Getting it Right for Play

“Getting it Right for Play is a timely and practical resource for everyone involved in providing increased quality play opportunities for children and young people in Scotland.  I hope that Local Authorities and Community groups will use this practical toolkit to deliver improved play opportunities for our children and young people as part of our mission to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up”

Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell MSP

Play Scotland published the findings from the Scottish Play Commission in 2008.  A key recommendation was to create a National Play Indicator.

In 2012 Play Scotland was delighted to publish the Getting it Right for Play Toolkit and supporting documents to help Local Authorities in Scotland assess the range and quality of play opportunities and determine how satisfied communities were with their outdoor play spaces.  The Toolkit can be used as a National Indicator if it is used by all local authorities.

“Investing in children’s play is one of the most important things we can do to improve children’s health and  wellbeing in Scotland.”

Sir Harry Burns, former Chief Medical Officer Scotland


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. The Toolkit was produced to help local authorities provide sufficient play opportunities in terms of quantity and quality, and allow them to assess easily if:

  • Local people including children have been meaningfully involved in developing local play opportunities
  • Local attitudes to children are improving
  • Benefits as well as risks are being considered in the design and maintenance of play areas
  • Relevant agencies and departments are working together to promote local play opportunities
  • Children are satisfied with the play opportunities provided

Marguerite Hunter Blair, Chief Executive explained “Play Scotland is delighted to have secured support from the Go Play Fund to develop Getting it Right for Play.  We hope that Local Authorities and Communities will use the Toolkit to develop a local and strategic commitment to play, which will help remove barriers and encourage and support children to play outdoors”.

The importance of play in children’s daily lives and healthy development has become increasingly recognised in recent years. A growing body of evidence supports the view that playing, throughout childhood, is not only an innate behaviour but also contributes to children’s quality of life, their well-being and their physical, social, emotional and cognitive development.  The type of environment for play is also important, having an impact on children’s experience, choices and relationships, both with other people and with the environment itself.

The two supporting documents are:

The Power of Play

The Power of Play is a literature review which presents a strong body of evidence and expert opinion demonstrating the crucial role of play, especially outdoor play, in children’s enjoyment of their childhood, their health and their development.  It also discusses the importance of creating spaces and opportunities where children can play freely in their local neighbourhoods.

The Scottish Government Play Strategy

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.

“We want Scotland to the 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.”

Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell, MSP



The Documents

Getting it Right for Play consists of four documents:

1. Getting it Right for Play Toolkit: A toolkit to assess and improve local play opportunities

Getting it Right for Play Toolkit: A toolkit to assess and improve local play opportunities – downloadable pdf

All the Indicators and Tools are relevant to Local Authorities.  However, the Children’s Survey and the Quality Assessment Tool can also be used by community groups to help them assess play opportunities and spaces in their local communities. More information below on the surveys and tools within the document,

The Playing Out Survey

The Playing Out Survey seeks the views and experiences of children and young people. It can be used with children of different ages and abilities but the methods used, and the explanations given by those administering the survey, will differ with children of different ages and abilities.

The questionnaire can be used on its own, for example, by local children’s groups, community groups or play providers, or by the Local Authority to contribute to information for the Local Authority Play Sufficiency Assessment. For children unable to complete the questionnaire on their own, help from parents or other adults, may be useful.

Playing Out Survey_Getting it Right for Play

Time Outdoors Survey

Time Outdoors Survey_Getting it Right for Play

The Play Space Quality Assessment Tools

The quality of local spaces and opportunities for play and spending free time with friends.

The location, nature and quality of the spaces available for children to play affects how they feel about those spaces, the ways in which they play and the benefits they derive from that play. Children must be able to reach play spaces easily and, as they get older, independently; the spaces should offer a range of play experiences, preferably including contact with the natural environment; and children should feel safe whilst in the space.

The toolkit provides two tools to assess the quality of spaces for play.

How good is the Play Place? Tool is designed for use by children and young people and the more detailed Quality of Play Environment assessment tool is primarily for use by professionals and others involved in the planning, development, provision and maintenance of public open space.

These tools give valuable insights into provision and can be used in all types of space where children might play including local open and green spaces, designated play areas, play parks
and staffed play provision for example in schools and play schemes.

The sections in the quality assessment tools relating to risk and challenge can be used
to measure against Iopportunities for children to challenge themselves and
experience the benefits of taking risks.

How good is the play space_ Questionnaire_Getting it Right for Play

Quality of play environment. Providers assessment tool_Getting it Right for Play


2.  Getting it Right for Play: The Power of Play: an evidence base

This document provides a comprehensive literature review of the benefits of Play to children and the wider community, and acts as a supporting document to the GIRFP Toolkit.

Getting it Right for Play: The Power of Play: an evidence base


3.  Getting it Right for Play: The Power of Play: An evidence base summary

Summary of the above document.

Getting it Right for Play: The Power of Play: an evidence base summary


4.  Getting it Right for Play: Children’s Play in Scotland: the policy context

This pdf document outlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to Play in policy and guidance.

Getting it Right for Play: Childrens Play in Scotland: the policy context 



In 2011 Play Scotland surveyed a wide range of staff to find out about their experience of facilitating free play and outdoor play.  Their responses demonstrate a firm commitment to children’s play across Scotland from a wide variety of providers.

Play in Staffed Provision: The Scottish Experience


We hope that you find the Getting it Right for Play documents useful and beneficial.

Should you have any queries please contact us at


“Most of us carry great memories of playing outside as a child. However we regularly hear in the media and through research about how little time today’s children spend playing outdoors. Outdoor activities that were part of growing up when I was young feature less and less in children’s lives today. The Scottish Government recognises that Play is central to how children learn and develop and how they are motivated to be physically active”.

Minister for Children and Young People
Aileen Campbell, MSP