership with the Scottish Government will invest in a total of 28 projects delivered by 24 charities across Scotland.

The funding, launched earlier this year, will support vulnerable children and their families to prevent any problems they face escalating into costly and difficult crisis situations.

To read full article click here


Scottish Household Survey 2009/10

The Scottish Government have realeased the latest Scottish Household Survey.  To view click here


Start Active, Stay Active

A report on physical activity for health from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers has been published today Start Active, Stay Active

  • “potential benefits linked to physical activity in children and young people include the acquisition of social skills through active play (leadership, teamwork and co-operation)”
  • “as soon as they can walk, pre-school children need unstructured, active and energetic play to allow them to develop their fundamental movement skills and master their physical environment.
  • “There is considerable expert opinion from many international sources that letting children crawl, play and roll around on the floor in the home or childcare setting is essential during the early years, particularly for children who cannot yet walk”
  • “Young children also need the freedom to create their own opportunities for active play lead their own activities, direct their own play and engage in imaginative play.”
  • Community action: Community-level activity programmesLocal communities can have a strong influence on people’s behaviour. Whole-community approaches where people live, work and play have the opportunity to mobilise large numbers of people. Investments in community-level programmes such as parks, playgrounds, conservation schemes, walking clubs and support for local sports clubs can help to influence social norms around health and activity, and help to improve facilities and environments to enable people to become more active.


Proposed new Early Years and Early Intervention legislation  

To read update please click here


Play Talk Read

The Scottish Government have extended the Play Talk Read Campaign

Announcing plans for the campaign during a visit to North Edinburgh Childcare Centre, Education Secretary Michael Russell said:

“The Play, Talk, Read campaign highlights how the first few years represent a golden opportunity for us to give our children the best possible start in life.

“Simply by playing, talking and reading with our children more often we can make a real difference to their development.

To read full article click here


List of MSPs A-Z


Scottish Government Cabinet May 2011

To view a click of the new Scottish Government click here


Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland

To view publication click here


List of the Scottish Government Outcomes

To view click here

No 5 is Our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed.  


Scottish Government Obesity Route Map

To view this Action Plan click here


£6.8 Million Fund Launched for Early Years in Scotland

National voluntary organisations are being invited to bid for a share of a new £6.8 million fund, designed to help improve children’s lives.

The Early Years Early Action Fund, launched today by the Children’s Minister Adam Ingram will be open to national voluntary organisations to enable them to:

* Improve early years services covering parenting, play, childcare, child and maternal health and family support, with the aim of helping parents and communities build better lives for themselves and their children
* Provide earlier support for families to prevent problems escalating into costly and difficult crisis situations, as well as supporting health improvement and helping looked after children

To read full article click here

For full fund details click here


Early Years Framework: Progress So Far  

This document provides an update on progress made on the Early Years Framework, two years on from publication of the original document.  To view click here

The importance of play is recognised, both in terms of outdoor play and of encouraging parents to play with their very young children


National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2010

To view click here 


Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey 2010

To view report click here


Curriculum for Excellence milestones in 2011  

Letter from Colin MacLean, Chair of the CfE Management Board, on key Curriculum for Excellence milestones in 2011, sent to all heads of education establishments and local authority leaders, January 21, 2011.  For full information click here


Play Talk Read

This campaign has its genesis in the Early Years Framework which identifies the first few years of life and, in particular positive parenting during this time, as one of the most important factors in achieving the aims of the framework. Separate, but complimentary, to the work that our Health colleagues undertake in the Early Years/parenting arena the campaign aims to encourage and empower parents to positively interact with their children more often.

ScotGov website

Play Talk Read Website

List of Roadshows


A New Look at Hall 4 – the Early Years – Good Health for Every Child

To view click here


The Ten Transformational Changes of the Early Years Framework

To view list click here


Early Years Framework – Case Studes

For further information click here


Play Talk Read

Find out if their is a Roadshow near you


Relative Poverty Across Scottish Local Authorities

A useful report providing contextual and background information on poverty figures within each local authority.


UK Government Update

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister has set up a Childhood and Families Task Force, chaired by the Prime Minister, and made up of senior Ministers from across Government departments, including Nick Clegg.

Out of five proposals, play is number 4.

“Fourth, every parent understands the importance of a secure environment for their children. Spaces where they can play, where they can feel completely free, where they can safely push at the boundaries, learning and experimenting. Places where different generations can meet, binding the community together… If you ask adults if they used to play near their homes as children, 71% will tell you they did. Every single day. That compares to just 21% of children now. It’s not right, and it has to change. But, despite how obvious that is, I do appreciate that there’s no easy answer.

It isn’t up to central government to start handpicking the areas where children across the country should play. Given the lack of money in the Treasury’s coffers, we wouldn’t now be able to do that, even if we wanted to. But isn’t that even more reason to get the Task Force looking at this? There’s no more money to throw at these problems, and even when there was money, Labour didn’t fix them.
So we have to be innovative, we have to find new solutions. No, we need to work out how we can empower people to deliver these changes in their own neighbourhoods… By giving councils more power over how they spend their money.. By giving communities more control over what gets built in their neighbourhoods… And by making it easier for volunteers and charities to get involved”.

Achieving Our Potential

Early Years Framework

Early Years Framework Part 2

Equally Well

Equally Well – 2010 Review

Scottish Planning Policy


The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: A guide for children and young people

The Scottish Government has published a leaflet on what rights children have under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

To download a free copy of for further information click here


Scotland to become an Active Nation

Further information can be found here


Designing Streets in Scotland – A Policy Statement in Scotland

To access document click here 


‘Advocacy makes you feel brave’: Advocacy support for children and young people in Scotland, The publication of the report is an important element of our response to the Concluding Observations, Do the Right Thing.


Building Better Schools: Investing in Scotland’s Future

The recent Scottish Government strategy for schools requries Local Authorities to “consider how to make best use of school grounds and the outdoor spaces as an integral part of the learning environment ..”

To download publication click here


Do The Right Thing

Work on two important and connected action areas in Do the Right Thing is underway:

  • Action area 6: Advocacy services for children and young people

In January we published Susan Elsley’s report on advocacy services for children and young people ‘Advocacy Makes You Feel Brave‘.

The Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA: recently launched a revised version of ‘Independent Advocacy – A Guide for Commissioners’. This publication updates and builds on the guidance previously issued by the Scottish Executive in 2001 reflecting new legislation as well as the updated Principles and Standards and Code of Practice published by SIAA in 2008.

The Scottish Government recognises that children and young people have specific needs around advocacy services and we are taking forward dedicated work on this, following the publication of Susan Elsley’s report. We will keep you informed of developments in this area.

  • Action area 19: Better support for unaccompanied asylum seeker children

The Scottish Refugee Council has been awarded crucial funding from the Big Lottery Fund to help vulnerable unaccompanied children through the asylum process.  The Scottish Government is also supporting this project which is the first of its kind in the UK. The Project is set to be launched in partnership with Aberlour Child Care Trust later this year.

There are around 200 separated children currently in Scotland, many have witnessed family members being persecuted or killed.  We believe that every unaccompanied asylum seeking child should be given support to guide them through the complexities of the asylum and social work systems and ensure that their best interests are identified and taken into consideration.


Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights: What can the UNCRC do for you?

The Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights (SACR: is hosting a free seminar to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on Wednesday 17th March from 13:00 – 17:00 at Renfield St Stephen Centre, Bath Street,  Glasgow.

For further information contact SACR on: 0131 225 8864 or


Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young PeopleA Right Blether

In March, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People Tam Baillie will be embarking on a series of regional events to raise awareness of an ambitious national consultation project with Scotland’s children and young people.

The events will be a chance for you to find out the ways in which the Commissioner plans to engage with children and young people, how you can become involved, and what tools are available to you to help you with this.

This is a significant consultation, which will be rolled out nationally over the next 9 months. It will culminate in November 2010 with one of the largest votes ever for Scotland’s children and young people and a huge celebration of Scotland’s achievements in making a positive difference to children and young people’s lives at both a national and local level.

What the Commissioner learns from children and young people through “A Right Blether” will directly influence his policy priorities. The resulting priorities will be used by his office to influence law, policy and practice. This will include ensuring that the Scottish Government fulfils its obligations to Scotland’s children and young people under the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC).

Events are being held as follows:

  • Friday 9th March, 4.30 – 6.30pm, Trades Hall, Glasgow
  • Friday 12th March, 1.30 – 3.30pm, Spectrum Centre, Inverness
  • Tuesday 16th March, 4.30 – 6.30pm, Dewars Centre, Perth
  • Friday 19th March, 1.30 – 3.30pm, Oasis Youth Centre, Dumfries
  • Tuesday 23rd March, 5.30 – 7.30pm, Merchants’ Hall, Edinburgh

For more information on the event or to RSVP, please contact Sareta Puri at or on 0131 558 3733.  When you RSVP please let Sareta know if you have any dietary or other requirements.  Further details on the event will be sent out after you have registered your attendance.


Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2009